See Her

This one’s pretty random, but speaks my heart pretty well right now. I debated quite a bit whether or not I would share this one publicly, but I promised to be authentic, because we relate best to the most real, raw things we read. And I’ll keep sharing my heart ’til I’m told to stop. In a world that looks on the outside instead of the heart, it can cause a lot of pain. To the girl (or guy) who is hurting, know that you are priceless and deserve to be treated well. To the person who may be looking, who may have someone come to mind as they read this, I ask as someone who is looked at but rarely seen: See them. And please, treat them the child of the Living God that they are.

 

See Her.

Before you approach her,

See her.

Observe her.

Look into her, not at her.

Don’t think about her looks,

Or her body.

Try to see her soul.

Her heart.

Her.

Before you talk to her, listen to her.

Listen to her talk to others.

Listen to her laugh.

Then look into her eyes.

And don’t just look at her.

See her.

See the pain behind her smile.

The pain that came from the last person who approached her.

The pain from the one she believed loved her.

The one who broke her heart.

See her.

Look past what you want.

What you fantasize.

What you think may happen.

Don’t think of what you want.

Think of her.

Before you approach her, think of what may happen.

Before you turn on your charm, turn off your thoughts.

And think of her.

Think of what it would do to her,

To have someone else get close to her,

For her to share her heart,

Her soul,

Her thoughts,

Herself,

With another man,

Only for him to break her heart.

Before you try to win her,

Woo her,

Or even get close to her,

Stand back and think of her.

Watch her brush her hair from her eyes,

Look over her shoulder,

As she lets her smile fade.

Watch her when she thinks no one’s looking.

When she takes a deep breath and whispers a prayer.

When her walls fall for a second,

An instant,

And the pain shows through.

See her.

The real her.

And ask yourself if that’s the her you want.

If you’re just interested,

Just looking,

Or if you really care.

Before you talk to her,

See her broken heart,

And ask yourself,

Will you help heal it,

Or shatter it even more?

And if you don’t know,

If you can’t say for sure,

Or if you are just looking,

Turn around.

Walk away.

Because the last thing she needs is more pain.

Before you talk to her,

Before you approach her,

Ask for her number,

Ask her out,

Ask for a kiss,

Ask for her hand,

Or even look at her a second time,

Make sure you know what you’re doing.

Make sure your intentions are pure,

Your heart’s in the right place,

And you’re thinking of her.

Make sure you won’t cause her pain.

Make sure it’s real.

Before you act, think twice.

Look at her.

Look at her again.

And see her.

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It’s a Heart Thing

I don’t remember where I first heard that term, “It’s a heart thing.” But it’s stuck with me for quite a while now. This world is crazy, and while I wish that the lines were always drawn in bold print, with everything black and white, that’s unfortunately not the case. There are so many things where we can’t say, “Oh, here’s a Bible verse that says ‘do this’ or ‘don’t do that’.” But God didn’t give us a rule book, He gave us His word. If everything was cut-and-dry, I don’t think faith would be anything like what it is now. We’re given choices, and we often don’t make the right ones. But we have a relationship with our Maker and Savior, and He gives us grace when we need it most. But our actions, our choices, and most importantly our reactions and choices afterwards, give signs of where our hearts lie.

I had an interesting situation happen to me yesterday – probably the last thing I would have expected when I woke up yesterday morning. In the few years (I think it’s been about five?) that I’ve been on Social Media, I’ve had about a handful of encounters with celebrities. By “celebrities,” I mean a few singers, personalities, and even a couple movie stars have interacted with me online (likes, replies, retweets, comments, etc.) It’s a pretty cool feeling to get to talk to someone you admire. But what’s not a cool feeling is when you get into an argument with them – and over 50 of their fans.

Now that’s awkward.

I won’t name names (I’m definitely not like that!), but this music artist whose songs I have listened to for years posted a video that contained some inappropriate comments that were sexual in nature. As many of you already know, this is an area where I’m very passionate against such things, so I commented on the video, calmly and politely saying that perhaps they should remember they are a role model for many people (a lot of them young kids), and they should be aware of what kind of “fun” they’re promoting. In a couple of reply comments I also stressed that I have no intent of judging, for I am as Paul said the “chief” of sinners. If I was acting like that, I’d definitely appreciate a fellow brother or sister calling me out, and I honestly thought that maybe this person would feel the same.

They didn’t.

But that’s not the point.

txt

I was worried that a post like this would seem like I’m looking for sympathy, but that’s just not the case. In the past couple of years of my life, I’ve learned a lot – mostly through my mistakes. But God has been gracious and merciful enough to bring me out of the valleys and give me a bird’s-eye-view of the bigger picture. You see, this world just isn’t a game. I’ts a full-scale war against the princes and powers of the air, and I’ll tell you, our opponent knows what he’s doing.

If an unbelieving artist posted such a video, (and the kind of replies I received), it would be expected. I mean, yeah, it would disturb me and many others who see the truth in what’s going on, but I know it wouldn’t have been half as bad as it was, because the person in question calls themselves a Christian. A recurring theme that has been popping up EVERYWHERE in my life lately (not the least of which is the new Bible study I’ll be leading in my church soon!) is the concept of being SET APART. Different. Unlike this world. And like Jesus.

One of my favorite verses (yeah I say that all the time!) is Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” We’re an example. We’re literally Jesus’ ONLY earthly representatives of His sacrifice and salvation. We’re His children, and we aren’t of this world. So the only logical answer here is that we simply can’t go around acting like this world if we don’t belong here.

I know it’s hard, because Satan does a good job of convincing us that the things we do are harmless. That they aren’t really sins, that we don’t have to be “religious, serious, self-righteous, do-gooders” all the time, and that there’s nothing wrong with having fun. And in that aspect, I partially agree. There isn’t anything wrong with having fun. But what is fun?

And that’s where we get down to the core of it.

Is “fun” something that honors God? Or more importantly, is it something that dishonors God? if so, is that kind of fun really the best idea? Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Speak life. 

I wrote a post titled that a few months ago, but it really fits into this situation right here. I was told to lighten up and let people have fun, but what if that fun is dishonoring God and influencing others to do the same? That isn’t fun – it’s dangerous. And we need to be conscious of it. I’ve done my share of being a bad influence, saying and doing the wrong things, and not being the light I should be. And it’s that experience right there that drives my passion.

In today’s society of “don’t judge me” “individual truths” and “political correctness”, we’ve lost one of the key elements to the body of Christ: the act of rebuking. I honestly hope that my close friends and family would call me out if I was acting inappropriately as a representative of Christ (and they have!). I didn’t like it. It doesn’t feel good. It’s embarrassing and can even make you angry. But that doesn’t make it wrong. I’ve lost friends, acquaintances, been blocked, and been put down for doing this, but it doesn’t make it the wrong thing to do. And as Christians in a fallen world, it’s good to remember that, and to remember one other thing:

We’re not alone.

Because those few good replies were also amazing. I’ve had people message me since, encouraging me and having conversations about the dangers of conforming to the world. THAT’S what the body of Christ looks like. THAT’S the truth. THAT’S being a light on a hill.

And that’s worth it.

Even if we don’t always get a good reaction, we should always be willing to speak the truth. Not judgmentally, but lovingly. If you love someone, you want them to be the best that they could possibly be. You want them to live for Jesus and reflect Him. When you love, you care. And that’s living like Christ. Judging, pointing out the speck before removing your plank, isn’t right. But being transparent about your shortcomings while trying to lift up another believer who’s stumbled is the picture of the church that we should always keep in mind.

This world is crazy, and the lines are blurry, but our intentions and actions will always reflect what’s going on in our hearts. I encourage you to look into your own heart – what do you see in there? There’s always going to be a mix of good things and not-so-good things (I see them in myself!). But if we’re willing to recognize our shortcomings and bring them to the Throne, God is ALWAYS faithful to forgive and shape us into something that can reflect His light, and be that city on a hill in a darkened world.

Glass

We humans are funny things. There isn’t another creature in all of Creation that is even close in similarity to us. I mean, we not only look incredibly different from even the most similar creatures (I won’t get into the monkey/ape/Evolution debate here), but we also act and think in a way that far, far surpasses anything else. And that’s simply because that’s the way God wanted it to be. He made us in His image, with His characteristics. We are cognitive, thinking, creative, emotional, complicated, beautiful beings that are the “Apple of His eye.”

But we are more than that too. With all of these complicated features, in a less-than-perfect world unlike the original one He created, come with “side effects.” We are not only capable of great things, but we are also very vulnerable. The miraculous life that is breathed into our complicated human bodies can be ended with something very little Physically, it takes nothing more than an injury or illness that can’t be healed. And with the progress this world has seen over the centuries and generations since it was created, the more things there are that help us, the more things there are that could hurt us. And that’s just in a physical sense.

In another sense, in the emotional and mental capacities that we humans are capable of, come even more vulnerabilities. The saddest thing about this fallen world is the pain that we cause each other. This happens too often, and the result is always some form of damage. In some way, every single person walking around this world right now is damaged in some way, because it doesn’t take much to damage us or break us.

Or shatter us.

So, in a sense, we complex, intricate, magnificent creations are no more than the most fragile beings. We’re made of glass.

glass

And that really is the most accurate description of us. In Psalms we read, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” We are works of art by a Divine artist. And we aren’t just mass-produced glass either; No, we’re hand-blown works of art, and no two of us are the same. We are beautiful, and made in the image that our Father lovingly designed. We are His creation, and He said “It is good.” We’re His workmanship, and He looks on us with pride.

But then we grow up in this fallen world. Some of us have had it difficult since childhood. Some of us were able to reach adulthood without great, shattering pain, but some of us didn’t. Whenever it came upon us, we all have something – or multiple things – that take the pure, perfect, innocent glass, and shatter it.

Shatter it.

This world isn’t a good place. Growing up, my favorite game was the Game of Life. I thought that it worked that way. I thought you just spun the wheel, and all these things – a spouse, children, a car, a house – all just happened. But this life is not a game. No, it’s a war. Sooner or later we are thrust into it, and more often than not, our initiation involves pain, often a shattering one. We are shattered when we face tragedy, when someone hurts us, when we go our own way and end up in trouble. When we feel like we’re backed into a corner and everything’s gone wrong, when we’re looking at the shattered remains of our innocence, our pure, glass form that was untouched. And it’s in times like that when it feels like there’s no hope.

But that’s when we forget one thing:

The Glassblower is still there.

He sees the broken pieces. He’s counted the hairs on our heads, and he sees our broken hearts, desperate souls, confused minds, and worn selves. He knows it, not only because He made us, but because He became a fragile glass person Himself just so He could relate. He not only sees our pain – He knows it. He not only understands what we’re going through – He went through it too. Whether we did it to ourselves or had pain inflicted on us by someone else, or whether the world fell apart and we could do nothing to stop it, He’s there.

And He is not helpless among the ruins.

I read that quote the other day, and it hit me. I may think that I’m finished. I may think there’s no way out or no way to fix this. I may be scared of tomorrow and hurt by yesterday, but He’s there through it all. And He knows what His plan is.

And it’s not to leave us shattered on the floor.

No, His plan is to take every single one of the broken pieces of His creation and make something more beautiful. Because as we look up at twenty, thirty, forty years old, and see the rugged path life has brought us on, we realize that we’re made up of broken, stained fragments of the glass that God created.

We’re stained glass windows.

 

stained glass1

I’ve done some reading on the process of making a stained glass window. It’s obviously made of broken pieces of glass, in different shapes and sizes. Alone they don’t look like much, but the original process way back was to use colored salt to stain them, and then frame the pieces in a strong metal like steel. Nowadays there are different chemicals involved, but the process is the same – take something broken and turn it into something beautiful.

Make the broken beautiful.

That’s what He does.

He takes our shattered glass, our broken selves, washes us clean in His blood, and shapes our pieces together with His strength as the framework. It will never look the same – it will look better. Because the story of the broken redeemed is the Greatest Story ever. The love of a Savior who doesn’t throw us away, but lovingly shapes us into an even more beautiful creation.

One of my favorite quotes is “Broken crayons still color.” Well, broken glass is still beautiful. We’re all broken. We’re all fragile. We’re all the same. But we are also loved and adored by our Maker, and He won’t let us be trampled. If we give Him our hearts, He can do things with us that are more beautiful than our little human minds can even begin to imagine.

Letting Go

Why’s it always circumstantial? 
Never any real potential 
Obvious and so sequential 
It always ends the same 
Holding out with all that’s in me 
Is it worth all this pretending? 
A story with an ugly ending is never worth the pain 

Since I’m always pretty transparent and authentic with everyone – online and in real life – I’ve decided to make no exception here. A lot of you who I’ve talked with personally know that I have been struggling these past few months – and it’s been almost worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m going to be honest and say that for the most part, we humans don’t really know what we’re up against in this world. Some of us have learned, but it always takes a learning experience for us to realize it.

The Devil does his job very well. He knows what he’s doing, and that’s why he’s still got his job I guess. Because is he good at what he does. He searches for our weakest points – and that’s where he strikes. The best example I can think of comes from the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. The Death Star was unbeatable, unbreakable, and there was no way to get inside. But they found the one small weak spot, and through it, the entire battle station was destroyed.

And that’s exactly what Satan does.

We could have all the strength in the world, the support, the knowledge, the resolve, the convictions, everything, and he’s going to find that one weak spot to penetrate, and through it, he aims to destroy us.

But one thing the Death Star didn’t have – the one thing we do have – is God.

These past few months, the Devil got into my weak spot – my singleness. He knows I’m not content being single, and he used that. And he also found out that I love people, that I have an extreme compassion and care and love for those who are hurting. I want to help and heal everybody to the point where I will sacrifice myself for everybody else. And he thought it would be a good idea to use all of that against me to.

The result was, as one could expect, that I fell into the trap. And three months of confusion, wandering, pain, temptation, failure, even sin, later, I’m a mess on the floor of what was once a solid battle station. One that was bombed and attacked and raided, all silently, all so perfectly that if you passed by me on the street, you wouldn’t have a clue. No one would know that I was almost hospitalized because the stress of my struggling broke down my physical health. No one would know how many tears I’ve cried. No one would know the pain.

But despite all that, despite all the pieces that need to be picked up, this battle station is still standing. 

Because He who is in me, even when I mess up and wander and fail and run around with no clue where I am – is always in me, and is greater than he who is in the world.

And I’m going to be okay.

The reason I’m sharing this is because I’m pretty sure you were nodding along as you read this. You understand. You relate. Right now you’re probably thinking of a time where you were that burned-out battle station. Maybe you are right now. We all know where our weak spots are and where Satan attacks us. We’ve all been there. We’re all the same.

But our beaten, battered frame is exactly what God will use the most. One of my favorite verses (I have a lot of favorites) is in 2 Corinthians. I was just going to share the one verse, but in reading the entire chapter, I found that I have to share the entire section in context:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships,in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When I am weak, then I am strong.

And that’s it.

God can’t use us when we’re “good,” when we don’t think we need Him. It’s so easy to let this world distract you from what His will is for you. It’s so easy to fall into traps. And each one of us has that “thorn” in our flesh, our weakness, our weak spot in the battle station. We are all imperfect. We are all weak. But in that weakness, we are made strong, if we lean into Him. If in the moments where the wind and the waves are drowning us, and we have nothing else to cling to, we choose to cry out to the One whose love never fails.

And His strength will be made perfect. 

For so many of us who have been through the struggles and came out still holding onto Him, it’s the most amazing phenomenon ever. A song I love by Mercyme called “Bring the Rain” really sums it up:

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that I’ve gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You

Nothing changes it. Through the hardest times in our lives, Jesus Christ is the same – yesterday, today, and forever. And even in moments where we don’t understand, He does. He sees the future, and He knows the answers. Right now, I don’t know why I am here. I don’t know why things happened the way they did in my life recently. I am sad, I am hurting, I am confused, and I am scared. But my confidence, however wounded my battle station is, is still in Him. These thorns and trials meant to drag us away from God can bring us closer, and I thank God that He is faithful even when we are the straying sheep. 

The lyrics I shared way at the top are from a Tobymac song called “All In (Letting Go)” It’s a song I’ve come back to a lot during these past few months. And its lyrics are the most fitting for what I’m going through right now. One day at a time, one moment at a time, venturing into a path when I have no idea where it leads. Because I trust that my Savior is guiding me. 

‘Cause I’m letting go of everything I am 
And I’m holding on to everything You are 
I’m letting go of everything I once was 
I’m all in 
I’m falling into Your arms again

 

 

 

Anchor

We often say that we never would have expected to be where we are today. In fact, I’ve literally never met anyone who IS exactly where they expected they would be in life. Our lives are planned, but we’re generally not let in on the plan ahead of time.

It’s hard for everyone, but for me as a writer, it’s particularly frustrating. Writing a story is looking at another (fictional) life and planning how it’s going to turn out. We writers know when our characters will be born, when the most defining moments of their lives will happen, when tragedies will touch them, and when their lives will end. And these characters are 100% clueless as to what will happen on the next page of their story.

Kind of like us.

I definitely wouldn’t have expected to be where I am today. That doesn’t mean I had any definitive idea as to where I’d be, but at each point in my life I thought something different. Almost like certain choices – or things that happened beyond my own control – each threw me into a different parallel universe that eventually wound up here. And now each thing that happens to me in the present and future will continue to do the same thing. And I can’t control ANY OF IT.

I’ll be honest, that sometimes gets to me. And as strange as it sounds, I feel like the characters I create. Each page of my life turns, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Will it be good or bad? Victory or defeat? Even life or death? Will it take me forward, set me back, leave me right where I am? I anxiously await every page turn will very little patience.

And it’s tiring.

It’s tiring because I have no control, yet I try to. I don’t know what the future holds, but I try to shape it. Whenever we try to take God’s place, we can’t handle it because, well, we’re not God. And in all honesty, despite my desire to control, I’m really grateful for that fact. That even though we want to control the future, we can’t. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” That’s the kind of God we’re dealing with. The one who loves. The one who has a plan for us, and that plan is good. No matter what comes in the middle of it – what kind of pain or sadness – His plan is still intact. Even when we take off on our own path and ignore His plan, when we come back to Him and repent, He will guide us in a way that uses all things for good. 

And that’s kind of the point of faith. One of my favorite verses (for obvious reasons) is Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” We have faith in a God who holds the future we don’t see, that He knows what He’s doing and has our best interest in mind with it all. That He will never leave or forsake us, even when we falter. That He loves us too much to leave us alone, or give us a future any less than His perfect plan. 

This world is imperfect. We are imperfect. Trust me, I know I’m imperfect! But our God isn’t. And His plans aren’t imperfect either. He has promised us “hope and a future,” because the two go hand in hand. Not only do we have a future designed by a Heavenly architect, but we also have that hope we need to get us there. Hebrews 6:19 says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul…” And I really love the imagery that verse gives. When we go through storms of sadness, pain, trials, and even just confusion and anxiety and everyday stress, we have an anchor that will keep us secure. That anchor is our hope, and that hope is found in our Savior. 

I have gotten too close to the line of losing my faith, but the one thing it’s taught me is that I never, ever want to even think of living my life without Him. Without His love, without His anchor. We are promised eternal life, but even though we’re still stuck in this imperfect world, we have the hope He has given us, and the promise that no matter what happens to us in this life, He will never leave us or forsake us. 

That’s the anchor we have, and the strength we can draw from in this crazy world. The kind that is never ending from our Heavenly Father. 

Transparency


We all have the same tendency to keep things to ourselves. It’s understandable, and necessary a lot of the time. But not as much as we tend to make it. We feel the need to remain on guard, to build up walls and put on a facade just to keep up the image we want of ourselves. In a sense, we’re afraid to share who we really are with the world. I know. I do it all the time.

It’s fear, really, that makes us keep things in. We’re afraid of showing weakness, of appearing vulnerable, or of changing what people think of us. We are afraid, so we keep everything that isn’t perfect or pleasant out of sight of the world. At all costs.

Where does that usually leave us? Never in a good place. Keeping the walls up and making sure no one has the slightest idea of what our weaknesses are is quite a chore. The longer we keep it up, the worse it becomes, and we feel that we can never let anything show.

As writers, our jobs, our mission, our purpose, is to take the stories we have been given and use them for God’s purpose. Sometimes His purpose is to strengthen, sometimes it’s to give a message or a reminder, and sometimes it’s just to simply share the gospel. But sometimes it’s for something else, something deep and personal. Sometimes the purpose is to heal, to show not only that God understands, but that others do as well. Sometimes the purpose is to bring hope by saying that someone else has done it too, and that God is there.

That’s not only personal; It’s vulnerable. How are we supposed to deliver such a powerful message that is way beyond what our fingers can type?

                                                                   Be transparent.

We can come up with stories, with plots and settings and characters and events. We can create a cool story that will excite readers, and create a fictional life and story for each made-up character, but no story, no matter how good it is, will be as powerful, as real, or as vulnerable and transparent as our own.

The most powerful story you can tell is your own.

And even as writers who spend our days and our lives writing stories, we are just as hesitant (if not more) to share our own. Because we suffer from the same fear as everyone else: What will people think? How will they react if they see who I really am? Even if our stories would be shared with people we have never met, we are afraid of what they will think of us.

That fear is what keeps the walls up, and what keeps us from ever being transparent.

We talk a lot about “our stories”, the fictional stories the Lord has inspired us to write. We say that they need to be told, and we work and struggle to get them there. But as much as these are our stories, the ones that God has given us to tell, the truest story that will ever be yours is your own. Your story is the most broken, the most vulnerable, and the most beautiful.

Yes, we’re broken.

And our stories aren’t anything that would be on the NYT bestseller’s list. They’re messed up and embarrassing, and something that would make an editor cringe. And your story is probably the last thing you would ever want to share with the world.

I felt this way for a long, long time. There are still places where my walls are up, and it’s going to take some work to knock them down. But in time, I have gone from completely hidden to someone willing to share pieces of who I really am. Whether they’re weaknesses, quirks, hobbies, or pieces of my past, one by one I have started to let them out. And you know what?

It’s hard.

Every time I let even the smallest piece of myself out there, I’m afraid. I’m nervous. I wonder if people will look at me differently, if I’ll lose credibility, or if I let too much of myself out, I’ll regret it. I fear that if someone learns who I really am inside, they’ll walk away. But I still do it, and even when it’s frightening, it’s exhilarating. And it’s freeing. And it’s right.

Because we are meant to be transparent. Because the broken, ugly pieces of us are the ones that tell a story: a story of salvation. The most broken parts of us are the most beautiful, because Christ has made them that way.

In Ephesians it says that “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” And one of the most frequented verses is from Ezekiel: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

You are beautiful.

And your story is the most powerful, beautiful, wonderful thing you could ever tell. If our stories are kept behind our walls, then the stories of our transformation, of how God has forgiven us and made us beautiful, and of how He can do the same for every person will be locked behind the walls with them. The world will never get to hear the most beautiful story you could ever tell.

I’m broken. I’m hopelessly broken, flawed, and a complete mess. But I want that mess to show. A little bit at a time, I want to share that mess with the world. Because that is my testimony. That is my story. And that is the story of how God can take the most messed-up person and make them beautiful in His eyes.

And somebody needs to hear that.

Not only my story, but yours. There’s somebody out there who’s just as broken and messed up as you, who needs to hear that there’s a God who loves them anyway. That someone else’s story is just like theirs, and that they too can receive salvation.

If we’re transparent, despite our fears, despite how some people may think, or what we may think of ourselves, our stories could be what God uses to change somebody’s life. And only because we let our walls fall, and let God tell – through our mess – the greatest story we could ever tell.

Love

I don’t exactly have the best track record with love. Then again, I don’t think any of us really do. We’ve all felt pain, all been hurt, and all hurt others at some point in our lives. It kind of levels the field. It means we’re human.

But in today’s society (well, in any society), love is a complicated word. There’s the adage that says, “You love your dog. You love your wife. You love your friend. You love your favorite food.” And none of them mean the same thing. There are different levels, and sometimes it’s just finding that level that’s the hardest thing. We blur the lines, we misread and misunderstand just what someone means when they say “I love you.” We’re hesitant to use the word because its definition is so complicated. But even though I’m not an expert in most of those types of love, I just want to share my experience with the subject in general.

My whole life up until about 8 months ago, I found it almost impossible to love. Sure, I liked people. I loved my family in the sense that I would die for them. I always thought that’s what love was: if you’re willing to die for someone, you must love them. But it’s way more than that, as I’ve come to find, on all levels. After truly letting the Lord into my heart, not just my head, a whole new world opened up to me, one I didn’t realize existed.

They say you can’t truly love until you’ve been loved. I believe that 110%. We can do all we can in our limited abilities and experiences to try to love another person, but until we’ve felt an absolutely perfect, unfailing, reckless love, we don’t know the first thing about the topic at all.

Because Jesus is love. And without Jesus, there’s no real love.

I changed 8 months ago because that’s when I recognized God’s love for me. I realized that all the time I felt unworthy or undeserving, I was right. But it didn’t matter. He loved me despite my scars, my sins, my mistakes I continue to make every single day. None of that matters, because His love is so perfect that even though I’m unworthy, He says I’m worthy.

And He loves me anyway.

When you realize that, everything pretty much changes right there. You spend less time focusing on your shortcomings, and more time focusing on how He makes up for them. And when you can finally be free enough to do that, something else incredible happens.

Your eyes open.

And you see that you aren’t the only one who feels that way.

You aren’t the only one who’s hurting, who’s ashamed, who feels unworthy. You aren’t the only one who doesn’t know how to love until you are loved. There are endless people we pass by every day who are hurting and silently begging for someone to show them a love that gives them a reason for living. I came to this realization only after recognizing God’s love enough to step outside myself. And when I finally did, I realized something else more incredible.

I loved them too.

Which, from someone who spent most of their life seemingly incapable of this emotion, was crazy. How could I love someone I barely knew or had never even met? Someone who I’d only chatted with online, or that I’d only spoken to once in person. Maybe someone I just saw from across a room and felt that they were hurting. I feel compassion and love for them. My heart breaks for them.

Because I know how it feels.

And I mess it up sometimes too. Sometimes I feel such deep love that I misread it as something other than simply loving like Jesus. I’m human. I make mistakes. Sometimes I’m not as loving as I should be. I’m selfish and say things I wish I didn’t. I focus more on wanting others to love me than I do on loving them. I’m a Work in Progress, but then again, aren’t we all? That’s what makes a testimony so great. The best stories of God’s mercies, love, and miracles often come from the most broken people, the “lost causes”. And I 100% believe that is intentional. Because by this, God shows us that there is nothing too great for Him and no one too unworthy or too far gone.

And that’s His love right there. The love that He wants to show through us to a broken world. The love so strong that we weak humans can’t handle it without Him. A love that serves, that is selfless. A love that forgives, that accepts, that doesn’t stop no matter what. A reckless love that is beyond compare. A love that makes the world turn their head and wonder where you got it from. That’s a testimony. That’s love.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.