Quietly, she’s entered into my world. A month ago, I didn’t know she existed. But then she slipped in. Courageously and without pretense she came. Settled in close to my pew, even closer to my heart. And there she has stayed.
A single mom of a one-year-old daughter. Broken. Scarred. Frightened. Confused. Feeling like nothing, like forgotten, like trapped with nowhere else to run to but to church. No one else to turn to but to Jesus.
What courage she has displayed with her choosing—with the willing exposure of her heart to complete strangers in hopes of finding solace to replace the aggravation she has known. Something tells me she needs me. Something tells me I need her as well. And in the midst of all the needing, I search for answers—for a gift to give her beyond the customary hug and offer of prayer. I long to do more, to give better, to reach beyond safe borders in order to fix her heart and to remove her pain.
It is immense, her pain. Relevant and obvious. Tender and confrontational. One would be hard-pressed to miss it; still and yet, most will go out of their way to avoid it. Personal pain is hard enough to manage without taking on the pain of a stranger. So I tread cautiously, carefully toward her, creating a safe place for her to share her story. Bits and pieces are emerging to form a clearer picture. As they materialize, I hold them in my heart and try to make sense of it all. Try to manage my reactions; try to reason my responses. Try to figure out what I can tell her that might bring her one step closer to freedom. Try to get the words out of my heart that will usher her to the threshold of God’s hold. Try to give her truth. True truth. Not relative truth, but real faith-in-the-flesh God truth.
This is my gospel. He is my gospel.
Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. Jesus Christ, descended from David. Jesus Christ, God’s Son. Jesus Christ, Son of Man. God incarnate. God made flesh. God with me, Emmanuel.
This is my gospel. My glad tidings and sacred proclamation of the grace that I have found in Jesus Christ. The good news according to the good Book that has led millions of souls down the path toward freedom to arrive beneath the threshold of God’s hold. This is where I begin with her—where the hug extends its witness beyond what is safe and customary.
The Gospel is anything but.
The Gospel is the most confrontational, exceptional, and beautifully dangerous word of truth ever received by and into human hearts. It is the one key to unlocking personal pain. The one salve to soothe suffering. The one road map that will point the lost toward home. It’s all I know to give her. The best I know to give her.
This is my gospel. This is my story. It will be enough to point her home.
What is your gospel, friends? Your story? Your truth? Will it be enough to point the broken, the scarred, the frightened, and the confused back to Jesus? Is the grace and freedom you’ve received as your own the same grace and freedom you extend to others? What life has settled in next to yours that needs the witness of something more than a customary hug or offer of prayer? When was the last time you spoke truth into pain … grace and mercy into brokenness? The last time you stretched your heart wide to include the heart of the hurting?
It’s not always easy to extend welcoming inclusion to others, especially when suffering your own personal trauma. But one thing is for certain. Pain isn’t going anywhere, nor are those who are most affected by its insistence. Pain is all around us and will continue its assault upon us until we’re willing to treat it with the truth of Jesus Christ.
The God who chose to make his dwelling with us.
The God who has suffered as we have suffered.
The God who willingly walked to the cross so that we might walk in freedom.
The God who rose from the dead so that we might, also, one day rise to him.
This is my gospel. A worthy truth. A worthy witness. A worthy Word for all seasons, painful and otherwise. Would you take time to examine the gospel according to you this week? Do so beneath the watchful gaze of the Gospel according to Jesus Christ. Find where you are lacking and strengthen your story. There’s a hurting heart, maybe even nestled in next to you on the pew, who needs the witness of God’s truth. No one can live it, speak it, and give it as well as you can.
Even so, get to it… keep to it. As always…
Peace for the journey,