I remember standing on stage with the chalkboard in my hands. Grace was the topic of the sermon series, and I was asked to share what that amazing grace had done in my life.
On one side of the board, I scribbled words about feeling unloved, unwanted. Words about abuse at the hands of men I was told I should trust, the robbing of innocence and the pain of shame. And on the other side, words about understanding my own beauty, about being happy and free.
I showed the first side. And then the other. And smiled a huge, affirming smile for the hundreds of hungry and hopeful eyes in the crowd.
It was such a lovely picture.
It was such a lovely lie.
I would have given anything to have taken that chalkboard and shattered it into a million pieces. Because then it would have told a better story, a truer story, a more Biblical and beautiful story.
Culture and Christianity hold hands as living, breathing souls are flattened into problem-and-solution, two dimensions without form and shape and substance.
I once was lost but now I’m found.
I was sick but now I’m healed.
Life was bad but now it’s good.
But two dimensions are an insult to divinity. Healing is more complex than that—far more complex and personal and beautiful.
Jesus’ divinity never faltered, and His words always pointed to a single, powerful salvation for all who would believe. But He was focused not on the “all” but on the one when it came to healing. His approach was different for every single person.
He showed up immediately. And He waited for what seemed like forever. He healed with a touch, with mud, with words, with His presence as he fixed fish and biscuits for breakfast. Some were cured instantly, some walked with pain for years, some required strong words and some simply needed proximity.
Jesus never ignored the flesh-and-bone reality of the person standing in front of him.
He held their grief. He held their hope. He held their questioning, their brokenness, their doubt.
And the ways He healed didn’t always align with the expectations of the masses. Sometimes there was greater healing in what looked like not healing at all.
But that form of Christianity doesn’t sell well in a culture that celebrates success. So, we reduce it to poetic soundbites and scribbles on chalkboard. We’re terrified that we might give Jesus a bad name if we don’t make Him out to be the “kiss and make it all better” Savior.
Because saying, “I once was lost, and now I’m found—and struggling like hell some days, and maybe just a little pissed that God doesn’t seem to be listening some days, and seeing it get better sometimes and believing it will get better when it gets worse while I feel like vomiting because of this whole roller coaster ride. But I believe. I really do. I think.” might discredit our faith and that grace.
God’s heart grieves. Because there’s so much more to our stories. And to His.
This is the truth.
Story after story in the Bible offer up real stories of real people who ride the roller coaster of this life. People who believe and yet long to believe, who hold to hope in the depths of darkness, who wonder and wander and keep walking. Who don’t diminish divinity and mystery and frailty.
Sometimes healing comes quickly. And sometimes it doesn’t come in this life. Those who chased after Jesus because they wanted to be fixed were the ones who turned away from Him when He said the words that cut deep—words about this journey with Him being a battle.
But Jesus still holds His own, and He proves Himself an even more precious Savior when we are walking the blood-stained roads of this battlefield of life. He is the most real in the battle, as He heals us in ways we never thought we’d see.
I believe in a grace that is wholly redemptive—that woos and draws and attracts us fully. A grace that is beyond understanding. A grace that gives space for grief and hope to walk in tandem. A grace that transforms us in ways that shock us. A grace that is enough for every step and stumble of the journey. And I believe in a grace that is messy and bloody and offensive to those who want a tidy religion.
A religion of easy statements.
A religion of formulas.
A religion that only counts when people are quickly fixed.
If I could, I’d take that chalkboard and shatter it into a million pieces—and then string them together into the shape that shows the real height and depth and length and breadth of God’s grace in my story.
In our stories.
In your story.
For that story is infinitely more powerful. And that grace is enough.
How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God! Ephesians 3:18