UPDATE: I received a very nice message tonight from someone who saw the church photo mentioned in the blog post below. She also read a companion story on the church website. She said:
“I am sitting here reading your story and tears flowing down my face, and thanking Jesus for His redeeming grace, love and reconciliation.”
I appreciate this person shared their response with me; it is encouraging. But more importantly: she responded by praising God. This is why we should tell our stories. Not to look good, but for people to look to God. Someone around you is looking for hope, for peace, for unconditional love – even if they don’t know how to find it. If you know Jesus, tell them how you met Him.
By the way, the church leaders wisely decided to use a different quote on the photo. I like this one better too. 🙂
It was later that night when I got the image of Jesus smiling at me, and He said to me, “All of this – all of what you’ve written down – is why I went to the cross. You don’t have to pay for it.” And that’s when I went from hopeless to hopeful.
It sounds so weird in our culture, but I fell in love with Jesus. Not in a romantic sense. It’s other-worldly. It’s nothing I’ve ever seen. But I understand now why thousands of people followed Jesus everywhere He went. It’s magnetic, it pulls me in.
One of the leaders at church asked me, “How would you feel about having your picture on a wall at church?” That guy cracks me up. I couldn’t help but chuckle. Turned out he wasn’t kidding.
They are doing a mosaic, of sorts; a collection of photos and quotes hung on a wall in the church lobby. I was flooded with pride.
Then he showed me the quote they want to use; something I said when describing my baptism experience:
I stood before the entire church and said that I was a criminal and that I had ruined people’s lives. I was sure they were going to kick me out of the church. Someone was going to say, “We can’t have this guy in here.” But after the service, a woman came up to me and said, “Someone hurt me the same way a long time ago. And your story gives me hope [that they will be saved].”
I walked out of there thinking, “What kind of church is this?”
Hmm… that’s not exactly what I had in mind.
Despite the self-incriminating statement (pardon the pun), I said it was fine. Because…
It’s not my story. It isn’t about me. It never was.
Lest we judge the criminals harshly, perhaps we should carefully ponder the possibility that we are all criminals. Ever roll through a stop sign? Drive over the speed limit? Take something that didn’t belong to you, maybe a stapler from the office? Romans 3:23 says we’ve all missed the mark.
All of us who have met Jesus have two lives: a before and an after. We used to be lost, blind, rebellious ragamuffins before. But after… well that’s something quite beautiful, isn’t it? No one is the same after a personal encounter with the living God.
Even if they put my photo and quote on the wall, it isn’t my story. It is a very small part of God’s story. The transformation is another demonstration of His incredible grace, mercy, redemption, and love. God has done it time again for the entirety of creation.
I like to imagine there’s a wall in heaven on which a picture of each saint is hung; bazillions of ’em. Each one a testament of God’s grace and the power of redemption.
I am not a missionary, an evangelist, a preacher, or much of a witness. I don’t have a loud voice, a commanding presence, or eloquent speech. What I do have is a tale of what God has done in my life. If you’ve met Jesus, you have one too.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2