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by Elizabeth Hale
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Yesterday, because I was too lazy (confession number one) to walk back upstairs again to get one of my own, I borrowed a t-shirt from my son. This t-shirt is black, and emblazoned across the front is a cross, the name 'Jesus' in bright bold red letters, and the entirety of it reads 'Jesus-That's My Final Answer'.

Shirts like this are--just shirts. They may mean everything to the person wearing them or they may mean nothing. It's only a shirt. But I like to wear shirts like this. I also wear a cross around my neck every day. It's a personal thing, a reminder to myself of Who I follow. Or try to.

Then I went on a fitness walk. I haven't done one for a while. After I got my second wind (and those of you who walk or run know exactly what I mean here), I rounded the corner to begin the second leg of my trek. A young man was exiting his car, talking on his cell phone. He didn't pay me much mind, just a quick glance, as he continued his conversation. He was cursing a blue streak! Here's confession number two--I've been know to curse a blue streak myself on occasion. Throw a few things too. So, I kept on walking.

But then he noticed my shirt. His tone changed. His cursing stopped. To me, this was a good and a bad thing. It was good because it told me he recognized that perhaps his language was out of line. It was bad because I could almost see and feel him mentally labeling me 'Christian' and dropping me into the file folder reserved for such people.

Christians as a whole have gotten a bad rap. Rightly so. But not all of us. It makes me sad that some of us are discounted because of the bad things that others do. I'm proud of my 'Jesus freak' status. But I want to be real too. I want people to be able to relate to me. I'm not one to sit in judgement of another, go around thumping people over the head with my Bible and reciting scripture, chapter, verse, and number. I can't deal with other people's splinters because I can't see past that beam in my own eyes and heart. I want to get to know people just as they are, as I hope people want to know me just as I am. Remember that book, "If You Really Knew Me, Would You Still Like Me?". Well, I hope that people still like me. Jesus loves me, and I love Him so everything else is secondary to this fact.

Confession number three--I am so unperfect. I can't be perfect. I don't want to be perfect. I think if I ever attain perfection, there will be no need for me to still be here. Learning and growing and changing--they're all part of life. They're fun too. Picking up a book and finding out something you never knew--that's fun. Talking with someone you feel like you've known forever and finding out something you didn't know and couldn't have guessed--that's fun. Sharing a part of yourself with someone else, something hidden, and seeing the other person react and relate--that's fun.

Confession number four and five--I enjoy an occasional glass of red wine and I smoke. The red wine was a tip from my doctor regarding my cholesterol levels. They ain't good. He recommended one glass daily. Now, alcoholism is rampant in my family so I am naturally a bit afraid of alcohol in general. Wine connisseur(sp?) I will never be. I still don't think there is anything wrong with moderation. So, my consumption consists of a glass every week or two. I have since discovered a few things, since this discussion with my doc. Grape juice does the same thing. Last night, as I was reading (ah, another sweet discovery), I found out that dark chocolate has the same effect on cholesterol levels. Happy happy joy joy!! Given the choice, I'd go with the chocolate anyday--just not the whole bar. Sigh. All things in moderation. As to the smoking, well, the truth is I want to stop and I also don't really want to stop. Go figure! I have smoked since I was twelve. It's such an ingrained part of me. A bad part, I'll admit. Nearly everyone in my family smokes and always has. Since I am so concerned with physical well-being this habit of mine makes no sense. I am well aware of what my future may contain. Still, I smoke. Oh, if I could rewind the hands of time, I wouldn't have begun this thing, but I can't. So. I regard this as an issue between me and the Lord and we will deal with it as soon as I stop dragging my feet.

My point in all this is to say that I wish we could all be more real with one another. I wish we could stop playing pretend and get to know each other for real. None of us is perfect. None of us is in any position to point fingers at another. We are Christ followers. We walk in love and truth. We are not saints. We're stumbling along in His wake just like our brothers and sisters are, striving hard to get there. The only thing about a 'Christian' that's different from others is that we found out about Jesus and some people haven't. It's up to us to tell them, and the only way to do that is to show them that we're real, we struggle, we fail, we sin, just like they do. The difference is in Who we turn to and the choices we determine to make in our daily walk with Him.

It's a personal thing, these relationships we share with Christ. We aren't made to be carbon copies of each other. Each of us is unique, made specifically by Him, to carry out part of His plan. We aren't supposed to be sitting on a pedestal. We're supposed to yield the pedestal to Him so He can work through us, imperfect and sinful as we may be. For it is through our humanness and imperfection and sin that other's are often able to see Him.

It is through Him that we will eventually be made perfect. He has already made us whole.

Stop hiding yourself. I did. And the sweet freedom of truth is amazing. Confessing your sins and shortcomings to another is one of God's greatest gifts, I believe, for then we are joined and are able to truly pray for each other. Outer appearances mean nothing--it's what's hidden on the inside that makes a person. And we all fall short. Admitting it is the first step towards cleansing.

"Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you must also do". Colossians 3:13

"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them". Matthew 18:20

"Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you". Ephesians 4:31,32

Love covers a multitude of sin. Don't characterize others based on appearance, mannerisms, or plain old bad habits and customs. Meet them where they are! Jesus does.

Have a wonderful day!

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