We went around the room, and each man shared a little about his life. With tears and true ownership, each man confessed his weaknesses and mistakes. Their hearts bled for the damage they had brought to those they love, and they gushed at how they lived forgiven because of Christ. There was no air about them, no pretense. Christ had moved into their wrecked lives and restored them. They spoke with peace, and I sensed they possessed hope.
I found myself longing to be like them, these men recovering from the consequences of sin. I wanted to need God as they did and feel broken as they did and be transparent as they were. It was as if they were already exposed…already caught. "Screwed up" was written on their foreheads—no need to act like it wasn't. And something about that brought freedom. It made God the hero, not them.
My soul resonated with that. Even though I'm a blonde, mom-of- three pastor's wife connecting with criminals fresh out of prison, I am a human, and we humans arrive with "screwed up" on our foreheads. We come that way, but somewhere between toddlerhood and being a grown-up we learn to wipe off our forehead signs. To sit up straight. To be good.
But before God I am no different from these men. My forehead is clean; my soul certainly is not. That day on an old, beat-up sofa with some old, beat-up guys, I rethought the things I valued in people and the types of people I valued, and I realized that God shone more through those accused and hurting men than through me.
We are all hiding from each other with big fig leaves, but God says, "You could stop because I am a way better covering. I have an actual payment for all the sin you are hiding. But it will take coming out from behind your leaves. It will take humility to see that you need me" (John 11:25, 1 John 1:8, paraphrased). The irony is that Jesus' blood takes the least good and makes them the most good. It's beautiful.
Face to the Ground
We don't want to fall. We like to see great testimonies of God's grace, but we don't want to be the testimony.
Even though I was bright and shiny—I was full of sin and pride. Eventually I fell, dramatically, face-first, crying because I had lived like a Pharisee in all my pride and arrogance. I actually have learned to fall a lot. I fall because I can't keep pretending I am okay when I know deep down I'm not. But I also fall because I find God in the sand. I find God with my face in it. And then he gets to be the lifter of my head, rather than my pride.