As I sat in that stuffy, little room listening to the woman on stage, I looked around at the other women—some nodding along, some with eyes glistening with unshed tears—all with rapt attention. I listened to her testimony, heard her words, walked through her journey with the Lord.
And with a bitter inward sigh, I thought to myself, “That’s it? That’s the best you’ve got?”
Her story, it was beautiful. Her faith, it was unwavering and strong through the peaks and valleys of her life. I should have felt inspired by her testimony. I knew it took courage and strength for her to sit up there, in front of her peers, and bare her soul in words as personal as any words can be, the words of her life.
So why was this story, an undeniably valuable testimony for Jesus, chafing against my soul? Why did I feel worn and tired from hearing these stories week after week as I sat through this Bible study filled with women eager and hungry for God and His love?
My problem was me.
I knew I had to figure this out. I wanted to hear these stories and maybe even share my own, but I had to unearth my unease and understand it before I was able. As I began to unravel my feelings, I saw that my problem wasn’t with her story. My problem was with mine.
My walk to Jesus wasn’t a straight line. It wasn’t even a curvy path. My story is filled with pitfalls, detours, roadblocks, and avalanches. It’s not pretty. It feels shameful at times, and at best (as I’m still learning what it means to really live in God’s grace) it is devastatingly sad that I didn’t know Him sooner.
We live in an age of sharing, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Christian community. We’ve recognized that everyone has a story and that God’s hand is in all of them. There is great reverence given to stories of the faithful and their relationship with God through some of life’s roughest storms.
But, hiding produces shame.
Here in real life, at street level in our churches, it’s hard for new Christians to feel comfortable with their own stories. Overwhelmingly, those confident enough to share their walks are confident because they’ve been at it a while. Leaders are pastors’ daughters and wives and women who have the angelic glow of being raised “in the church” shining all around them. Women like me, those with some dirt under their fingernails, we too often aren’t visible, hiding in the shadows, afraid to show off our scars and our stories.
I know logically that Jesus came for the sinners. He hung out with people just like me. His longest and best conversation with a woman wasn’t with Mary or Martha, but rather a Samaritan woman of ill-refute at a well. He knows the heart of the deepest sinner. And He still loves us.
This is the crux of it all. God’s not asking my story to be like theirs. He’s saying to me, as I wrestle with shame and sadness that I didn’t get there in time, “My daughter, it doesn’t matter when you came to me. It only matters that you came at all.”
God isn’t asking for perfection. He wants to use your messy.
God isn’t asking me to have the perfect story just as much as He isn’t asking the women in my Bible study to have messy ones. He’s asking me to trust that He is in my story. That even the messy parts, the detours, were in His hands. Even the worst of what I threw at Him never surprised Him, never took Him off course. He knew me then. And He knows me now.
God is present in all of our stories. When we share them, we’re not sharing them to share of ourselves, but to share of Him. He was present and fought for me every step of my long, crooked path. He is fighting for every single one of us, whether our path appears straight as an arrow or as windy as a mountain road. Listening to stories is to hear of His grace, how it comes in different ways and different places, but it always comes.
So, dear sisters who are hiding in the shadows feeling shame and regret, it’s time to come out. Have faith that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, that Jesus has taken the shame out of your story, and that it was never your story to begin with; it was always His. Stand firm in His love and walk out into the light. Whether you are ready to share your story or not is completely up to you, but you can shed that shame. Your worst might have been bad and you can’t deny your past, but your worth was so great that God came and got you from it. And that, my friends, is amazing grace.
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:7-8
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