Call me His

When I was in my early teens, I was certain that God had made a mistake when creating me.  I grew up in the church, so I had been told many times that God does not make mistakes, but I was sure that I was the exception to that rule.

My shoulders were broad, my legs were muscular, my hands were short and fat, my arms never fit in the armholes of girls shirts and to top it all off, I had the sex drive of a teenage BOY.  I swore up and down that I was a boy, stuck in a girls body.  I always felt like the odd girl out, despite having a lot of girlfriends and being one of the “popular girls”.  I also had a lot of relationships, several of them lasted over a year (which is practically a lifetime in early adolescence) and was baffled by the fact that boys were attracted to me, even prior to understanding the perks of my teenage boy sex drive.  To me, I looked and felt like a boy and that was proof enough that God had made a mistake.

I don’t remember when I first heard the term transgender, but I know it was not until my late teens, maybe even early twenties.  It was likely in one of my early social work classes in my undergraduate program, but even at that point, I did not understand what transgender was.  When I was in my early teens, no one was talking about anything other than heterosexual relationships and norms.  It was before the time where LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) was discussed, accepted and advocated for.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that if I wanted to, I could take the feeling of “God made a mistake” and transform myself into what I felt inside.

If I had been born about 15 years after I was, I likely would have considered myself transgender at some point.  It was lonely to feel that way.  I did not feel safe to talk about my feelings with anyone.  I believed that there was something terribly wrong with me.  I discussed it in passing with a few people, but more in terms of the typical body shaming that teenage girls do while standing in the mirror together.  I never came out and said, “I think God meant to make me a boy.”  identity

I am so glad that I struggled with my identity then and not in our current world.  I am grateful that when I was struggling the most, I did not know about being transgender, because I am fairly certain I would have made some decisions that I would come to regret and that would not have allowed me to find my true identity in Christ.  I know that I would have been loved by the God who created me, but I also know that changing my gender, would not have given me the peace and happiness I longed for.

There is nothing more liberating than finally understanding and being who you were created to be.  I don’t think anyone would argue that point with me.  There is something so freeing about finally getting to be who you are, without any guilt and shame.  It is empowering to finally begin to do the things that you were created to do, knowing that you are free to do them.  Coming to an understanding that God did not make a mistake with me was one of the most pivotal points of my life.  Finding my identity in Him changed who I was.

“For you created my innermost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).  Before I was even born, the God who loves me more than anything else, knit me together.  He gave me my broad shoulders and muscular legs.  He weaved together my personality, sex drive, hopes, dreams and fears.  He knew who I was and who I would be.  He knew that I would wonder if he had made a mistake and knew that he would redeem those lonely feelings in a way that would glorify Him.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5a).

During college I learned so much about the God of my childhood.  He went from a loving God who made a mistake to a God who loves and cherishes me and has a purpose for EVERYTHING about me.  I experienced a heartbreak that to this day sometimes creeps up on me and aches.  I had a relationship with Christ prior to this point in my life, but I did not understand the depths of it until then.  It was during this time that God healed my heart and solidified that I am His and that He does not make mistakes.  He reminded me of His unending love and showed me some of what he had planned for my life.  He laid out a path of vulnerability, openness and gifting that I am still on today.  He spoke to my heart through scripture, music and women who love the Lord.  He revealed Himself to me in ways so much bigger than I could have ever imagined and reminded me of who He is.

Who-You-Are-In-Christ  This blog has been stirring in me for quite a while now and has seemed to be overflowing from my heart since Bruce Jenner introduced himself as Caitlyn Jenner a couple of weeks ago.  It has been difficult for me to write.  I don’t always like the vulnerability that God calls me to, but I trust that if He calls me to it, He will use it.  Recently, I was teaching a lesson on having faith that God will use what we offer him, regardless of how big or small, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at the timing of that lesson and this stirring in my heart.  I have to have faith that God will use my vulnerability to bring hope and healing to others who are struggling or have struggled in the same way that I did.

Because our world is so accustomed to it now, I have been able to learn a lot about the those who are transgender.  I have read or heard some of them discuss finally feeling free to be who they always knew they were.  They have said that they hated having to hide who they were and the pain of feeling like they were in the wrong body.  They have expressed a feeling of shame that no longer exists now.

I know those feelings.  I know that pain.  I know that shame. 

I also know the freedom of being who I know I was created to be.  I know what it is like to be released from the shame of hiding.  I know who I am because my identity is firmly in the God who created me, loves me and has a plan for me!

So here’s to you, sweet sister who is weeping over your lack of identity.  And here’s to you, dear brother who is trying to find your way.  My prayer for you is that you come to know the God who created you and has a purpose for you.  May you seek His love and His unending desire for you to find your identity in Him.  Rest in the peace that comes from knowing and loving your creator.  This journey you are on is a difficult one; figuring out who you are is never an easy task, but I assure you that the creator of all things knows who you are and is just waiting to reveal it to you.

You do not have to change your outward appearance, your name or your body to find your identity in Christ.  He will make you whole.  There is grace abounding in a relationship with Christ, regardless of where you are in your journey to finding who you are.  

You are loved.  

You are cherished.  

You are valuable.  

He has a plan and a purpose for your life, wherever you are right now!  I love you.  He loves you.  

You are His.

Advertisements

Hierarchy of Sin

It hurts my heart to think of what we have become.  We have this amazing opportunity and we daily, weekly, almost every chance we get, just throw it away!  We are a disgrace.  We have let Him down.  You, I, have let Him down.

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them… 13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]    15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are… 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. 25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean… 33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?  -Matthew 23

When Jesus came to earth, he spent his ministry completely flipping the hierarchy of sin upside down.  He was a radical!  He was counter culture.  He taught love and acceptance and detested hypocrisy.  He continuously called attention to those who were more concerned with outward sin (theft, sexual immorality, lack of tithing, etc.) than the condition of their hearts.  Jesus ate with, hung out with and used the outcasts of society.  He came into a culture imprisoned by rules and regulations and offered freedom through extravagant love.

Jesus’ message was love.  He showed radical love and challenged his followers to do the same.  As his followers today, the challenge is the same; however, I see us, His followers, failing miserably!  We haven’t got it right.  We are right back where we started.  I really don’t think that the majority of us would look much different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.  Our hearts are a mess and in order to shield ourselves from any guilt, we have created outward rules and regulations.  We have created this list of acceptable sins and if your sin isn’t on that list, then you are out; we can’t possibly love you.

Jesus fought so hard to turn the hierarchy of sin right-side up and we have gone and flipped it right back upside down.  The “liberals” and non Christians are doing a better job of loving unconditionally and without bounds than we are.  We talk about our love endlessly, but we don’t practice it.  We ostracize the gays, the sexual deviants, the adulterers, the divorced, the murders, the liars, the child abusers and anybody else who rubs against our personal judgments, but we have absolutely no problem with the lustful, greedy, prideful, judgmental and bitter person who fund our church’s building campaigns and teach our Sunday school classes.  We have it all wrong!  We have stopped caring about matters of the heart and spend our time making sure that the world know just how “good” we can be on the outside.

Almost all of the most recent literature and studies point to the “world” feeling ostracized by Christians.  According to these studies, the people in the world that feel most judged and most unloved by Christians are homosexuals.  What a heartbreaking thing to hear.  How could we have gotten it so wrong?  Why are we, as Christians, being pinpointed by the world as the most unloving and the most ungracious towards a  group of people?  This should NEVER be the case!

“Hate the sin, love the sinner” sounds good in theory, but does simply allowing the person to sit in your congregation really constitute loving them?  I don’t think so.

I recently heard a story about a church that made a group of men, from a residential recovery program, who visited their church sit in a designated portion of the sanctuary armed with a paid body guard!  Talk about getting it wrong!  The Christian men and women who are holding onto their money with a stronger grip than that of a man falling off of a side of a cliff and those who walk around thinking about how much better off they are than the “sinners” around them weren’t asked to sit separately so that everyone was aware of their sin.  Why not?  Because their sin is a secret and we have learned to make those sins acceptable.  We preach against them, but do nothing to hold those struggling accountable!  Man have we messed things up; we have returned to the hierarchy of sin that was present when Jesus arrived on this earth.

I also heard someone who proclaims to be a Christian say, “you can tell what kind of people are here at church by the type of cars we have in the parking lot.”  This person was complaining that we, as a church body, are attracting the “wrong” kind of people.  Are you kidding me?  Jesus didn’t spend much time in the temple, and I think it is exactly because of people like us.  If Jesus was here, I think we would reject him simply based on the kind of people he hung around with.  We are rejecting Jesus when we reject another human being!  Is there even such a thing a “the wrong kind of person” in God’s eyes?  I don’t think so; that certainly isn’t what I know of my God.

So, to my fellow followers… we are all guilty.  We have all messed up and we all fall short of the extravagant love required of us.  We have forgotten about Christ’s sacrifice and we have held onto our own pain and resentments.  We have refused to fully surrender our lives, which, in turn, has allowed us to be okay with who we have become.  We are not who we were made to be and we are not loving the way we are called to love.  I am with you.  I am just as guilty as anyone else.  It breaks my heart to honestly look at the landfill of what is in my heart.  We are all in this together.  Please, let us start loving.  Let us begin to allow the world to experience Christ’s love through our own love.  Let us get it together and live lives worthy of the sacrifice.

To those of you who I have been judged or mistrusted or not loved appropriately, I am sorry.  For those of you who have not been accepted or loved by my fellow followers, I am sorry.  We are not perfect, but that is no excuse.  We have gotten it wrong.  I promise you that the God we serve, the God we proclaim to love, loves you and He loves you abundantly.  He does not reject you.  He does not hate you.  You are not too far gone to be loved by Him.  I promise!  If that were the case, I would be right there with you.  My sin, our sin, is all the same.  We are all sinners.  We have all messed up.  Yet, we are all loved.

 

My Jesus- Todd Agnew

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand

Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side or fall down and worship at His holy feet

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!

Not a posterchild for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I’m tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus but I’m not sure what that means to be like You Jesus
Cause You said to live like You, love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like you Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!