The other day, Zac and I went into a retail store and were greeted by an associate.
I soon recognized the associate as someone I used to go to church with years ago. Someone close to my age, who I had shared many years sitting next to in our small little church.
But, he had changed.
He was now a she.
I could tell my friend recognized me, but didn’t think I would recognize them. They helped me around the store and their hands were shaking almost uncontrollably the entire time.
I knew why.
They were afraid.
Afraid of what I might say if I caught onto who they were.
Afraid of seeing the shocked Christian look of horror on my face.
Afraid of my judgement or God knows what Bible verses I just might hurl at them.
Afraid of being shamed.
And it BROKE MY HEART.
I decided to end their torment and break the silence.
I looked up with a big smile and said, Hey! I know you!
My friend stood back a bit and sheepishly admitted I was right.
I smiled even bigger and said, It’s so good to see you.
We talked for a while…a long while actually. I asked about their family, parents, siblings and where they were living. They shared pictures of family and we laughed and talked about everyone we used to know.
After a while, it became more like two friends catching up than about a judgement fest.
I hugged my friend.
More than once.
I left that store with a pit in my stomach. And not for reasons you may think. My heart was aching because of what the church has done to people just like them.
Now, you may think, Wait a second, Anna. The Bible says…
I know very well what it says. And I cherish it. I’ve built my life on it.
Here’s the deal though.
The more time you spend with Jesus, the more you can’t help but start to act like Him. And, guess what?
He loves them all.
And not the kind of Christian love that says, “I’ll love you but never talk to you because I disapprove of your behavior”
Jesus wasn’t intimidated by behavior.
He wasn’t afraid of behavior that society frowned upon (remember the adulterer stoning thing?)
Yeah, this is the guy we are supposed to be acting like.
If he wasn’t afraid of “sin”, we shouldn’t be either.
Jesus re-defined love. He radicalized it. He made any other kind look like a cheap imitator. And, this love is exactly what the world is starved for.
If I’m going to love like Jesus, then I don’t have the right to be uncomfortable. I don’t have the right to just walk away and ignore. I don’t have the right to think that I’m better than you because my perceived sin or “issue” isn’t as obvious and is kept hidden behind some false religious exterior.
If I am going to follow Him, then I can’t be afraid to jump in the mud with you. To walk beside you and learn your story. To feel your burdens as though they were my own. To listen…really listen.
Jesus was never uncomfortable.
But, he knew we would be.
That’s exactly why He left us THE comforter…the Holy Spirit.
The closer I walk with Him and the more in step I am with the Holy Spirit, the less I am afraid.
In fact, what I find I am fearing more is being without Him. I have grown so dependent on Him that the idea of not hearing him, terrifies me. It’s my life line.
When we left the store, Zac looked at me and said, How did you do that?!
I was like, Do what?
You were so normal! Didn’t you feel uncomfortable at all?
I’ll tell you what I told him.
All I felt was love.
Like, literally that’s it.
Love looks someone in the eye and sees what others don’t. And, the more I walk with Jesus the more normal and constant that is becoming.
Nothing mattered to me more in that moment that loving my friend. It’s like all of the crazy love, mercy, joy and kindness that Jesus has poured into me, was ready like a freaking freight train to come barreling out of me.
I didn’t see their perceived sin, issue, choices, whatever you want to call it. (I don’t know the right way to say that. Please, don’t send me hate mail over that sentence)
I saw a person. With a soul. With a story. A person I knew as a friend. Someone who I cared about.
Just simply love.
I can’t help but think, what a different world this could be if more people decided to really get to know Jesus. Like for real. Like at home, in their car, on their phone – just got to KNOW Him.
Because, when you get to know Him, you begin to become like Him. In the most natural, organic way. It isn’t forced. It isn’t difficult. It just becomes your normal.
(And, I am recklessly in love with the Jesus normal!)
We need more Jesus normal.
We need more conversations and less judgmental gossip (eh prayer) sessions.
We need more open arms and less closed circles.
We need more eye to eye contact and less recited speeches.
We need more people willing to serve. Willing to be humble and admit they are not perfect either.
We are broken and we need healing.
And it doesn’t start with comparing yourself to others thinking you are better – it begins when we humble ourselves before Him and admit we are nothing. When we finally come to the end of ourselves, that’s where He can begin.
And, that’s the strongest place to be.
So, here I am.
Completely imperfect. Completely in need of Jesus to work through me every single moment of every day. And completely convinced that He was and still is the ONLY answer to our brokenness.
(See follow up post on When to Speak the Truth in Love here)
*I’m all about healthy, respectful discussion from all sides on this topic. However, due to the amount of negative comments (many were deleted) towards others, the comments have been disabled. Peace*