Every week at the top of the handout sheet at my church, there is a “Big Idea” that sums up what the sermon will cover. Last week’s Big Idea was this: “The Kingdom of God doesn’t belong to those who are isolated from corruption, but to those in the middle of it who desperately need God’s help and are shamelessly pleading for it.” I never felt so at home in church as I did that day as the pastor described how God’s church is messy, and that’s exactly how He likes it.
In Luke 14:15-23, Jesus tells a story of a great banquet. In the beginning of the story, many people turn down the invitation to the party with blatant lies, trying to make the host look bad.
21 “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ 22 After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ 23 So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. Luke 14:21-23 NLT
Do you see that? God wants to invite us all, the poor, crippled, blind and lame, to His great feast in Heaven. He wants all of us who are broken, dirty, addicted, promiscuous, unloved, cast-out from our families. He wants us to sit with Him at His table. He wants us to reach out to the outcasts, because we were once in their shoes in one way or another, and let them know that they are all invited as well. All we have to do to get in is accept His invitation.
I was having a talk on the way home from the grocery store with one of my favorite young ladies one day, when she tearfully said to me, “I always warn guys first because I’m…dirty. I don’t want them to feel like they are worth less for being with me.” My. Heart. Broke. I love this girl so much, and I knew exactly what she meant.
I haven’t lived through exactly what she has, but I’ve said those words in my head about myself more than once. I could only respond with what I hoped was the truth when I told her that she didn’t have to let her past define her present, and that if a guy was really worth being with, he would be able to see past all of her dirt to the beautiful, strong, wonderful young woman she is today.
In reality, I was telling her what I had always hoped someone would tell me. My husband is the only person who has ever known all about my past and stuck around, believing I was more than what I still see in the mirror. There is one song that is guaranteed to seep right into my brokenness every time I hear it, and make me pray for my sake, and for the sake of anyone who has ever felt dirty and broken, that the words are true. This is the part that always gets me:
When I don’t fit in and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere
When I don’t measure up to much in this life
Oh, I’m a treasure in the arms of Christ ‘cause
And I don’t have to carry
The weight of who I’ve been
Cause I’m forgiven (Forgiven by Sanctus Real)
There’s another song, one by Seventh Day Slumber, that has a line that causes me to hope against what this world tries to tell me about myself and believe in God’s vast power to forgive. This one not only reinforces that, but says that God will meet me where I am. I don’t have to get better first, or be stronger first, or fix everything first…
Yesterday is gone and
Everything that made you cry has fallen to the ground
I’m here to bring you home
I will always take you back
You haven’t let me down
I know you want to run away
I know that you can’t see tomorrow
Let me wipe away your tears, and give you life
Make you feel beautiful again
Don’t throw it all away
I’m here tonight, to take away your pain
And when you’re feeling all alone and you can’t go on
Remember I am here
And when you think you’ve gone too far
I’ll meet you where you are
My arms are open wide
Some days I feel like nothing I do is right. I feel like a failure as a woman, a wife, a mother. I wonder why I’m even here, and I’m desperate for even the smallest thing to go right. On days like that, I pray. I don’t pray for everything to miraculously turn around. I just pray that I will find out at the end of my life that it’s really true that God sees me as a treasure. I pray that he really can make me new and whole. I pray that the words I spoke to that girl I love like my own daughter weren’t just me being hopeful.
On those days, my belief in God’s forgiveness is all I have, because without it, I’m just another filthy pile of rubble in a world that’s crashing down around me. I choose to cling to my faith, because I refuse to believe I am worthless.