There have been critics. It’s a challenge for me to go on and write anyway. I know I’m flawed, but Christ has declared me free. I admire the female authors whose works I’ve been reading recently. They are brutally honest and allow others to see their struggle, women who think outside the box but might not be accepted because they are too “out there.” Yet they are part of the body of Christ, and they reach people who would never be reached otherwise. These women encourage me to continue asking questions, to search the heart of God and drink from His infinite well of truth, to think and to reason with the good mind God has given me. So I pick myself up, dust myself off, and begin again.
When the Holy Spirit led me to write “Closing the Rule Book,” I immediately felt lighter, as if chains were broken off. I felt free to become a lover of people and not their judge, according to the greatest commandments of loving the Lord and loving others as yourself. Yet putting legs to it and walking it out—that’s the hard part. I often joke with Mark as I’m waiting for him to make my latte each morning (yes, I’m spoiled!) that I’m going to my quiet time “to talk myself off the ledge.” It’s wonderful having a husband who understands what that means! The question that puts me on the ledge, though until now I didn’t have words for, is “How do I make myself acceptable today?”
Here are some questions to ponder honestly—do we say what we are feeling, or do we say what we’re supposed to feel? How much of our behavior is actually self-protection, but we’ve become so good at it that it seems normal to us? Yet there is that undercurrent…a persistent though faint hum in the background that says “You are not okay.” How do we make this interference in our thinking go away? Only by the Holy Spirit and only by complete honesty with ourselves. Do we have the courage to believe “I am okay just as I am?” To believe “I don’t have to perform to be acceptable to God or people-please to be loved?” The courage to take His nail-scarred hand and hold onto it for dear life, to believe He is always enough? This is the first step—awareness.
You and I are acceptable just as we are. Are there imperfections? Yes. Are there areas that need growth? Of course. Mindsets that need to be changed? Definitely. Wounds that need to be healed? Absolutely. But is it in our power to “clean ourselves up”? NO. Coming to the realization and embracing the truth that we are loved just as we are frees us to hear His voice, to know Him, to walk with Him, the Righteous One. And by the power of the Spirit working within us, we become a little bit more like Him day by day. As long as we try to do it on our own, the more defeated we feel.
Religion said to me “You are not okay.” Jesus said to me, “It is for freedom that I have come to set you free.” Just for freedom’s sake—God gave us that. If we had to clean ourselves up before we entered a church, the pews would be empty. And if we had to clean ourselves up before we prayed and sought the presence of the Lord, we would never encounter Him. How sad it must make God to see His Son hanging on that cross and then so many of His children walking away because they don’t feel worthy. Once we embrace that He died for us because we are valuable to Him, we will see others as valuable too. When that truth sinks into our hearts, we can “stay off the ledge,” whatever that looks like for you. I’m leaving judging to the One who is perfectly just, merciful, and good. And I’m asking Him again today, “Lord, help me love myself just as I am so I can love others the same way.”