When I asked Jesus into my heart at the age of fifteen, I was under the impression that he would do an overhaul of my entire life. Well, he did, just not in the ways I would have thought. I thought, and hoped, that everything would be better, easier, prettier, softer, that I would instantly feel whole for the first time.
The overhaul came alright, but it came in the form of friction between me and my parents; friends that I had been hanging out with didn’t understand and I found myself, again, a girl without a confidante; sadly, my emotions remained the hormonal-induced tidal waves that they were pre-salvation and my laziness remained at the typical teenage levels.
But the worst change that I can see looking back was my goody-two-shoes image being magnified through the lens of feeling as if I had just become the poster girl at my high school for Christianity. For Jesus-loving, basically.
I thought I had been keeping my act together as the good girl all those years, but it was nothing compared to the weight I felt once I began to follow Jesus. Grace was not in my vocabulary. If I were a good girl before Jesus, I had to be the best girl after Jesus. And if I weren’t, people would get the wrong idea about the Savior. All because of me. And I couldn’t let that happen. Too many people that I cared about didn’t know Christ yet and were watching my fledgling faith to see if it were a phase I’d simply grow out of eventually or something that could actually change who I was, that could maybe change who they were.
Twenty-six years have gone by since I first spoke with Jesus in an intimate way. I have gone on to do more sinning post-Jesus then pre-Jesus. But my yearning for the appearance of perfection became stronger as I got older, especially as my circles of influence widened and shifted as an author, speaker and church staff member. I had to look more like my perceived version of Jesus, darnit, and nothing would slip through the cracks of that because then what would people think?
It turns out that one can only live like that for so long before things start leaking and coming out sideways. The past few years for me have been a study and experiment in allowing myself to be myself. In sharing with others humungous ways I’ve messed up and still do. In telling my stories, no matter how pathetic and harsh and how downright unattractive I look in their light.
My latest story is one of divorce. An ending of a Christian marriage. It doesn’t get more ugly than that. And there is no covering up. You can cover up a difficult marriage for a very long time; trust me, I know. But you cannot pretend that you’re not getting divorced. (I didn’t even bother trying.)
By the time the end of my marriage came along, I had been tested and tried through the fires of being authentic, letting people know of my constant sinning, and falling back onto grace. I now believe that it’s okay to not be okay. And that no one’s opinion of me matters except One.
I am just a girl, perfectly imperfect, trying to love Jesus, and holding on to the one thing that alluded me for so very long: the truth that it doesn’t matter what I do or what I say or what happens to me, grace is there to catch me and remind me that I am loved. Deeply and perfectly and forever.
If this post encouraged you, you would benefit from “Unraveling: Hanging onto Faith through the End of a Christian Marriage”, found here or “Living through Divorce as a Christian Woman”, found here.
It was so scary, but so freeing to finally let the false veil of perfection fall to reveal my fhortcomings. I can completely relate … from feeling responsible for God’s reputation to hiding a difficult marriage, to feeling like ministry requires certain things be glossed over. Trying to hold it all together, alone, for so very long was exhausting. I’m forever grateful for the freedom He gave me when He allowed everything to fall apart.
Amen to both Missy and Elizabeth. The pretense of pretending my marriage was fine when it was barely hanging on for so many years was emotionally draining and depressing. The Lord finally released me, after doing all that I could do to make our marriage work and I praise God for my freedom…………..
I am sorry to say that some in the church were full of judgment toward me, based on what my then-husband was saying. It was disturbing to learn what he was telling others was not anywhere close to being the whole story. But my allegiance has been to the “audience of one” and not to please other people, so the Lord just continued to hold me up in His righeous right hand, throughout all of it.
Amen!!!!!! To my sisters in Christ…..Audience of One..and His Name is Jesus…..
Thanks for such an awesome post.
Not that by any stretch of the imagination am I perfect, but all my life I tried to be….believed that was what was expected. I am still learning and struggling with that, but day by day, I get better about being able to just accept my best efforts. Jesus does, so why shouldn’t I?