Last night, on her 29th birthday, my brave friend Jessica stood in front of a room full of women and shared her life story. She’d never revealed the entire narrative of her life to anyone; it’s the kind of tale most women swallow down like a toxic pill, letting their stomach acid churn over the secrecy. Few willingly offer up the truth of their experience for others to drink like medicine, dissolving the shame within.
Many of the shadows from Jessica’s previous life have loomed over us all: insecurity, rebellion, attempting to sooth soul-aches with everything but the God who satisfies. But some dark corners from Jessica’s past feel especially frightening to illuminate. They are hard memories to relive. Women who have grappled through the specific, pitch-black of these woes often remain isolated, never knowing the many like them who also suffer silently in the night.
But my friend Jessica spoke up.
I wept reading the notes she would use for her talk. She held out nearly three decades of brokenness and laid them bare for a roomful of strangers to inspect. In full vulnerability, she recounted both the evils that had been done to her, and the evils that had come from her. Then she told everyone: she has a Savior whose love changes everything.
Is there a more breath-taking story?
God pursues us, even in our filth. How can the world gasp amazed at the beauty of God’s chasing love when we refuse to admit the mess we are being saved from?
Mess isn’t what we’re typically willing to show the world. We show the pretty, the edited, the styled, the cleaned. All the while, people around us drown in their own hidden troubles and find no one like them who has found a way out. Jesus seems irrelevant when Christians won’t admit the wreck they are apart from Him.
Mess is exactly what this world needs to understand the hope of Christ.
I love the Bible book of Hosea. Jessica spoke about it last night. Hosea is a prophet who marries — and deeply loves — a prostitute. The prostitute is ever unfaithful to her loving husband. But the prophet continues to chase his wife, to woo her back, to buy her from the new masters she runs to. The entire story is a metaphor. We — God’s people — are the unfaithful wife of an ever-loving God.
How will the world be stunned by this ridiculous love when we aren’t willing to admit our adultery?
This world doesn’t need another Christian claiming to have it all together. They need to see our mess. No one is amazed by a facade of perfection. But they might be stunned by a God who enters your humiliation and lives there, daily changing the landscape of your life.
Jessica, well done. May we all be brave and real like you, and admit that we have nothing to boast about except Jesus who is turning our chaos into miracles.