I have a story to tell. Don’t we all?
It took me way too long to get to this point, but I am here.
Transparency comes hard for most of us because we fear rejection and ridicule. We forget that what others think of us is none of our business, and that only God’s opinion, approval, and validation should concern us.
No matter how much you have ever said, “I don’t care what people think,” you care what people think. So do I.
But God doesn’t want us to waste our pain or our mistakes. He expects us to share our despicable secrets to help others, no matter what some people may think, and that’s why I have to tell this story.
When we share those secrets that evoke controversy amongst friends and family, we are putting ourselves out on a limb that could come crashing to the ground, never to be re-attached to the tree from whence it came. And that is scary.
I often listen to sermons by Rick Warren. The man coaches other pastors. He started a now global church called Saddleback. He wrote THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE, THE PURPOSE DRIVEN CHURCH, and other best-sellers. He started CELEBRATE RECOVERY, ministering to victims of addiction of all kinds. The man knows how to write and speak and teach. It’s his gift. He has used it well for over forty years now.
I have learned so much from Rick’s talks on several subjects. “Six Keys to Peace in Relationships,” “How God Tests Your Faith,” “40 Days of Love,” just to name a few. Today I listened to one entitled, “Learn How God Can Use You.” There’s a guest speaker within this sermon; a man named Danny Duchene, who was incarcerated from the age of eighteen until he was fifty. Initially he was sentenced to double life imprisonment. Rick Warren got him paroled and he is now the national director for Celebrate Recovery Inside and a pastor at Saddleback Church. The story is very moving. You can read it here.
Wow. All things really are possible with God!
During this ninety minute sermon I was liberated. God uses broken, weak, messed up people because most of us are just that; broken, weak, and messed up. Even if we don’t admit it to ourselves or anyone else. I’ve known and believed that for a long time.
Rick names lots of Bible celebrities and their faults in this sermon, and I had to laugh. I definitely identify with Peter, with his impulsiveness and anger issues, and the Samaritan woman with her several failed marriages!
Maybe you identify with a few yourself.
Moses and the apostle, Paul, were murderers. Moses had personal conversations with God back then. He went on to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery to the Promised Land. The apostle Paul hated and brutally murdered members of “The Way,” as they called Christ-followers back in the day. He went on to almost single-handedly spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire after his epiphany! He was imprisoned, flogged, beaten, you name it. And he learned to be content in all things.
King David was an adulterer, and had his woman’s husband killed, besides! He went on to write almost the entire book of Psalms. He and God were so very close.
Rahab was a prostitute. Jacob was a chronic liar. Elijah was suicidal. Jeremiah was chronically depressed. John the Baptist was just weird. Rick uses a more tasteful word…eccentric. Here are some links to the Bible stories about these people so you can see for yourself how they were used by God to save nations and turn people back to Him.
About Moses https://my.bible.com/bible/116/EXO.3.nlt
About Paul (aka Saul before his epiphany) https://my.bible.com/bible/116/ACT.9.NLT
About King David https://my.bible.com/bible/116/2SA.11.NLT
About Rahab https://my.bible.com/bible/116/JOS.2.NLT
About Jacob https://my.bible.com/bible/116/GEN.27.NLT
About Jeremiah https://my.bible.com/bible/116/JER.9.NLT
About John the Baptist https://my.bible.com/bible/116/MAT.3.NLT
Remember this very important point: God intended for us to live in Eden, in paradise, eternally, in harmony with Him and each other, not in the hell we humans have created on earth. But He gave us free will, to love Him or not, because love isn’t really love if it’s forced, is it? So we can’t be blaming God for how the first humans chose poorly, dooming all of humanity, and how man’s ego, pride, and narcissism has messed up this planet.
In this sermon from 2016, Rick listed five secrets for all to heed if they want to be used by God. They all ring true with me, but three of them really struck a chord, because very recently something has changed in me. Over these past several months I have been on a spiritual journey of my own that has shed new light on a past experience that I didn’t even realize I needed to heal from.
The experience I refer to is common to approximately 43% of women of child-bearing age in the USA. That statistic blew me away when I first read it. And it effects men, as well. Because it takes two to tango. And because the men involved are the biggest influencers of the woman’s decision in this experience.
You may have guessed that I am talking about abortion. Maybe not, because maybe you don’t want to know that, or hear it, because you’ve had one, too, and still see it like it was necessary, no big deal, and you believe that you didn’t take a life.
You can believe what you want, but facts are facts. Scientifically, life begins at conception. Period. Never mind what Planned Parenthood or the doctor in the basement told you. They are all wrong. And you can hate me for saying that. It’s ok. I am blunt because God rolled me that way. (I have a tee-shirt that says that.)
Just like the pharmaceutical industry touts the benefits of medications that do little to heal but only mask symptoms and make you more sick, abortion clinics bend the truth just to sell you on the idea that you’re not killing a baby and this will solve your “problem.” After all, they are both very big businesses, pharmaceuticals and abortion clinics. And we know…it’s all about the money. Don’t we?
Although I am a true product of the seventies, a sexually liberated woman of my time, and a strong-willed female that did not follow Christ most of my life, I never really believed in my heart that abortion was the best answer to an unexpected, inconvenient pregnancy. Then I had one at the age of thirty-eight. I was already a mother to a six-year old, divorcing her father, and just beginning the dental hygiene program at my local community college. The new man in my life was divorcing also, and had three kids of his own.
‘How could I possibly bring a new baby into this picture?’ I thought. ‘There was no way this could happen right now,’ I thought.
I barely remember the day I did it. I do remember feeling very sleazy. Then I just stuffed that feeling and moved on…I was too busy living my selfish life. Striving to excel in school and at work, to run the lives of my daughter and my new family of step-children, trying desperately to control it all and do it well.
Fast forward to now, twenty-eight years later. I am a fully committed born-again Christian. If only I hadn’t walked away back when I was sixteen, when I embraced Christ one day after school, rather than going to try heroine for the first time. I didn’t last long as a teen, though. The evil one used my need for validation and affection to lure me away from Jesus with a boy back then, and a few more times in my adult life, every time I started to get close to God.
The evil one has always known my greatest weaknesses, just like he knows yours. That boy didn’t want to go to prayer meetings and Bible studies, so Jesus got snubbed…pushed into the back seat, and eventually off my bus. And I went on to live my messy life.
It took about forty years and a near tragedy to wake me up. He never stopped pursuing me. He never stopped loving me, and trying to get me back. And one day I nearly was killed and I woke up.
Since then it’s been slow growth for me. Always allowing my weaknesses and idols to step in the way. Three steps forward and two steps back. But He still never gave up on me, showing me little miracles all along the way. Rescuing my sorry life over and over. Only I couldn’t even see it, even though I was practicing my faith. And little by little, over the past thirteen years, I have come to the point where I can honestly say I am no longer a casual Christian. I am all in. It’s amazing what happens when you reach that point.
Just before covid first hit I had decided I needed to volunteer somewhere. For some reason I was compelled to pick a local pregnancy center instead of the homeless ministry or the jail ministry. Before I could attend the information session the covid situation had gotten really bad and my sister begged me not to go out in public to serve at that time, so I put it off. But God kept nudging me and I finally started there last fall.
When I sat with the young woman in charge of the facility, I told her I was struggling with an issue I wasn’t sure how to deal with. I told her that although I don’t believe abortion is the answer to an unplanned pregnancy, I also don’t believe that our government should have the right to tell us what we can or cannot do with our bodies. This is what she said. This was the brick in my face.
“We believe that it’s not about taking away the rights of women, but more about advocating for the rights of the unborn child.”
I have heard those words before, but they didn’t affect me the way they did that day. I wasn’t in tune to the Holy Spirit before, though. He was a distant memory from my sophomore year of high school, a mere whisper that I could not hear, did not want to hear. That day I heard Him loud and clear. And I haven’t looked back since.
During the information session I had attended before deciding I really wanted to volunteer at this place, I was asked why I wanted to. There were two other women in the room with me. I was the last to answer that question…and tears welled up in my eyes when I started to answer. I choked right up and couldn’t speak for a minute. That really took me by surprise. There is seldom a time when I cannot speak.
I was finally able to croak out, “because if I can help someone to avoid feeling the way I feel now, almost thirty years later, I want to help.”
Rick Warren listed five secrets of being used by God in the sermon I listened to today. The ones that reverberated in my head were these:
In Rick’s words, “The number one barrier that keeps you from being used by God is your fear of being real.” So, if you want God to use you, you must be authentic, transparent, genuine. I have no problem with that. In fact, I’ve caused myself more trouble being real than I ever have telling a lie. Most people can’t take it.
I think a lot of people don’t like me because I’m too real. But God loves me, and it finally sunk into my heart, my head, and my soul, that’s His purpose for my life is all that matters. So I don’t have to care if you like me, love me, or hate me because of my transparency. If what I am telling you convinces you that you need to heal from a past abortion, that is a blessing. If it turns you off and you never read another one of my blog posts, so be it.
DON’T WASTE YOUR PAIN
Lots of us suffer all kinds of emotional pain in life. When you use it to help another overcome their own pain, you both benefit. Have you ever finally broken down and shared a painful experience with someone? Doesn’t it feel so much better letting it out? It’s so uplifting for your own heart, not to mention how the other person feels knowing they are not alone in their messed up emotions.
We don’t grow unless we suffer some pain in life. It’s unfortunate, but so very true. When life is good, and humming along, we stagnate. We get complacent. Then we get bored, because it’s all about us. Well, guess what? It’s not about you! That’s the first line in Rick’s book, THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE. If you think you were put here just for you, your life will be boring and miserable in short time.
STAY FOCUSED ON ETERNITY
We tend to laser-focus on our day-to-day troubles and pretty soon they loom so large we cannot see around them, or over them. We can’t even get out of our own way. Our problems consume us, causing sleepless nights and short tempers and road rage and hate.
Don’t get me wrong. Our kids, our parents, our health, our jobs, our finances, the condition of this world…all those things are real, and need our attention. When those things are off-kilter it sure is hard to live life with any semblance of peace. But it truly matters where your focus lands in the midst of those storms. What do you do? Who or what do you turn to for relief, for peace, for consolation? A drink? A drug? Social media? Another person? None of those things are steadfast and faultless. Nor are most of them good for you. Whatever it is, it ends being all about you. If you don’t have Jesus, a constant, un-changing love that you know will never leave you, you focus on all the wrong stuff; yourself, your needs, your accomplishments, you, you, you.
It’s not about you.
I love my volunteer position as a client advocate at the pregnancy center. I just finished a course through the parent organization, Care-Net.org. I am seeking a paid position there and at the local center. I am certain something will come to fruition, because this is what I am supposed to be doing. I feel strongly that this is what God wants of me, and it feels good. And I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. THAT feels really good. THAT is what the Bible means when it says “the truth will set you free.”
It took me sooo long to figure this out. All I can do now is pray for another twenty years to make up for lost time. But God’s timing is different than our own. Our lives on this planet are but a wisp, a minute in His eyes, compared to what is coming in eternity. Rick has a great way of putting it. “This life is a test. It’s preparation for what is to come in eternity if you are a child of God.” We are to make the best use of the time we have here, to build the Kingdom, to help others see that no matter how despicable their lives are, their secrets are, God forgives us and wants to use us to help others who suffer pain and guilt and self-condemnation.
God can use anybody.
The sermon I have referenced here is part of a bigger Rick Warren series entitled, THE MIRACLE OF MERCY. Check him out on YouTube. Just type in his name and that title and you will find it.
If you would enjoy having the whole Bible read and explaineď to you in one year, by another truly gifted and knowledgable teacher and writer, find Brian Hardin’s podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, or on Facebook, or online at https://DailyAudioBible.com. He is in his seventeenth year of narrating and teaching the Bible. and he knows how to bring the Bible to life like no one I have ever heard. I start every single day listening to him for twenty minutes. That’s all you need. Twenty minutes! How hard is that?
Remember, no matter your past, or how despicable your own secrets are, God has a purpose for you if you can look past the nose on your face. Realize that the best way to feel better about a sad and broken world, or your own messed up existence, is to be doing something for someone else.
Get out of your own head. It’s a bad neighborhood.
You can always find…
PEACE IN CHRIST