I shared a post on Facebook a few days ago.  Then I made the mistake of reading the comments on the original post.  The post was by the Christian author of a popular book, and it basically said, “I do lots of things I shouldn’t do, but Jesus loves me anyway, and I love you, even though you do bad things, too.”  It was a lot longer and much more eloquent than that, but you get the gist of it.  Y’all.  Based on the comments, you would’ve thought she had called Jesus some really bad name before kicking a puppy and tying firecrackers to a kitten’s tail before she stole some poor kid’s lollipop.  Not once in her post did she say that Jesus approves of her sin.  She simply stated a fact.  “Jesus loves me unconditionally.”

One of the comments that stuck out the most was one by a woman who had admittedly never read her books.  She berated her for “flaunting” her sins as thought she is proud of them, because a good Christian would never divulge such information. (I’m seriously paraphrasing here, because it’s getting late, and I’m tired, and I don’t remember word-for-word what she said.)  I didn’t reply to her comment, because I really don’t like conflict, but it really bothered me.  I mean, maybe the reason so many people are turning away from the church is because so many church-goers aren’t fully divulging their shortcomings.

I was raised in a Christian family.  I’ve never doubted that God exists.  But you know what?  I love the taste of tequila and the smell of weed.  I can cuss like a sailor.  Sometimes I listen to rap music.  I can quote every single line of every single episode of The Golden Girls.  Does that mean that God loves me less?  Nope.  Does that mean that He approves of those things?  Not at all.  What it means is, “I’m human, and God understands that.”

With that being said, I want to say this.  If it weren’t for my love for God and His love for me, I would have a really big problem saying no to the tequila and the weed.  I’d have a hard time controlling my tongue when I get mad.  I wouldn’t think twice about blasting the Nelly with my kids in the car. When I made the decision to start living the life God wants me to live, I decided to change the way I live.  I’m not perfect, and I do still slip up occasionally – because I’m human – but I try, and God forgives me when I fail.

If you’re a person who was raised in a perfect home and never faced any trials or temptations, good for you.  That’s not everyone’s reality, though.  Sometimes people can relate better to someone who’s been there.  Chances are, I’m not going to ask advice on anything from somebody who has never experienced it.  “So, um, how do I get out of my life of sin?”  “I don’t know, dude.  I’ve never sinned before.  Maybe you could try just not doing it?”  OR  “Hey, can you help me figure out how to stop sinning?”  “Well, I can tell you what worked for me.  First, I prayed for forgiveness, strength, wisdom, and deliverance.  Then I prayed every time I felt tempted.  I read my Bible a lot.  And I failed a lot, but God never stopped loving me and never left my side.  It got easier with God’s help, but without Him, I couldn’t have done it.”  Sometimes all it takes to make that connection is a simple, “I’ve been there.”

Honesty.  It goes a long way.  We’re called to love, and you can’t love without being honest, which is not the same as “flaunting our sins”.

Beauty and the UnBeautiful

Life is messy.  It gets ugly.  Really ugly.  And it’s so easy to get caught up in all that ugliness and completely forget to look for the beauty.  When you’re up to your elbows in poop and spit-up, you haven’t had a chance to shower all day, and you still have 3 hours until somebody can relieve you?  That’s ugly.  But that baby – the cause of all your problems right now – smiles at you for the first time, and all of your problems disappear.  How beautiful is that?  You, for whatever reason, have to give up your house – the one that you have poured hour upon hour into making into a home?  There’s nothing beautiful about that, is there?  Oh, but there is!  It’s not the house that was your home.  It’s the people you share it with.  The laughter, the smiles, the tears – all the things you shared in that house are the things that turned that house into your home.  Your home, wherever it may be, is beautiful because of the love that lives there.  Your preschooler just thoroughly embarrassed you at the park in the middle of his t-ball game, which is actually a pretty common occurrence, but you know that he’s going to come up with another awesome way to hug you when you get home.  Jump hugs, double jump hugs, spin hugs, squeeze-tight hugs.  Can you think of anything more beautiful?

Cancer, though.  Cancer is ugly.  There’s absolutely nothing about cancer that I can think of as beautiful.  It literally sucks the life out of you.  I’m sure I could come up with some pretty unsavory words for cancer, but what’s the point?  As ugly as cancer is, though, I can still find beauty in this crappy situation I’m in.  In these last two months, I have opened up to people.  I’ve made new friends.  I’ve experienced kindness from total strangers.  I’ve learned that it’s OK to ask for and accept help from others.  I have experienced love like never before.  The day we found out that the diagnosis was probably cancer, I climbed up in the hospital bed with my husband, put my head on his shoulder, and cried.  We said things that have needed to be said for a long time.  We forgave each other.  We fell in love again.  It was beautiful.  Caring is beautiful.  Kindness is beautiful.  Love is beautiful.

If, by some miracle, he pulls through this, it will be beautiful.  We will have a messy, loud, chaotic, beautiful life.  If he doesn’t pull through this…  I can’t even begin to imagine the beauty he will experience!  So, no matter what happens in this crazy, messed-up life, I’m going to keep looking for the beauty, and I’m going to keep on keepin’ on until I get to experience that ultimate beauty for myself!

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” -Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV