December 28, 2015

A Mouthful for Ministry

I’ve found over the years that I have a disguised advantage that many of my Christian friends don’t have, though it’s taken a long time to train myself not to hide it, because being open about this sort of thing means allowing people the opportunity to judge me-many times with the same measuring stick I use to sift through my own peers. 

I’ve lived on both sides of “ the track”.  It’s this track, or line, as I like to better call it that often causes people to triumph, or to fail; to be confident, or hopeless. This line tells one little boy not to try out for basketball and another that he’ll be the star player. It might even contribute to your social class or income level. Are you familiar with this line?

I’m a Christian. Clearly. It doesn’t get more black and white. I’m head over heels for Jesus Christ. Likewise, I’m blatantly pro-life. There’s no reasoning that could convince me otherwise. I also believe in traditional family values. My heart bleeds God, husband, kids. I’m conservative. I believe women should save themselves for marriage. I believe sex is an amazing tool that God gave us to connect physically, emotionally and spiritually with our covenant partner. I also believe there are detrimental effects of abusing sex, but that’s for another post. I strongly believe women should put their household before ministry. In fact, I find it one of my strongest passions to highlight that in my life ministry. I believe in the tithe and the benefit of it on earth and in heaven. I’m pretty simple, right?

People either love me, or hate me based on my beliefs, but I can usually fit in just right with the usual church crowd. We share a lot of those beliefs in common, but telling a new Christian friend where I’ve come from or who my parents were, is kind of like throwing a stick into a bike wheel’s spokes… while I’m riding that rapidly-moving bike down a steep hill.
“Wait, what? Your mom was a stripper?” “But I thought you were oober conservative. I thought you frowned upon sex before marriage. Your childhood Thanksgiving memories were gathering around the table in the basement and passing around joints before feasting? I thought you were the spokesperson for abstaining from drugs and the very appearance of evil. I thought you were a stickler for eating at the table as a family. I thought you were THEE over protective mom of our group; ‘Mrs. Safety Police’. How could you possibly have slept in your car or lived with strangers?”

Imagine watching that thought process on someone’s face! It’s kind of funny, but when it’s happening, it’s downright frightening! Over the past almost 10 years, I’ve grown really comfortable with my circle of friends. My people know me. They know where I come from, but they know who I am now and what to expect from me. Lately though, I’ve been introduced to so many new faces. All of these people come from different churches, different backgrounds and have their own take on scripture, so I’m overwhelmed with this weird type of culture shock almost and I’ve found myself drawing back from talking about my own life and my own past, or as I call it "B.C." - Before Christ - out of fear of rejection! And so, that’s my disadvantage, while we’re here. If my new friend is still standing there after I get myself off the ground, dust my clothes off, and pull the stick out of my bike tire, I’m thankful, but I’m seeing that too many people are using that measuring stick I mentioned earlier against people’s history to determine their worth instead of judging their heart despite any history and giving them an opportunity and a message for hope.

But, what threatens my relationship with fellow believers in new circles, proves a great advantage to a lost and dying world, and that is the reminder that I so recently needed.

Here I am now. I’ve crossed this line. When I accepted Jesus, I hardly noticed, but during that march with Him I took on His thinking, and as I did, I dropped my own poor choices; the choices I had been watching and had been trained to make since birth. I dropped the idea that I would never make it. I forgot the messages that had been drilled into my head throughout childhood: “There’s them, and there’s me. WE never make it through high school. WE never get through college. WE can’t hold a GOOD job. WE don’t keep nice houses. WE settle. WE take who we can get. We’re not worth it. Welfare will back us up. Smoke another bowl. It’ll all be alright.” I know what they’re thinking. I didn’t even know then how broken I was. I remember dreaming as a kid or even a teenager as I passed by nice houses, or seeing a doctor and looking at his family picture on the office wall and wondering what their lives were like. I remember “knowing” I could never live like them, "knowing" I was destined for failure, or barely getting by at the least. I was born into generations of food stamps, high school dropouts and teen pregnancies. We do what we see. I didn’t decide consciously to repeat that, but I sure didn’t reach for the stars either. I didn’t dare reach. How could we be any different?

I lived it and then I met Jesus. The real, Living, Loving Jesus and He saved my life long ago. I don’t speak out against smoking weed because I think I’m better than the pothead next door. I can say that with confidence because I WAS the pothead next door. I was born to potheads; sometimes a crackhead; a partying teen. If there is a low, if there is someone to look down upon, I was it! It went on for generations and I, myself took on many of those bad habits at my own fault. It’s scary to share my heritage and my past. Even though my present life speaks nothing about it, it’s scary to open the book and consider the consequences of allowing friends, acquaintances and even strangers the option to their own response, whatever it may be, because there are so many different scenarios of outcome.

But staying quiet means shadowing the work that God has done in my life and drawing an ever bolder black line between US and THEM. “We’re free from poverty. They’re not. We’re free from addiction. They’re not.” The first time someone associated me with the opposite side of that line, I sort of got a smirk on my face. "I've never been a them!" I thought to myself, but someone had now characterized me! My emotion was quickly turned to rage, followed by panic. How could I convince that person that there was no difference between us? My life is a testimony to the lie in that line. I HAVE to talk about Jesus. I have to talk about the importance of training up my children and serving my family. He's who changed me. Him and these life lessons are what saved my life and gave us a solid foundation, but I have to talk about being real, too. That means talking about my parents, talking about the drugs, shelters, moving around; all of it, because people have to know that we’re people. Real people. Not just perfect people with unachievable lives. I don't want to lose my ease. I don't want to forget how to be real in front of people. I'm all for professionalism when it's called for, but the world needs real in the church of all places, not a fake smile. There is a medium. I'd rather wear my faults on my sleeve and let my victories train those behind me than cover my failures in a tight neck and perfect speech to keep up my image, and cause people to think they don't measure up. After all, we're all the same. There is no us and them. It's only a matter of believing in God, believing in yourself and reaching. I’ll burn a million bridges with so called Christians to reach the heart of one person who dares to dream AND reach. And I’ll put a new stick in my bike tire spokes again and again if it takes that to prove that Jesus is the hope to every shortcoming, every generational curse and every sad story-especially in my life.

Psalm 66:16 Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he did for me.

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