While I know that there are people out there who don't like me, it's always jarring to have them confront me to my face. Knowing and hearing are two different things. So recently, reading a negative response to my story, was a bit like an electric jolt to my ego. Or maybe the opposite of an electric jolt. Perhaps something like biting into an apple only to find that it's rotten. Something a lot like that.
I processed as this reader complained. That it was all ridiculous, berating me for not leaving my pants at my ankles and accepting the shame. And I wish I could tell you it didn't eat me up right away. And they asked, How can we sugar coat this and say it's encouraging? They asked — how can Christians keep doing stuff like this?
I rolled my eyes. And then I cried. And then I got angry before chewing on the words, and spitting them out because most of them were garbage and something was missing. I rambled about this to a friend and she said, "I wish you could tell them about where you were in life and WHY it happened," and though my friend meant well, I didn't want to defend myself.
Defending myself does nothing, I say. How do I show this person the Gospel? Because I could ignore this, and maybe that's the best response. Let it go and move on because where there's one, there a hundred others, and no one likes poking an ant's nest.
But in starting to ignore it, I felt like maybe I had one chance to say just one thing, and then next time, I'll ignore it. Maybe I won't even finish reading the comment at all next time.
So here's what I'd want to say to that reader:
Hi. I don't know you. Or maybe I do. Maybe I see you every Sunday and we exchange casual greetings. Maybe you're thousands of miles away and only know me through these black and white letters on a screen. Maybe we'd enjoy a meal of bread and wine together and laugh about the same jokes and cry over the same movies.
I'm so sorry that you are disappointed in Christians. In me. In the whole mess of the world that keeps happening and keeps turning and keeps falling apart all over again.
Can I just bend your ear for a moment, and ask if perhaps you missed something in my story?
I'm not trying to sugar coat what I've done in my life. But I will say this — I've learned the Gospel and message of Jesus Christ is not for the people who figure out how to get it all together. The message of the Cross isn't that we finally got our lives in order and we're not all a total mess anymore. The message of the Cross is sweet to our bitter souls, and that's the only sugarcoating that's happening here.
Jesus came for the people who can't get it together. For the people who keep disappointing people. For the people who are caught with their pants down and dragged into the streets. We are the sick ones. We are the prodigals. We are the Israelites wandering and complaining, doubting and hoarding what's not ours to keep.
I don't wish to sugar coat anything. But instead, wish to point you to the sweet message of the Gospel. That is the only sugarcoating I provide. That over all of this rotten aftertaste, Jesus still chose to love us and die for us. Even the Bible says that "God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." While adulterers are unzipping their pants, and addicts are tying the tourniquets, while the trigger is pulled or the words are thrown like darts into the heart of another person, and while we idolize our belongings and gorge on our feasting tables while thousands die every day from disease, malnutrition and abandonment, he STILL chose to love and die. STILL. EVEN THEN.
Believers will let you down. Every single day until we're home in Heaven, we are all works in progress. Sanctification is both done and in progress. We are a holy and chosen people, and still a people who are desperately hoping today will be the day that we get it through our thick skin and hardened hearts that we are saved from it all, and will finally walk in full freedom.
Jesus wouldn't be our physician if it didn't mean we were fatally sick. Last I checked, I'm not healthy. My only hope is Jesus. My only hope is that He died for me before I even knew that death was my penalty.
We are throwing ourselves at the mercy of the Cross, and putting faith in the work of Christ. Not our own works. Not our ability to say the right words, or even to make it all right in the end. Not our ability to understand and explain, or reason our way out of all of our bad decisions. I sin because I am a sinner, and there is no sugarcoating that. To expect anything different from me or my actions is a work of faith. If any good comes out of me, it's because something in me is miraculously not blackening or spoiling in the heat of separation in this world. Anything good in me is a work of the cross.
So dear friend, who I may or may not know, the next time you're disappointed by someone in the faith, remember that they are an example of why ultimately the saving work of grace is so amazing.