If I could only convey through black and white text the sheer excitement that fills my body when I read those beautiful red words of Jesus in the Bible. The words spoken directly TO ME from Jesus. Yes, they are spoken to you as well. To everyone.
My limited human abilities to rationalize relationships requires me to generationalize God and Jesus- I know that is not a real word, but can we pretend it is? I mentally place God in the Father, or Grandfather generation. Jesus is like a brother. Anyone that knows me knows I adore my siblings so adding Jesus as a brother makes my family, basically, the best ever.
When it comes to siblings, I have more than a handful. I have seven. Seven. I adore these people and the special significant others they have. They give me so much joy there aren’t even words to describe it.
I didn’t have an easy family life growing up; there was a lot going on that left more than a few battle scars on most of us. One thing we always had was each other. The way my family is split, I have 3 of my sisters on my biological mother’s side. I lived with them, grew up with them. We did the day to day life together. I was the oldest, so I helped them get ready for dances, trained them on makeup, discussed boys. I probably also did a bit of smothering. My other 4 siblings fall on my biological father’s side. I never lived with them, only saw them when I drove myself over there. They are quite a bit younger than me and it took until they were all adults for the relationships to really solidify.
How does this have anything to do with our current reading, you ask? I’m getting there. A few weeks ago, my precious stepmom sent me a text about my birthday. She wanted me to pick a restaurant or someplace to celebrate. I told her I didn’t have a preference, so she coordinated with my 3 local siblings from my father’s side to have dinner at home one evening. The truth is, I was feeling isolated and alone, unlovable almost. When she asked, I didn’t want to be around anyone, let alone celebrate my existence. (I do not enjoy sharing this vulnerable side of me.)
While still wallowing in this place of self-hate, I went to dinner at my beloved stepmom’s house. Based on my mood, dinner should have been a few lima beans, a chunk of gizzards with a dirty shoe for dessert. Instead, when I arrived, she had prepared a delicious chicken with mixed vegetables and cheesy potatoes followed by cake and cupcakes. My mom didn’t make a meal I felt I was worthy of, she made a meal SHE felt I was worthy of.
”But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
In Luke 15 Jesus speaks to the crowd about the prodigal son. He explains how the youngest son is given his inheritance. The oldest son stays home, continues working for his father. The young son spends his money swiftly and quickly develops a low self-esteem. He soon feels as if he has no worth, as if he cannot return home to the family because he has done too much damage. He eventually decides going home to be an employee of his father’s would be better than starving to death. I’m sure many of you know the story, but just as a refresher, allow me to remind you: Upon seeing his son walking up the lane, the father immediately begins ordering a feast, a party for his returning son. Read that again… Upon seeing him walking up the lane! This is a crucial part of the story. The son didn’t have to apologize, beg forgiveness, work off the debt, start a charity, deliver pizza by camel. Nothing. He just had to return home.
God is quite the same with us. When we feel defeated, as if we could never show our makeup-streaked, puffy-eyed, snotty-nosed, ugly cry faces in public again, God runs down the lane to embrace us while the party is prepared. I know for me, that moment has happened more times than I care to admit. But I know how perfect it feels to just allow His glory to embrace me in my mess. Just like that night when I walked into my parent’s home and was embraced by my stepmom. She didn’t care that I had ugly cried that day. Neither did God. There was an abundance of love towards me because I existed. Even though that was the last thing I felt worthy to have showered upon me. The love God has for us was brought home again in John 11:35-36 when Jesus returns to the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He wept. The people who had followed him there said: “See how much He loved him!” No matter our place emotionally, Jesus loves us enough to weep when we die, metaphorically or physically. Can you imagine watching us make mistake after mistake as we navigate our lives? I’d want to reach down and shake us into submission!
While I completely understand why He doesn’t shake us into submission, I draw both a bit of perplexity as well as strength from Luke 10:19-20 when Jesus says, “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.” This brings a sense of peace to a tumultuous heart. Knowing my name is written in heaven. Whoa. Nothing can calm a racing heart like that phrase, especially one in a state of self-pity. But that’s only half. We have authority over the enemy through God. Could there be a more stabilizing phrase in the world? God has granted us the ability to cast the demons away from our lives, to bring our lives back to Him, back to His grace. I can’t lie, it almost makes me feel like a superhero. Take that, enemy! I’ve got my super suit of God on and I’m sick of you so WHAP! Back to hell you go!
Chins up, ladies!! You are precious and loved! Snotty-nosed, ugly crying and broken. God still thinks you are beautiful, amazing, and unique. He is RUNNING down the lane to embrace you in your mess!
Sonya Gentry wants to live in a world where being kind and loving means that when we encounter a need or brokenness, we say yes first and think about it second. This would be a world where walking with Jesus means trying to act like Jesus through loving, relevant acts of service; where Christians put their hands and feet in the dirty situations of the world in order to show people God’s love and grace; where we understand that comfort zones are meant to be broken because people need us to show up and be be the best portrayal of God’s love we can be. When she's not working, you can find her being silly with friends and family, playing games with her nephews, volunteering for various organizations and events with her church, or relaxing with a movie.