Everywhere I have looked this week there has been bad news. On the front covers of newspapers. On Yahoo News. On Facebook. I hear stories of this person committing suicide, of bodies dismembered, and of death, death, and more death. And there are the love songs with only heartache, heartache, and pain. No wonder so many people struggle with depression in our society! At first glance of my blog writings, some may think I am bringing bad news for anyone who has not remained a virgin, and that I am saying that I am above or "holier" than others who have not chosen the same path. But I am here to boldly proclaim that that is not in my heart, and that I believe that we are all very much in need of grace and love.
Perhaps, surprisingly to some, I never thought I would marry a virgin. I always wanted to marry someone with a "different" life story than mine. My life had seemed so normal, boring in some ways. Sure, dealing with church politics can be a challenge for anyone, but I was the "preacher's kid." I had followed the rules of Christianity. At school, I was the "teacher's pet." In conclusion, I could be considered by some only as a "goody two-shoes." And nobody it seemed wanted to listen to one of those. Perhaps if I had a husband who could relate to others better and had a different story, people would listen to me.
But then I would hear stories of Jesus (the most "pure," "moral" man who ever walked the planet), and how he was friends and had favour with everyone, especially those who religious leaders thought were "sinners." Jesus, who claimed to be God's Son, had dinner with prostitutes, tax collectors and those with immoral behaviour. These "holy," "spiritual" leaders could not understand His love for them. Of course, there was the woman caught in adultery, whom Jesus never condemned, but instead extended grace, forgiveness and truth. Lastly, I thought about the Samaritan woman at the well who had had five husbands. Jesus didn't give her a big, long speech about how she needed to clean up her act or tell her to marry that man that she was with right now. Perhaps, he already knew her guilt and shame, and so instead he welcomed her to follow Him and learn from Him.
And then as an even bigger challenge, Jesus claimed, that whoever lusted after a woman (or man) had already committed that very act in his heart. When I let those words sink in, part of me screamed, "Dang it!" Because I knew I was caught. Red-handed. (No one likes to be found guilty). In my heart, I knew that I had lusted after plenty of men. According to Jesus, my "virgin title" was null and void. No matter what church people had seen on the outside, I knew that before my Father God, I was guilty. And this Jesus was intent on cutting through my religious garb and false self-perceptions and revealing my heart in all of its ugliness and deception but mostly emptiness and loneliness. At the same time, there was a peace that flooded my soul. I realized I could connect to others. None of us had followed God's laws perfectly. And I came to realize that Jesus hadn't exposed my heart to shame me, but to heal me and to free me from my self. He wanted to show me that He loved me not because of my past, but just because He is Love. He created me to receive His perfect Love. Only through His love, could I accept myself and love others where they were at and bring His gentle correction if need be. I could also receive that love in return from them. No matter other's unique stories, we really all were in the same boat. We really all need this Great Love. It is as John Mark McMillan eloquently wrote in his song about the love of Christ:
So we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we're all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way
He loves us, oh how He loves us.
I don't think I look deeply enough and often enough into those eyes of grace and acceptance. Some days I do, some days I don't. But I'm learning.
And so there is some of the good news. Good news that we are loved by our Father God, not based on our performance. Loved because we are His sons and daughters. We are His beautiful creation. His men and women that He considers masterpieces that He is still refining. Yes, I still do need a lot of work. We all do! But He adores what He is fashioning in us. He has not given up on us, His children, and He never will. I pray that is good news for you.