Intimidating, hurtful and awkward, that was the essence of my experience with the traditional church. Because of my troubled background, I had emotional baggage. Out of my woundedness, I lashed out at other saints in order to hide from my pain. When emotionally cornered, I come out swinging either with my fist or my month. The number of times that anger got the best of me was shameful. However, God was not ashamed of me.
That personal shame – God never intended for me to carry. His promise that “There is therefore now do condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 1) took many years to experience. Overcoming that personal shame required that I let down my guard and allow others to minister grace to my hurting soul. With a wall between the world and myself, I hindered the Holy Spirit’s healing work. The more I tried to reach out and drop my guard the more I failed. I lacked wisdom and discernment. After many encounters with well meaning but ungracious saints, I grew weary in my journey.
With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I learned discernment from God’s word. I learned that love and acceptance took personal courage - a courage that would come from Jesus. After so many years of put-downs by others and myself, I developed several chips on my shoulder because of my dirty little secrets. My family tree was full of drug addicts, fortunetellers, cheaters, and alcoholics. Most of my new church family had missionaries, pastors and two parent homes in their family trees. I felt like a square peg in a round hole. During testimonial times, I shocked the congregation by my encounters with my sinful past. Doors of opportunity for service were denied because of my family tree and my behavior. All this time, the Lord whispered, “My child, in my sight you are as white as snow.” However, the Lord’s perception and the saints are two different things. Certainly, I handled myself badly towards other believers.
This bad behavior developed from a lack of social etiquette. With lack of parental guidance and less then stellar family examples, I had no idea about a normal life. The bottle became my friend and my imagination became my family. During all those experiences, Christ waited with a gift of a new life. Often, the Holy Spirit whispered this to my soul, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made (Patricia) accepted in the beloved.” (Ephesians 1: 6) Acceptance was mine! Oh, how the enemy of my soul reminded me of my past life. During those times of self condemnation, the still small voice gently whispered: “He has showered his kindness on (you), along with all wisdom and understanding.” (Ephesians 1: 8 NLT). Jesus said that I’m precious, loved and accepted in his family. What I needed was to accept this truth?
Accepting myself brought an understanding about healing - healing that involved others. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus arose from the bed wrapped in grave linen. For Lazarus to walk in newness of life, someone unwrapped Lazarus’s grave linen. Who would relieve me from my dirty, take your breath away grave clothes? Eventually, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I found spirit lead helpers who shared my experiences into this new walk with Christ. They prayed, encouraged and listened but never condemned. In exchange for their co-operation, I learned about their dirty little secrets. I prayed, encouraged and never condemned others. I wrote about my struggles and triumphs in love letters to Jesus. Documenting those experiences would one day bring a deeper healing by sharing my written journey with other struggling saints. We are all sinners saved by grace. At some point in our journeys, we all need others. What a thrill to finally experience acceptance!
I opened my soul to you today with the hope that others would avoid the mistakes that I made along this journey. That the saints are sinners saved by grace. If the truth was known about their family trees or hidden secrets, that we all have a dirty little secret. Your next encounter in a church setting, you might interact with a saint hiding their dirty little secret. Remember my story and ask for grace and a spirit enhanced answer before uttering a word. You just might have an opportunity to unwrap that saint from their grave clothes.