He Was Naked, Too

One of the amazing bonuses of hanging out in the social justice and anti-trafficking crowds is all the incredible people I meet and all the inspiring stories I hear, often first-hand. At a recent IJM Music and Arts Festival, I met Mary Anne at our booth. Our New Name booth was indicative of our work: simple and sincere. There were a few business cards, some small purple plants, and then a stack of copies stapled together. They were copies of a sex trafficking survivor’s story. Mary Anne’s story. As soon as I saw Mary Anne I thought to myself, “Now she’s a writer.” Obviously thoughtful. Unassuming. Kind and approachable. Really sweet too. And that’s when I felt a knot in my stomach that I just powered through and ignored. “No, she couldn’t really have been treated like that. Abused like that. No…,” as if my control in thought recreates reality. I took a copy that night but I wouldn’t read it for some time. I ignored what I didn’t want to accept. But finally I sat down and read. And entered her story. And wept. So hard I couldn’t see. And what I found was in not wanting to accept her story was really a refusal to accept mine. That perhaps the reasoning, “If you do the right things, you won’t be treated the wrong way,” may be flawed. Struggling with the belief that what happened to me must have been my fault because I must have done something wrong. Performance equals love. But what I found in Mary Anne’s story was another step of the healing journey God is taking me on. The step of seeing Jesus with me — the entire time. Never leaving. Never forsaking. Always faithful. And though some of us won’t understand the realities of being trafficked, if you live long enough you will be forsaken and misused. But it’s inside of that pain that we see — up close and in vibrant color — love, freedom, hope and aliveness in Jesus that we never would’ve experienced from afar. It’s a oneness with Christ you can’t find any other way.


“For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame…” Hebrews 12:2, NIV


“No! I can’t tell anyone that memory!”

“Really? Why not?”

Why not? Is she serious? Of course she is. My “unthinkables” always seem like “perfect reasonables” to my therapist, JoAnn.

“Because the details are disgusting, and it’s not something you talk about with people. It’s way too extreme.”

“Mary Anne, sex trafficking is in the news these days. Many ministries are working to stop it and to help victims recover. I’m sure this won’t be the first time your friends will have heard about the issue.”

“Well, I’m sure it will be their first time hearing about it in relation to someone they know.”

Sex trafficking. Just hearing JoAnn say those words hurts almost as much as the images that continually flash through my mind no matter how hard I try to blink them away. Everything in me rebels against accepting the reality that those words and images could have anything to do with me.

JoAnn continues voicing her reassurance. “I’ve had other clients during my years as a therapist who had been trafficked in some way. You aren’t the only person I know who has been violated in this way.”

I tuck myself in close and tight on the couch, burying my face. A few tears squeeze out. “But I’m the only one I know.”

“Are you afraid your friends won’t believe you?”

I shake my head no. “It’s not that. I’m afraid….” I swallow and make myself look up at her. Drawing courage from the compassion and strength her tender expression is holding out to me, I name my fear. “What if they never look me in the eye again?”

JoAnn leans in closer, holding my gaze in hers. “Mary Anne, your fear of being judged by people if you tell them your story is coming from shame. You still believe you were the one who did something wrong.”

“I know I didn’t do anything wrong.” I look down again and focus on the pattern of the couch. “But what if they weren’t doing anything wrong? If I’m just dirt anyway, then they were just treating me the way I deserved.”

“Honey, this is where you need to hear from Jesus. Can you express your fear to him and let him speak to you about it?”

Nodding, I take a deep breath, then close my eyes and give in to the images, emotions, and other sensations associated with this sketchy but intense memory.

“It’s a summer afternoon. It feels like I am about ten or twelve years old. I don’t know where I am or who has taken me there. All I can see are the corrugated metal walls of a large storage shed.” Whenever I open up a memory, I always see the walls first. That’s where I kept my attention focused while I was being abused, so I could block my experience of what was happening to me, so I didn’t have to remember.

Trembling, but determined, I turn my gaze away from the metal sheeting of the shed to the naked young girl held captive inside. “I hate seeing myself like that! I feel totally embarrassed and exposed. I want desperately to pull my arms and legs in to cover my nakedness and protect myself from what is coming next, but I can’t. I can feel the ties holding me fast at my wrists and ankles, chafing my skin as I struggle. I wanted to get away, JoAnn. I really did! I just wasn’t strong enough. And the men were so big and scary; I knew they would hurt me if I didn’t do everything they said.”

I look up, my eyes pleading through the tears, needing her to know I had done my very best to make it stop.

“I know you tried, Mary Anne. I know,” she murmurs soothingly. “I believe you.”

Crying, I keep pushing through the memory. “I hate that line of men waiting, gawking and jeering until they have their turn with me!” Before they ever laid a hand on me, they had already violated me. I could see in their faces they were creating in their minds images of exactly how they were going to get their money’s worth as they waited to add their money to a growing pile on the small, rickety table at the front of the line.

“And I hate that pile of money! Is that all I was worth, a stack of bills?” Actually, I wasn’t even worth that much. I wasn’t the one they were paying. “How could anyone think he had the right to use me to make money like that? I feel like a piece of worthless, disgusting filth.”

I still don’t have clear visual memories of everything that happened to me, but my body remembers enough to know what those men were paying for. I also have some memory of their voices—no distinct words, rather their mocking tone of laughter telling me exactly what they thought of me. I heard lust, but that isn’t what has echoed through my soul throughout the years, framing how I think about myself. It isn’t their lust that has done the most damage, but their contempt.

“I hate their voices, and I hate these feelings in my body!” One by one the men kept coming to me, stealing pleasures from a body too young to know how to give them.

“JoAnn, there’s something I’ve never understood. What did they get out of it? I was just a scrawny girl, years away from even starting to develop curves. What did I have that grown men would desire?”

“They wanted your innocence, Mary Anne.”

innocence (1)

“I wanted to die. It felt like it would never end. When it gets too much, everything just goes black, but it feels like it never ends. It will never really be over. It’s too much.”

“I know this is hard, Mary Anne. You are doing great. I’m proud of you, Honey. You are being so brave. Don’t forget to breathe. Okay, this time, instead of letting everything go black, can you try to stay present in the memory and let Jesus help you in it? Can you see him?”

“Yes, he’s standing on the other side of the wall.”

“Can you invite Jesus to come inside and be with you there, or even take you away from it all?”

“No! I don’t want him to see me there—not like that. Please, I don’t want Jesus to see me like that.”

“That’s all right. Can you just tell Jesus what you’re feeling, what you’re afraid of?”

I nod and turn back to Jesus. I silently communicate with him. “Jesus, I am too ashamed to have you come near me. I’m terrified at the thought of seeing shock or disgust on your face if you look at me. I’m scared, Jesus, I don’t think I can do this.”

Immediately, the scene in my mind shifts, but I am so stunned by what I see that it takes me a minute to start describing it.

“Jesus is here in the shed with me, JoAnn. He is right next to me.” I stop, take a breath and then haltingly go on. “He’s on the cross. My view of him is from the back, but I can tell… he’s naked, too. And because of the nails, he can’t pull in his arms or legs to cover himself, either. He’s spread out for everyone to gawk at his nakedness—just like me—and those men are taunting him now, instead of me.” Jesus’ hand takes hold of mine and somehow his suffering becomes a refuge from all that is happening to me in that room. Each sharp pain in my body is swallowed up by the pounding of a nail into Jesus’ flesh. He matches my gasps for breath. I see the crown of thorns piercing all around his head and the blood pouring down his face and arms and feet, mingling with his sweat. Jesus is more of a sticky mess than I am. All of the shame I feel flows out from me and into him. I don’t feel it anymore. It’s completely gone. I guess it makes sense… I mean, how can I feel ashamed when Jesus is right there taking it all with me? It’s incomprehensible to me, but I just feel totally clean. And then suddenly, I’m standing free, clothed in a pretty yellow dress. I look up at Jesus, and it hurts to see him taking all of this for me. I ask him, ‘Is it okay for me to let you do this for me?’”

“It’s more than okay, Mary Anne. It’s my joy to do this for you. You are my joy.”


That’s when the grief hits, and I start crying really hard. JoAnn urges me, “Just let it go. Let it all out.” And, finally, I can. Before, I didn’t think I deserved to cry. Why grieve over garbage being treated like garbage? But as I cry, I can feel all the pain being released from my heart and pouring into his heart. As his heart breaks, mine is healed.

After a while, as my tears slow and I start to calm down, I notice something else in the picture. “JoAnn, next to the stack of bills, I see a pile of silver coins—the ones he was sold for.”

“Ask Jesus if he thinks that pile of coins represents his worth.”

“He says, ‘No, it doesn’t. But I felt the sting of it, just as you did.’”

“I feel this incredible with-ness with Jesus. I don’t feel alone. Jesus is with me, and he understands everything I experienced. And what’s really amazing, Jesus tells me that not many people truly understand what he experienced, but that I share some of it with him in a special way. He wasn’t just being with me, but somehow, he was able to experience me being with him. It’s so amazing! It’s hard for me to believe that he would feel something like that toward me…JoAnn, if Jesus and I can understand each other so well, could Jesus help my friends understand about me, too?”

JoAnn wraps her arms around me, and I relax into her embrace. “Mary Anne, think of the other times when you shared your stories of abuse with your friends. Don’t you think you can trust them with this one, too?”

I nod into her shoulder.

“I’m confident that most people you share this story with will understand, but there will be some who won’t.” She pulls back a little and lifts my chin up so I can see her face. “What you need to remember is that if Jesus isn’t ashamed to be your friend, then no one else has any reason, either.”


This is still a hard story to tell, whether to my closest friends or a crowd of people who are mostly strangers to me. Yet, each time I do, my story is received with honor, and I am embraced with compassion. Each time I heal a little more, and I feel a little bolder. I feel clean. I don’t have to be ashamed of my story, because Jesus was not ashamed to enter into it. As incredible as it is to me, part of the joy set before Jesus, that called him unflinchingly to suffering and death on the cross, was setting me free. Long after those men bound my body, shame continued to hold me captive, but Jesus has freed my heart, my spirit, and my voice. The joy set before me in facing my fear of telling my story is seeing many more people like me become free, too.

Dear Fellow Survivor of Sexual Abuse and Trafficking,

“Mommy! Mommy!…I wanna go home!…“No! Please, No!” These were the cries of a little girl that no one neither heard nor cared to hear. I was that little girl.

What about you? Were your screams loud enough to shake the walls, yet mocked as you were physically overpowered? Were you too paralyzed by fear to cry out or even to make a sound? Was the seduction of your young heart so subtle and your need for love and affection so desperate that the idea of saying no never even occurred to you?

Our bodies, our minds, our hearts – whatever sacred parts of ourselves were pinned down by our abusers, it makes no difference. Whether we were imprisoned in brothels, our own bedrooms, or simply our paralyzed wills, whether they secured their pleasures and our silences with money, attention, or threats, the same predatory evil was at work. However they “paid”, they were thieves, ruthlessly stealing our innocence, our trust, our joy, and our voices. I imagine that we all hold a silent scream within us. Silent, but not unheard.

Surely he took up our infirmities

and carried our sorrows,…

He was oppressed and afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,

and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

Isaiah 53:4, 7 (NIV)

We were powerless to defend ourselves, but Jesus, the one who holds all the power in the universe, chose to become powerless in order to enter into our world of silent screams. Jesus took them into himself in his death on the cross so that he could resurrect not only our lives, but our voices as well.

The good news of the gospel is that there is not a single cry that Jesus hasn’t heard and taken to heart. There is not a single cry that will remain silent forever. While Jesus came to the earth the first time as a silent lamb, he will return as a roaring lion.

Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice,

to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.

He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven

and sends it to the ends of the earth.

After that comes the sound of his roar;

he thunders with his majestic voice.

When his voice resounds,

he holds nothing back.

God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways;

he does great things beyond our understanding.

Job 37:2-5 (NIV)

If you listen, you can already hear the growing rumble in his throat. It is heaven’s outrage at every act of violence and violation of one of God’s precious children.

It is also Jesus’ invitation to join him in that rumble – one voice, one story at a time. When we break our silence and begin telling our stories, we begin to find our voices, and the world begins to hear. As victims of sexual abuse and trafficking, we needed someone to hear our cries. We needed to be rescued and to be healed.

Now as survivors, we have a story the world needs us to tell. God is calling us to add our stories to his story. Not just our stories of abuse and trafficking, but more so our stories of how God has met us in those experiences and given us his power to triumph over them. We have a unique opportunity to give God glory and magnify his name.

A day of judgment is coming when we will look in Jesus’ face and see in his perfect goodness and perfect anger the vindication we so desperately desire. On that day, Jesus will call forth all of our cries and transform them into a magnificent, holy roar. Heaven and earth will shake with our collective outrage and then joy, as we shake off every last vestige of fear, abandonment, betrayal, and violation still clinging to our souls.

We have been silent long enough. It’s time for us to roar.


Written by Mary Anne Q. Do not reproduce without permission. Contact Mary Anne for any questions pertaining to her writing: maryanneq2@gmail.com

Impossible beauty from volcanic ashes

Beauty from ashes

I have a hard time grasping the reality of the phrase, “He makes beauty from ashes.”

If you’ve been through the fire and all you really do see around you is ashes, then your soul feels burnt and deadened.

Seems to me that seasons of ashes can’t really coexist with beauty.

But then I had a very eye-opening encounter recently. And that happened in a place where there is only beauty, no ashes, surrounding me — Hawaii.



Not to make you jealous or anything, but Hawaii has got to be hands-down the most spectacular, radiant, glorious place on earth. And it’s not just one kind of beauty; it’s a wide diversity of everything from white sandy beaches, to towering waves, to staggering cliffs, to brilliant coral reefs, to jungle forests, to commanding landscapes. And it all takes place in about 80 degrees of weather — all year round.

Now I know you want to go there, I loved my time there, and people all around the world talk about visiting there. This little, tiny speck in the Pacific Ocean has everyone a spectator and counting down the days until a live encounter.


However, Hawaii wasn’t always paradise. During a short educational film we watched before going to Hanauma Bay to snorkel in the coral reef, I learned how the Hawaiian Islands actually came to be.

Beneath the surface of the islands is what is called a “hot spot.” If you remember anything from 7th grade Earth Science, you’ll recall that the Earth’s outer crust is made up of tectonic plates. Sometimes volcanos will form in the middle of a plate where magna rises until it erupts on the sea floor — this is the hot spot. The Hawaiian Islands were formed by such a hot spot occurring in the middle of the Pacific Plate. While the hot spot is fixed, the plate is moving. So, as the plate moved over the hot spot, one by one the string of islands were formed.

How utterly fascinating.

Volcanos produced islands.

Ashes scripted beauty.

Destruction prophesied redemption.


I was thinking about this as I was snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. This particular bay was created from a volcanic explosion which created a crater and all the sediment from the destruction settled into the bay which made this perfect environment for a coral reef. And how beautiful the brightly colored coral fish were. And how perfect the sand and hot the sun.

What this nature story is telling is even deeper than first impressions (you know, the seemingly cliché “All things work together for good” stuff).

You see, this beautiful, perfect island was formed after time and time again of volcanic eruption. Again, and again, and again. The magma rising, the sediment building, volcanic bursts, and, after a long time, this paradise place started peeking out into the pacific ocean — much to it’s own surprise, I’m sure.


But what about us?

Moving away from this paradise, let’s look at our own hell, our own volcanos, our own life explosions. I get it — life isn’t easy, there’s hard times, there will be pain, and somehow we become better people through it.

But what really irks me is the “Really? Again??”

When your own history repeats itself. When you can’t shake the despairs of the past. When you think you’ve healed and then something seemingly minor (or major) triggers something too deep in your mind and emotions, and it’s the same story, like nothing has changed.

The magna rises.

The sediment builds.

When pain comes steamrolling through your door, it’s not just dealing with that pain. It’s having to relive all the other ones that happened previously. People may say, directly or indirectly, “Ok, let’s heal already. It’s time to move on,” because they can only see that isolated experience. When someone has deep wounds and scars, it’s literally harder to move on each time because you have to relive each previous one and they stack up uncaringly. Now it’s not just getting over this pain; it’s getting over 2, or 5, or 10. It keeps building up. Each time it gets harder, and more seemingly impossible. And I think, “I can’t take one more thing, go through this experience one more time.” The future is terrifying, because the choice to live is this risk, and full expectation, that this just may happen again. Some way or another.

The magna rises

The sediment builds.

I think of friends who are going through deep waters, trials that keep repeating so much it hurts my heart. A beautiful couple and good friends of mine who have recurring pregnancy loss and have gone through the loss of 5 babies already. Another friend who lost her mom to cancer as a child, lost her dad to cancer in the past year, and now received the news that her fiancé at age 26 is diagnosed with cancer just 3 months before their wedding. My aunt who lost her dad to a car accident years ago, and then her 3 month old grandson 5 years ago, and how her own 30 year old son several months ago.

It’s not just the one time. It’s the repetition. Over and over and over again.

Once again.

The magna rises.

The sediment builds.

I felt resilient years ago. Obstacles and hurts didn’t have much of a past behind it, so I was able to jump back pretty quickly. But each deep hurt is like losing a limb. Go through it once, and sure, you can keep walking ahead. But 3-4 times? All you can do is lay limb-less on the ground with hardly the will to live again.

And we all have those, “Again, God??” moments. When will I ever learn that living and loving means losing everything? How in the world am I supposed to help other people when I’m incapable of controlling myself when I am at my weakest point? I can’t even think or accomplish things. I can’t even communicate with God. God, I can’t. I can’t. I have nothing to offer. I’m lost.

The magna rises.

The sediment builds.

And then…

What is that, peeking through the surface?

Is that something green, something alive, something …. beautiful?

Can’t be. Because I know that all there was before was destruction and ashes.

But something’s rising, something … new. Totally new. Shockingly new.

What once was a calm sea is now this attention-drawing island. And with such variety. Depth. Creativity.

The magna rose.

The sediment built.

And paradise bloomed.


That corner of the ocean would never be the same again.

And that’s the hard part too. We can’t ever go back. Ever. After all the things that we have gone through, we cannot reach back into the past and regain our innocence, the times of a simpler life, the heart that is unshattered.

You see, God’s not creating the next better version of the Pacific Ocean. He’s actually building a whole new island.

He doesn’t make things better. But he does make things new.

Because that’s what love does.

New things

This ocean would never be the same. It had to accept the change. It lost one thing to gain another. Redemption is actually written into creation.

And what’s incredible about Hawaii? I get to enjoy this because something a long time ago went through fire and destruction. And it turned into something beautiful that continues to give and attract people from all over the world.

Because beautiful things will attract attention. And every beautiful thing has a past that includes a lot of ashes.

I think … I think … I want to be like Hawaii.

And I think …. that has been God’s plan all along. But there comes a time of agreement, of “yes and amen.”

That means, though, I have to embrace the trial and fire and heat and hurt and pain. It’s part of the process, the journey, the sanctification.

When it’s all said and done, when something new is starting to burst out, the point isn’t what I lost. The point is what I gain. By losing what I had, by losing my claims to my life, I gain a new one, a fuller one.

Only Love can come up with a story like that.

Inside the lava-like fire are hurts and pains that we don’t understand or think we really deserved. Yet we recognize it. We receive it. And we proclaim “Amen”. In that seed planted, we in turn receive a harvest of righteousness.

And so our life becomes an island alleluia.



To read more of the stories of my friends I mentioned above who are going through difficult but beautiful stories, read their blogs below:

Lindsay And David Blair – My Journey With Recurring Pregnancy Loss http://lindsayablair.com/2016/02/12/my-journey-with-rpl/

Bobbie and Ray – Neatly Wrapped Packages  https://jeanbobbi.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/neatly-wrapped-packages/ 

Real Lives: The Story of Sherry

Meet Sherry

From the moment I walked into the Betel women’s home when we arrived in England, I felt warmth and acceptance. And, after spending 2 week of full-immersion in Spain, I was exuberant that I could carry on a conversation with people in my own language! I was never in my life so happy to just simply talk! (*insert knowing look*: this is a Big Deal) Yet I found quickly that I was definitely not the only talker there. The women in the safe home I was living in were just so happy and familial. So open and expressive. Definitely blew my British stereotypical view out of the water. (please, release from your imagination any Pirates of the Caribbean character types. and accents. just let go) They also were very very open about their lives and stories of their past. It was so full of pain and hurt and sin and God and Jesus and victory and purpose. I was overcome with the amount of pain and life-crushing experiences they had gone through and the joy in Christ that they recounted despite the life-numbing circumstances.

One friend in particular stood out to me from the others. My friend Sherry.  Yeah, she was pretty much the life of the party. Funny, always laughing, always joking, very open, full of conversation—you couldn’t help but love her. She was, I’d say, 45-ish years old and had such a strong Birmingham British brogue, more so than most of the girls there. Which to me added to her humor. For a moment it seemed like I had just met My Fair Lady. Her voice was raspy, her skinned stretched and leathery, and she was pretty thin. Personality: the wittiest of them all.

Sherry was such a hard worker and very quick to anticipate a need and meet it. She was one of the few women that had a permit to drive the large vans. I noticed when she picked up donations during the day that she would always put aside a special treat for the guests, or some herbal tea for someone sick, or some flowers for one of the girls’ birthday. She was just a gem.

My 3rd or 4th day there I was assigned to pick up donations with Sherry, so we spent at least 9 hours together that day driving around to the various food stores in Birmingham to pick up mostly food donations. During those hours together, we talked, laughed, learned about each other, encouraged each other.

And Sherry told me her story.

The Prodigal Sinner

I forget what the trigger point in her life was for drugs, but pretty early on she was hooked. Typically it begins with an entry drug like marijuana and then the unquenchable thirst for more—a bigger high, and safer low, resulting in a higher high. Often drug abusers will offset drugs so that some will give them super highs, but the higher the high, the harder to low. And to keep from crashing, they take another drug. So the body is on this extreme rollercoaster.

Sherry quickly got addicted to heroin, probably the worst drug addiction of have. Typically people on heroin do not live long because of the amount you must inject in order to keep getting the next high, and eventually you will overdose. Sherry was addicted for 20 years.

20. Years.

It destroyed her possessions, her career, her family, her sanity, and her life. Even to this day, the doctors cannot get to any veins to take blood except the ones on the bottoms of her feet because she had deflated them all with countless injections. Stealing money and possesstions at every opportunity, she was trusted by no one. Her family disowned her. Society rejected her. She was violent–  very violent, as she told me. No one could be around her and she was often in and out of jail or prison. Her life was in an unstoppable downward spiral.

She told me of the lowest, most despairing moment of her life. She had become so violent, raged and drug-ridden that she was arrested, put in a high-security isolated prison cell, and was wrapped in a straight-jacket that was made of a chain-metal type material. She said she remembered lying there on the cold, hard prison floor, and thinking,

“All I want right now is just something soft to touch. Just something soft.”

Yet nothing was. Not her straightjacket, not her skin, not the floor. It was at this point she prayed to God. She said, “God, please kill me. Please—please kill me.” There was no hope.

To her surprise and chagrin, she didn’t die. It made her angry—“God, why didn’t you kill me?” She did not want to live anymore and this one request He did not grant.

The Prodigal God

Yet, it was at this point that God took the broken, destroyed pieces of her life and started building something new, something beautiful. Impossible? You may think so, but God is so good at what he does.

He led her to a Christian, Gospel rehab where she met Jesus. He brought her out of the miry, muddy disgusting pit and set her feet upon a rock and gave her a new song in our mouth, a song of praise to our God! He freed her from drugs, from violence, from her past, her idolatry. What an awesome God! What victory!

Sherry continued to tell me that she met a great Christian guy at church and they soon got married and had a beautiful ceremony, got a home, and began a family. They soon had a daughter and then a son. They had a nice little house, a good church, and a real family. Life couldn’t get any better.

Slow Fade

Yet, over the course of several years, the slow fade entered. There wasn’t a certain day or time where she remembered setting God aside, but slowing, one choice at a time, her and her husband didn’t hold Christ as closely to themselves as they used to. Church became more of a duty than joy. The marriage began to look more and more selfish. She said she began believing that she could handle everything pretty well on her own, and that’s where the slow fade began.

Over the course of a few years, the beautiful, godly marriage that they once had fell apart and he left her (I believe) for another woman.  It was at this point that she turned to alcohol as a release and it became her idol. The next drug. For the next year or two she wasted her days again and again on alcohol to free and numb herself from pain and reality.

She knew God and the Spirit of God resided in her, yet how could she get freedom when God had already saved her life before? How could God accept her after her obvious and blatant abuse of His love and grace?

Grace Unending

Through a friend she found out about Betel and went there to be free from alcohol abuse and her sinful, independent lifestyle, and God graciously gave her her life back in Him. Over and over she said to me,

“You know, one time is enough for God to forgive me and welcome me home, but even when I turned away a 2nd time, he still took me back! I cannot thank Him enough because I deserve to be on the street right now, yet I am a child of the King! I don’t know when God will allow me to live a ‘normal’ life again and to have my children back, but I have such a greater real sense of my need for him. I can’t make it without him and I think about Him all the time. Even today, he’s just been on the mind the entire day—I can’t get him out of my mind!”

My Story?

This is the point where I basically sat back and said, Wow—oh wow. I’m thinking, what really have I to share about my testimony after that? And yet… my story has just as much God in it. She was saved from her idolatry, I was saved from my idolatry. I struggle every day to love God, and so does she. Different stories, same God, same Cross. It was at this moment that God brought to mind the lessons from Tim Keller’s book Prodigal God, and I shared with her that in that story, she would be considered the worldly son, and I would be considered the Pharisaical elder brother. Both abused the Father’s gifts, one through open rebellion, one by self-righteousness. Yet both are equally sinful and estranged from the Father. And the Father shows grace and forgiveness to both. It’s a story of a prodigal, extravagant God.

When we said goodbye, my heart was so full and so was hers. Amazing how in such a short time God can knit hearts together in the common bond of Christ. Last I heard, Sherry was still living in Betel and her son had come to live with her. I pray that she stays strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and that He would keep her until the day of His appearing. Can’t wait for the reuniting!

My Vita. My new life.

So this website blog is about my life. Well, in reality my new life- my new vita. ‘What?’ you may ask. ‘New life? Does this mean you had, well, an old life?” Yep, I guess you can say so. Read on; allow me to explain.

I never considered myself a rebel. Reared in a religious home, obeyed rules—well, broke a lot, but I always seemed to make up for it later, or at least justify my choices. And I was a good girl—yeah, I was a pretty good person, especially from God’s perspective. I studied God, spent time in his church, even memorized his words! You know, pretty soon I knew enough and was far enough in my “walk” with God that I didn’t really need him anymore. If I was able to “atone” for my own mess-ups, why did I need a God to help me? Sure, I didn’t want to get on his bad side, but I was able to call the shots just as well as he did. Little did I realize, I became my own god—I had just de-godded, God. I was on the throne calling the shots, and God was my label, because life just worked best for me that way. A rebel? No way—the only rebels were those that didn’t see life my way or tried to tell me what to do. And especially those that tried to tell me that I was rebelling against God. Didn’t like those people.

Then I learned some things about the cross. The cross? What does that have to do with anything? Well, if I claim to accept God, then I must understand what he accomplished through the cross. Ok, so the cross is where the Son of God, Jesus, was crucified—he had to die for the sins of the world. So he died for my sins. Yeah I believe that- so I’m saved. End of story.

Take a closer look at the cross, Angela. Why the cross? Why punishment? Well, I know that God is a just, perfect and holy God, but since God is perfectly just, that means that all wrongs must be paid for, there must be a punishment. I know this—I watch CSI and want justice meted out to the wrong doers. A life for a life. Yet what are these wrongs? Lying, cheating, sexual immorality, stealing, idolatry. . . idolatry. What exactly is that, bowing down to a makeshift idol? No, it’s idolatry of the heart. Its when I de-god God. I overthrow his rule, put myself in his place, and actually become my own idol. The highest treason against a King. Really?? So, what’s the penalty for treason? The death penalty? No- no way, I haven’t done really bad things, I just, well, view myself as the ultimate authority in my life. I still do good—is that so wrong? “Treason. Rebel. Idolater.” The accusations are true. Guilty. The Judge looks at me and speaks the sentence- “she must die.” I stand in condemnation under the just wrath of Almighty King and God. Helpless. Hopeless.

“Wait…I will pay”. Who said that? Is that a cross—Jesus?
The Judge answers, “She has committed the highest crime against me and justice must be wrought. She wears the robes of condemnation. And yet . . . there is Way; I sent you to do my will, to show grace and love and mercy. What do you offer?”
Jesus: “My life. I know that I am covered in righteous robes of holiness, righteousness and purity, so I will give them to her and take her robes of condemnation off her. I will wear them, become her sin, take your cup of wrath—all while hanging on the cross of shame.”
Judge: “Yes- I am satisfied with this. My perfect justice demands fulfillment, yet my perfect love offers the cross and forgiveness. Become her sin and I will accept this substitution.”
Jesus: “Yes, please forgive her. With joy I will become the substitute.”

Here is a crossroads for me- do I accept this love, this life spent in my place? I do need salvation from this wrath! Yet if I accept, then Jesus owns my life. That’s what happens when someone saves another’s life. We will have a relationship unlike any other in my life. He would become my treasure, and I would be his. Do I keep my idolatry, or do I accept his love?

I cry out to him, “Jesus I want your robes! I am a rebel, abuser of your goodness and grace. filthy and wretched robes weigh me down. Take them—become my shame so that I can have new life. Undeserved. You now own me, and I love you because of who you are, because of that love.”

Yes, the cross is so much more to me now. It symbolizes new life in Christ, free from guilt, shame, and death. I am loved, I am secure—and because of this, I am a debtor to mercy.

I have new life.