This past weekend, I had the opportunity to share a smidge of my testimony at our church’s women’s breakfast. Every woman who showed up, I have encountered at some point in my seven-year time frame of attending. Some of them were acquaintances, and some have become dearly loved soul sisters. All of them I consider to be friends.
Before the breakfast, as women often do, we stood around talking. The dynamic, however was beautiful. Instead of just certain clusters of chatty Cathys with some oddballs hanging out, there were intimate groups of two or three women talking, and then gradually one woman would step out of that small group and encounter another woman and start another two- or three-person cluster. Each conversation was deep and personal, and as another woman came through the door, she was greeted with hugs, laughter and “so glad you’re here!” It was beautiful that not one woman would be left standing awkwardly. We all sensed the need to be greeted and hugged and whoever saw it first, just jumped to meet the need.
Can I just say that I see Jesus in those moments? Are we not all waiting for that greeting when we will be hugged by our Father, and our tears will be wiped away? What a gift in our humanness, to do that for each other now, while we wait…
Our focus verse for the breakfast was 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
This Scripture verse spoke to my heart in an intense way when I was coming back to my faith in Jesus at age 27. Leaving my first husband and being alone for the first time in my life scared me immensely and I did much to NOT BE ALONE. And more than anything, my shame and sin covered me so thickly. I got to a point of thinking I wasn’t redeemable, wasn’t lovable, and wasn’t worthy of anything, let alone anyone.
Reading and rereading our focus verse brought back so many memories from my first apartment, and my fallen nature, that I cried fresh tears of thankfulness to God. And I was asked to share some of those memories with my dear, precious sisters on Saturday.
We gathered at our tables with our breakfast and coffee, snuggled in and put our focus on our leader. She lovingly mentioned that I had offered to share part of my story with the group, about being a new creation. And before I began, a dear friend of mine said that she would like to say some words about me. The picture on the front of our bookmarks were of a closed tulip. This woman said that when she first met me, she saw me as this tulip, protective and closed. But as she got to know me, she also was present through some healing that God had been doing in my life, and saw that as I continued to surrender to Christ, that He was changing me into a much more open person, and my guard was coming down.
I was completely blessed by her words.
In the past when I have been asked to do something out of my comfort zone, Satan loves to get me anxious and nervous, and each time I have to talk myself off the ledge, stating that I know who I am in Christ, that I was asked to do A, B, or C because God will make me capable, and that somewhere throughout my day, someone will be blessed by what I have to say.
Saturday morning was no different. My armpits were on overdrive as I was anticipating my introduction. Ugh…how I wish those parts of our body weren’t glands…
And yet, as my dear friend spoke, I felt God melting me, reminding me, showing me that I had indeed progressed imperfectly (thanks Lysa Terkeurst) closer to my Lord in obedience. Another of my girlfriends said that she had seen the same things with me, that I was protective, and quiet, but I have changed. And my guard came down.
A beautiful part of that morning was that sharing my story came so naturally. Though I felt myself fumbling over some of the timing and details, I shared when I had left my ex-husband and went through some darkness and how I answered Christ’s call on my life by surrendering myself to Him and giving up the parts of me that I knew just kept repeating failure after failure. I saw tears in the eyes of my friends. Sorrow tears as they walked through some of my past pain, and joy tears when I proclaimed that I was new, that I no longer was defined by old Grace.
There is such joy in redemption. We just celebrated the resurrection of our Lord a week ago Sunday. But the benefits of His life, death and resurrection are limitless to all of us now. They don’t stop on a random Sunday when we shout ALLELUIA…we are taught through Scripture that, “The steadfast love of the Lord NEVER CEASES, His mercies are new EVERY MORNING” (Lamentations 3:22-23). And it is because of the LOVE of God, that we can even have HOPE in our hearts.
Failures turn to victories…struggles become stepping stones…and GOD’S GRACE MAKES ALL OF US NEW! Let’s appreciate the tulips (or any flowers for that matter) that remind us of a time that we were different, closed, protective, and embrace the SONlight of Jesus, who opens our petals and brings life to the parts of us that have died, not to be alive as the old parts, but as the new creations He is making us!