I have this vision of me standing before a congregation. It is not my home church. I have been called before these people to speak. Someone there know that I have a testimony. Someone, who doesn't know me or the words that I have to speak, knows that I have something to say. As I make my way to stand before the people of the church, I am filled with apprehension. My palms are sweaty. My heart beat kicks into overtime. I am sure the congregation will be unable to hear me over the thumping of my precious organ.
"I'm not good at speaking," I start off. All eyes are on me. They wait patiently; yet, are eager to hear what this strange girl has to say.
"I'm a bad person," I tell them. "At one time I could've injured anyone of you simply be tearing you apart with my words. I have broken hearts. Told lies. I've made those who have me loved me cry from the pain I inflicted. And when I was done, when the last ugly words was spoken from my lips, I'd walk away from them and never look back.
So, yes, I have been terrible. I am a bad person. In fact, it seems like I've spent half my life hurting people. And then the other half regretting it.
Over the past couple of years I've apologized to those I've harmed. I've tried to explain my behavior. Not so much as excuse it, but just to answer any of the 'whys' that may be floating around in their minds. I went to others for absolution. And while it was a good thing that I did that, maybe even commendable, it did not relieve me of my guilt. I still carried that terrible emotion with me. Because, you know, while being a victim if horrible, it is knowing you have the power, and the will, to inflict injury to another human being that will tear you apart. That's the ultimate heartbreak. To know you hurt others on purpose.
So, I carried the guilt and pain with me for years. I wrapped myself in it. Using it as a shield between me and all others. I never realized in doing this I was removing all traces of happiness from my life. Worse than that, I removed God from my life as well.
Do you remember what it was like before you were saved? Do you ever look back and wonder how you made it through life without God's grace? Without His hand firmly placed over yours? Ever wonder how you could've called yourself happy when you weren't receiving His blessings? I do. I look at my life now, compare it to my life then, and realize I was drowning a sea of emotions and turmoil. And this sea, this ocean of regret and anger, was one that I had created.
Now I don't pray like everyone else. I'm a writer. A person that lives inside their head. I personify all the abstract elements of life that I have trouble coming to terms with. So, this is how I speak with God. I do it in my imagination. I envision Him kicked back in the recliner, shoes off, relaxing as we discuss the various topics that come up between us.
Every once in a while He even takes a swig of a pepsi.
So, one evening God and I were having a discussion. By this time He'd begun to work in my life. And I was struggling between how I wanted to live and how I should live.
You know the struggle. Don't you? Every Christian is familiar with it.
That night God was asking why I wasn't getting closer to Him. Why was I drawing a line in the sand and refusing to cross. I really had no answer except one.
I just don't deserve you, I told Him. I'm a bad person.
This answer hurt Him. I could see it on His sweet face. I could feel it in my heart. It saddened Him as well. But it was the truth. And, if nothing else, I have become honest.
Now, God loves us. Loves all of us. We are taught this very thing at an early age. As children, we sing songs about His love so we begin to believe it. Trust it. Accept it. But, I don't think we truly ever understand it. Not til much later in life.
It's unconditional, you see. It's a love so great that no matter the act, God still loves us. No matter how unworthy we are, no matter how much we hurt each other, or ourselves, He still loves us. He still wants what's best for us.
He is still will to forgive us.
It's the same love, only on a grander scale, that I have for my children. I can not think of a single act that my child could ever do that would me love them any less. Now, I could stand here and recite a long list of things that would hurt me. Or anger me. But nothing could ever make me love them less.
I would sacrifice my life for my children the same way God gave His son to be sacrificed for me.
This also raises a question. Are we capable of unconditional love? We are made in His image so one would believe so. But can we say that we've ever loved another human being that much? Can you look at your spouse, your significant other, friend, or anyone and honestly say "No matter what, I will always loves you."? Before you answer that, before you make up your minds about what your heart is capable of, let me pose another question. A more important one.
Do you love yourself unconditionally? Do you love yourself in the manner that God loves you?
I know I didn't. And it's an idea that I struggle with to this day. And because of that struggle, that constant need to pay for sins that have long been forgiven, I am unable to walk as closely with God as He wants.
As I want. As I need to.
We are all fallible creatures. Imperfect in every way. We are destined for happiness, yet few of us ever achieve it. And this is simply because we refuse to love ourselves. To see ourselves the same way God sees us.
When I look in the mirror I see an odd girl. I have a big nose. My lips don't fit my face. My hair refuses to be tamed, forever sprouting gray hairs despite my best efforts to color them. I have fat where I wish I didn't.
My thoughts are sporadic. My imagination can conjure up such terrifying images that I sleep with a teddy bear. While I may be smart, I really don't know anything. I am horribly shy. I don't like being touched. I'm over analytical. And my favorite place to hang out is a graveyard at night. I'm odd. I don't fit in with my peers.
Oh, and let's not forget, I'm a bad person.
That's what I see. That's the message I receive from my reflection.
What does God see? His child. His creation. He made only one of me. And He loves me with all His might. He wants nothing but the best for me. He loves me so much that He's willing to allow me to make my own decisions. Then He lovingly forgives me when I make the wrong ones.
And it's the same with each of us. He loves us all in the same way. Giving each of us the tools we need to survive life and all its ordeals, he also instilled certain talents so we can help others. He made us in pairs. Giving us bonds of trust to bring each of us together. And when someone breaks that bond, He gives us the strength to heal.
And, if we allow it to occur, He'll form a new bond between us and someone else. A stronger bond. A bond that will bring us closer to Him.
He loves us enough to allow us to go through dark days. To endure trials that sometimes breaks us. Crushes us. Nearly destroys us. And why does He do that? The same reason we allow our kids to climb up on the edge of the couch knowing that they'll eventually fall and get hurt. So they'll learn.
So we'll learn.
I've seen my share of hard times. I've experienced so much that I wonder how I can stand here before you today. The only answer I come up with when I ask the question of "Why me" is "Why not".
There have been times in my life where I wanted to die. Whether it was a broken heart, or a broken body, an even occurred that caused me to want to end it all. And when I couldn't, or wouldn't, die I simply became angry. That's when I would turn my attention to God. When I would tell Him how I felt. Do you know what His response was?
I love you, He'd say. I'm so glad you're talking to me. What is it you need?
Then I would just cry.
So, yeah, I'm a bad person. I've hurt many people. But, I am a forgiven person. I am a person who is loved unconditionally. I walk with His grace. I stand on faith. I admit my mistakes. Always asking His forgiveness. Never turned away. I am learning to love myself as He loves me. See myself as He sees me. And I hope the same for all of you."
The vision disappears after that. I have no idea what it means. I'm just grateful to have a testimony.