“No child of God sins to that degree as to make himself incapable of forgiveness.”
– John Bunyan
There I sat. It was the first day of seminary. All around me students sat with readied pencils, pens, and laptops anxious for each note. However, I was anxious in another way. The bell rang, and class began. The professor opened class in prayer, and then asked the class, “What is your story of God bringing you here?”
The typical Christian clichés were given: saved at a young age, saved at the Wilds Christian Camp, or the typical saved and then rededicated.
“Stephen?” The echo of my name bounced off the walls of my ear canal. I swallowed hard, knowing the truth, I gave the simplistic answer, “I am saved, called into the ministry, and that is why I am here.” It was true, but not the truth.
The truth is my story is darker than I was able to come forward with. That day I realized I was not good enough. Well, I realized a lie that we all believe…
The Snare of Openness
From that moment on, I silenced my thoughts and let no one know my story. Why? Because of fear. Yet, fear of man brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25). I was stuck in a snare, and that snare was slowly killing me.
Have you felt like that?
God did not give us a spirit of fear (II Timothy 1:7). Yet, we fall into the clutches of a spirit of shame. We do not open up because we do not look right, have a clean story, or have conquered everything. Instead, we have a story that has not reached its happy ending, because we know God is working in us.
We look around us, and notice how everyone else looks and behaves. Deep inside it pains us because we know we will never reach their level. We have a story that involves a scarlet letter.
The fear of openness keeps us trapped.
What is the Truth about Us?
Why do we not open up? It is because we do not see the truth about us We live in Christian cultures that promote an image rather than hearing about God’s grace. Instead, they would rather hear the stories that make their church, institution, or movement look good.
But, is that how God works?
What is the truth about us?
Luke 7:36-50 is the truth. Christ is at the home of a Pharisee. A Pharisee was a religious leader in the Jewish community. Pharisees knew about image. They promoted image.
Yet while at dinner, someone comes to Jesus. A woman who is called out as a sinner comes to the home. She goes to the feet of Jesus, and begins to clean his feet with perfume. Tears fall from her face to his feet. She knows who she is. She has a reputation. Yet, the only person she knows who will forgive her and set her free is Jesus.
“If only Jesus knows what kind of woman she is. If he was a true prophet of God he would know what to do with a sinner like that.” The toxic words pour out the Pharisee’s mouth. However, after telling a story, Jesus looks at the woman, who could not even look at Jesus, and says to her, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”
The truth is we are that woman. We know our sins. We know who we are inside. We see the depths of our sin, our actions, our words, our thoughts and all we want is the forgiveness of Jesus.
The truth is we have Christ’s forgiveness. II Corinthians 5:17 promises that those who look to Christ for forgiveness have a new life. Our sins have been forgiven, and we can start a new life. We can go in peace, because the feet of the one we cry to has given us peace (Romans 5:1).
But, I am Still Not Good Enough
Yet, we can know the truth. But, that is not how we feel. We look at our story, and we know we “that kind of person.”
I know we do not feel good enough. Why? We have opened our hearts, tears, and wiped our tears at the feet of the wrong person. We have seen the power and status of the Pharisees. We see what they can do to us in our community, and we break open our bottles to them.
We have forgotten there is another man at the table. We have forgotten Jesus. Pharisees only give rules, and fear of consequences. Jesus gives peace, freedom, triumph, and restoration (Romans 5).
At Christ’s feet we find forgiveness and peace. At the feet of the Pharisees we only find comparison, and the measurement of righteousness is “being good enough” according their rules (II Corinthians 10:12).
A Pharisee will never come, and become your sin in order to save you. You have to become like them. But, Jesus does the opposite. He took on human body being full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Jesus, then, became your sin for you. He became “that kind of person” so that you may be known as a person with “that Savior’s righteousness” (II Corinthians 5:21).
We do not see ourselves as good enough because we are washing our tears at the wrong feet.
I am Not Good Enough, but He Is
I did not tell the truth that day in class, because I felt like I would be labeled and fear of what would happen silenced me. Yet because of the promises of Scripture, I do not have a spirit of fear, because it is a spirit of power that transforms me (II Timothy 1:7; Romans 1:16). Also, in Christ there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
The truth is hard to face and to speak when we are at the feet of the Pharisees, but it is freeing, and we leave in peace when it is told at the feet of Jesus.
My story begins being born with a disability. It was not until third grade where I truly experienced bullying over my body. I was mocked because I had bathroom needs. This continued through college. In high school, I was sexually taken advantage of because I was an easy target. In church, I would say I was interested in God. But, it was not true. Deep inside I struggled with depression over my body. I thought about suicide multiple times. I struggled inside over who I was, because how many times I was called “gay” by the ones who mocked, teased, and did other terrible things to me. I hated my life, hated people, and wanted to push people away. I built up walls, and found ways to love myself, because God’s love could not be felt. It was not until college where I got saved, and saw who God made me. Yet, healing from the past takes time. It was not until recently I saw that keeping silent, and skipping over the past chapters was only hurting me. Yes, I still fall into past ways of thinking. Yes, I am a seminary student. Yes, I understand that many people see a scarlet letter past as undesirable in ministry. But, this is my story. This is what God has brought me through. However, I am washed, justified, and sanctified because of Jesus and sealed with his Spirt (II Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 1:13-14).
I have cried too many times at the feet of the Pharisees. I need to go to the one who gives forgiveness and peace: Jesus.
Guess what? I am not good enough to be in ministry. I am not good enough to be pursuing ministry. Yet, my goodness only comes from Jesus. When I cry and wipe my tears at Jesus’ feet I join the ranks of this woman, the Madman of Gadara, Peter, Paul, and others who have a past.
“I am not good enough” is a lie. It is a lie of the Pharisees.
“You are my beloved Son or Daughter, in whom I am well pleased,” says the God of Truth. When I trust in his redemption and righteousness, then Jesus is the good enough in me.
Opening up is hard to do only because we have been opening up to the wrong person. Opening up to Jesus brings forgiveness and peace (Luke 7:50).
Aren’t you tired of trying to be good enough for the Pharisees around you? Aren’t you tired of opening up your heart to them only to be rejected?
I am not good enough, but He is. He called me, he chose me, and is equipping me. It is time I walk through the sorrow and the shame, because it is not the Pharisees at the end of life… It is Jesus. Pharisees trip you up. Jesus is our shepherd, and he helps us with every step (Psalm 23).