Christmastime is my favorite time of year. I’m sure it is for may be for many of you as well. Even though the days and nights are filled with business, there seems to be so much excitement and love in the air that it makes the chaos tolerable and even enjoyable.
“Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.”-Hosea 6:1-2
I haven’t always been the best person. I haven’t always walked in faith. I haven’t always known grace.
Someone once asked me, “If God were looking at you right now, what do you think He would say?” In that moment, I instantly thought about all of the sins I’ve committed, all of the people I’ve hurt, all of those moments where I couldn’t believe I just did/said that. You know, everything I had done wrong.
For the longest time, I would believe that things in my life were so hard because of a drink or drug. I thought that was the only thing that was causing my life to be terrible. One thing I have learned in sobriety- take away the drink and drug, And life still is hard!
We all enjoy talking about the joys of our lives. Whether that is welcoming a new child into our family or celebrating a big breakthrough. You are full of excitement, joy, and anxious to spread the good news. But, why do we hesitate to spread the news of our troubles and disappointments? Fear of rejection? Fear of displaying our weakness?
A large portion of my life has been spent battling insecurity. I spent years listening to the voices that told me I was unlovable. That I wasn’t enough, that I was too much; that I was dumb and ugly, too soft and not worthy. The list could go on and on. I was told so many times who I was by others that, after a while, I started to believe them.
“Don’t ever assume you know what someone is dealing with. There are women who walk around daily with the weight of the world on her shoulders but a smile on her face. Encourage, support, and love one another. And above all, it is ok to struggle, God doesn’t require us to have everything together at all times…that’s His job”
I think we can all admit that we are all a little imperfect sometimes…
We lose our temper at our kids, we blame our spouse, we gossip with a friend, we lie to our boss to avoid the consequence of a mistake we need to own up to.
The list of imperfections can go on and on but the point is we all make mistakes; some days a lot, some days not as much. But that’s why God’s grace is so wonderful! That’s why the conviction of the Holy Spirit is welcomed because it helps us to make things right. If we allow, our mistakes can teach us one of Jesus’ most wonderful characteristics–humility.
This year, my husband and I have been going through the One-Year Bible together, and we were recently reading the story of Samson in Judges. As we were reading, I was amazed by how much anger and revenge was stored in Samson, as well as how many mistakes he had made. Yet God still used him. God made him a Judge that helped deliver the Children of Israel for 20 years.
I was pondering the entire time, “Wow, he was such an imperfect leader.”
Then I got thinking about all the other leaders in the Bible such as Paul and Peter, and I also couldn’t help but think, “wow, they were also imperfect leaders!” Paul accused and killed Christians before he met Jesus. He also had interpersonal issues with Barnabas that caused them to temporarily split paths. Paul openly admits in 1 Timothy 1:13-16:
“Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (NIV)
Covered by the perfection of Christ
Paul acknowledges his past faults, his mistakes, his old man; his flesh. Yet Paul doesn’t stay there. He doesn’t identify with the flesh anymore. Paul is the “in Christ” theologian. There are 130 In Whom, In Christ, In Him and In the Lord references in Paul’s writings. He strongly acknowledged that everything he was as a Christian leader was because of Christ. He knew who he was IN Christ BECAUSE of Christ. He lived in the Spirit through the overflow of the Spirit. He displayed humility through the acknowledgment of his own imperfections that are covered by the perfection of Christ.
As I’ve been pondering this more, I was thinking about a time in college I was in a very influential leadership position. Before the position, I was just a fellow college student happily studying and enjoying my peers. But after I accepted the position, I realized people who wouldn’t talk to me before all of a sudden wanted to hang out. People whom I had never met started to come up and talk to me like we were best friends. It really threw me off, and honestly, it bothered me.
Shattering the pedestals
As I began to sit down with some people and share my life, my struggles and my story like I always had in friendships before, people began to say, “Wow, I didn’t realize you struggled with insecurities, too!”
…WHAT?! How could I not? I’m human! But I’m thankful for that experience because God taught me a really powerful lesson during that time. He said, “Hanna, most humans go through the exact same struggles at some point in their lives. Use leadership to show humility and shatter pedestals people may be putting you on without your permission…and shatter the pedestals in your life, too.”
Why? Because I’m imperfect. I will never deserve a pedestal. Only Jesus, the only perfect leader who will NEVER let us down, deserves a pedestal. Paul shattered his pedestal, and God used him mightily. Samson didn’t shatter his pedestal and his strength actually ended up being his death, but God used him anyway.
Acknowledge your imperfections
So, dear heart, first off. Acknowledge your imperfections, and through it realize Christ’s perfection and how you are seen as righteous before God. Then, shatter your pedestals. Whether it’s ones you’ve put your leaders on, or it’s a pedestal someone has put you on. Embrace humble leadership. Embrace Christ-centered, servant-driven leadership. Keep God on the pedestal, and ask others to join you as you worship the only One who deserves praise.
Read also: THE TREASURE WITHIN
It’s a concept that has flooded our culture and even my own thought processes and practices. And when I indulge in the $6 coffee or the new cardigan from Old Navy, I sometimes whisper under my breath, “treat yourself.” Because every now and then we should, in fact, treat ourselves. But today, as I sit and watch my youngest climb the furniture and terrorize the puppy, I’m struck with how the occasional Starbucks or frivolous spending does very little to actually propagate loving myself.
My life doesn’t look like I thought it would five years ago. In fact, I wear titles that I never dreamed I’d don. Titles that I’d always judged so harshly in others… assuming they’d done something to deserve the scarlet letter pinned to their chest. And that’s how it feels. Like a giant, red “D” is pasted to my forehead, announcing to the world that my marriage failed. That I am no longer a wife but an ex-wife and my children will now have to explain their parentage using the verbiage of “step” and “half.”
And the shame of it all! Shame that has tried to strangle and disqualify and bind and gag the voice that calls me worthy and beloved.
In James 2:13, the Word tells us that mercy triumphs over judgement. A sentiment I found so very hard to understand several years ago. The idea of God as King and Ruler and Master was so easy to fathom. He breathed the stars. His might evident in every ocean wave. I had even heard it said that God is as merciful as He is just. An idea I would have trumpeted for all the world if I hadn’t encountered the heart of His grace and mercy. Because while I’ve known Him for over half of my life, I’m just now getting to know Him. Knowing Him in the capacity of father and daughter is so much different than that of master and servant.
Not a license
Please. Hear my heart. God’s mercy and grace is not a license to sin, as discussed in Romans 6:14 and again in Jude 1:4. But if we ever had the ability to earn our way into heaven, I’m certain the cross and all of its violent glory would not have been necessary. And while some might believe that forgiveness simply excuses your sin and releases you from responsibility, I have discovered that love does not simply shore up my iniquity. It invites me into a relationship where to sin against the one I worship not only breaks His heart but mine as well.
And that’s it. This life-altering truth that shifted the way that I saw myself and in turn, others. After all, the greatest commandment was to love each other as we love ourselves.
The crimson robe of grace and forgiveness
Sometimes self-love looks like letting yourself off the hook. When Jesus confronted the woman found in adultery, this was His response,
“…I certainly do not condemn you. Go, and from now on, be free from a life of sin.” -Romans 8:11
As far as we know, that’s exactly what she did. And that’s what I’m trying to do. While there was no great iniquity or adultery to speak of in my own case, just miscommunication and little foxes, this crimson letter is still one that tries to define me. But mercy says that the only label I wear is that of “His.” And when the Father looks at me, He doesn’t see my failures or my mess ups, but the perfect blood of Jesus. And if that’s good enough for Him, it’s enough for me too.
So if you were looking for permission, here it is. Treat yourself. Buy the shoes. Wear the lipstick. But more importantly, love yourself. Give mercy her triumph over judgment. Go and sin no more. Dance. Shout. And instead of your scarlet letter, whatever that letter may be, wear the crimson robe of grace and forgiveness.
Trust me. It looks good on you.
Read also: The Judge who paid the price
This is a story about a woman whose name is not mentioned in the Bible. We know so very little about her and yet she is instrumental when it comes to learning a deep lesson about God’s amazing grace.