Monday, September 3, 2012

You are better than this.

This Sunday our pastor talked about encounters with God.  Specifically, he talked about Paul's encounter, and how everyone's encounter is different, because we are all different, and how no one's encounter is invalid, just specially catered to them.

I don't remember a lot of God Moments from my childhood.  I remember feeling happy.  I remember understanding Jesus Loves Me and feeling the joy of singing corporate songs under the stars at summer camp.  But my first Encounter was when I was fourteen years old at a revival preached by Ken Abraham at my dad's church.

I'm a pastor's kid (PK), for those of you who didn't know.  I had few experiences with preaching that didn't come from my father's mouth.  Revivals were always interesting because we had a guest speaker, and it changed things up a bit.

I don't remember what Ken Abraham talked about that night.

I remember that I had asked my boyfriend to come to church with me to hear him speak, but he didn't show up.  He told me on the phone that night that he came and stood in the back, but was too afraid to come and sit with me up front, but I knew even then that he lied.

There was an altar call at the service and I went up for it.

I hadn't ever done anything like that before.

It wasn't anything that Ken said.  It was more like I didn't have a choice.

There was this feeling inside of me - this pounding feeling - that wouldn't let up until I went up there to the altar.  And so I went.

I was overcome with emotion.

I had seen this happen to a lot of teenagers in my past.

Usually it meant they were "getting saved".

I'm sure that's what most people thought was happening to me that night.

It wasn't.

I can't really recall a time I wasn't "saved".  I had always been a Believer.  This was something else.

It was a time in my life of which I am not proud.

It was my first boyfriend and I had allowed a lot of things to happen that I felt shame about.  I had fought with my parents about their rules and I had disobeyed my inner voice because I felt like giving in to the pressure to continue physically was the thing to do to keep the boyfriend.  I thought I was "in love" with him.  It was the first time I had really dated anyone.  I was naive and clueless and so. young.  I didn't want to give in when he asked me to do things - but I didn't know how to say no.

I thought I was being a "good girlfriend".

But that night...  something washed over me.

It wasn't shame.

It was... love.

I felt so loved in those moments at the altar.

Up to that moment I had felt so dirty and shameful and tired and misunderstood and helpless and when I knelt there I felt accepted and important and beautiful and LOVED.

I didn't know how to tell anyone about what happened to me that night.  I didn't understand it myself.  It was this emotional roller coaster of crazy.  I didn't "get saved".  I just encountered God.

LOL - just.

I have always remembered that night as a night when I changed the way I approached my faith.

April 15, 1995

No longer was it the Faith of my Parents.  It became my faith.  My own relationship with The Almighty.

At the time I chalked it up to "getting saved" because that made the most sense to me.

On Sunday, sitting in the service I realized that it was much more than praying "the sinner's prayer" and making some sort of public and tear-filled declaration.  I was emotional because in all of my shame and confusion The Creator of the Cosmos bent down and said, "You are better than this."

No one else had said that to me.

I had been called dirty and shameful.  I had been made fun of and pushed down in the hallway.  I had friends telling me to "give ________ something to remember [me] by" in my yearbook.  I had been forced to write sexually explicit love notes and say embarrassing things on the telephone.  I had been turned down for slow dances by my own date because a more popular girl was prettier and available and I had thrown away my dignity for a chance to be liked.

Everyone else looked at me and saw the ugliness of my shame.  The ugliness of my mistakes.  The ugliness of what I was becoming slowly.

But Jesus...

Jesus looked at me and saw through all of that dirty and grime and sludge and said, "You are better than this."

I still tear up thinking about it.

There was nothing about getting what I deserved.

There was nothing about how I would be punished and how I should feel all this shame. 

There was empathy.

There was recognition of the person beneath all that muck.

"You are better than this" acknowledges the beauty that remains.  The potential for growth.  The unconditional love that only Jesus can perfectly show.

I couldn't put it into words when I was fourteen.

It was just blind emotion - so pure that all I could do was sink to my knees and cry.

Looking back, the words are clear.

You are better than this.

You were made for more.

I didn't stop doing those things that made me feel shame right then.

In fact, it took a lot of pain and a lot of shame and a lot of years to really get a handle on my sexuality and my thoughts about purity and it's something I struggle with to this day, but I know one thing when those struggles rear their heads.

I am better.

I was made for better things.

You were made for better things.

You are better than this.

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