“But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31
When I have fallen and messed up in my life, they have not merely been small errors or minor mistakes. Nope, when I screw up, I make giant whoppers of mistakes, the king of all mistakes. During entire seasons of my life, I have felt deep in my core what Paul also lamented, “For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do” (Romans 7:18-19). During other seasons of my life, I have lived knowingly making sinful and shameful choices. Praise God for the conviction of the Holy Spirit and His kindness that leads to repentance. Yet, what was the purpose of all it? Did Satan ask Jesus to also sift me like wheat as he did with Simon Peter? Oftentimes, it feels like Satan’s greater plan was not my initial downfall, but, perhaps, to derail the road to redemption and recovery. Shame often delayed my recovery. Denial, a constant companion during certain seasons. It was only at the lowest of the bottom and worst pit that I was able to begin to lift my head and dare to glance at the face of Jesus. How impossible to hold His gaze in the midst of my shame and disgrace. How challenging to not continually berate myself for the poor choices I have made. Even now, as I walk in the will of Jesus and in the freedom of His mercy, grace and forgiveness, do those lies of the enemies threaten to take me down. He sometimes screams at me, “you are not worthy of Him.” Other times, he whispers right into my deepest insecurities, “you are not loved and you will never be enough. You can never undo what you have done.” I cling to Jesus during those battles and claim His promises about me and to me with barely a mustard seed of faith, but a mustard seed is all it takes to sprout the largest tree of faith.
For years, I have tried so hard to be perfect, mistakenly thinking that if I could just place enough time and distance between who I was and who I am now, then I would finally belong, that I would finally be worthy. Then I would be able to prove I was not the filth Satan repeatedly accused me of being with his assault of lies. Not only did I buy into his scheme, but this deceitful train of thought also allowed for a minimal margin of error in others. My expectations placed on those around me were nearly impossible. Grace was not my go-to response, either for myself or for others. Yet, how could that be so, because if God had so forgiven me for all of my heinous sins, then how could I possibly withhold forgiveness from others? The enemy’s deception was like a domino effect in my life, and I was choosing to live and make choices based upon those lies. I also mistakenly believed that I would continue to be faced with the same temptation or same sin until I finally responded to it the correct way, the Godly way. But God. He intervened and He challenged that way of thinking. What if the purpose of my repeated patterns of behavior was not to perfectly respond to the temptation this time, but instead, to perfect me? To eradicate pride and unforgiveness. To cultivate grace, kindness, humility, and forgiveness within me. The repeated exposure to the fire was to refine me and to mold me into the image of Christ, not to perfectly fulfill a checklist of behaviors. Jesus was most concerned with my heart. God’s presence is my good. The lesson for me to learn was not that I’m not perfect, though I most certainly am not. No, the lesson was that it’s okay to not be perfect. It is okay to mess up, to lighten up, to laugh, to look up, and to accept the unmerited grace and favor of God. Humility was the lesson. Grace was the lesson. Growth was the lesson. Cultivating the fruit of the Spirit was the lesson. And then Jesus said to me, “Dawn, when you return to me, strengthen your sisters.” Yes, Jesus, I am answering your call to me, on my life, to serve you in ministry until I meet you face-to-face.