When people ask to meet with me for advice or just to have someone safe to talk to, I come ready. By ready I mean, I pray like crazy. I beg God to show up, that it will not be my words but His. His words bring life and sometimes my words, if not chosen carefully, fall flat and amount to absolutely nothing. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I just knew that she wanted to meet with me. So, I rearranged my schedule to give her as much time as she needed.
Would she open up to me?
Would she feel like she could let her words and broken heart spill out on the table without holding anything back?
Would she feel safe and loved and wanted? Because that’s the best way I know how to customize vulnerable space for these broken girls that I love so much. Feeling safe, loved, and wanted is the doorway they will timidly walk through.
She held out her hand to shake mine, but all I really wanted to do was to wrap her teenage frame in my momma-arms. But, I followed her lead and shook her sweet, nervous hand instead. We sat across from each other at the gorgeous table designed to impress businessmen and I purposed in my heart that I wouldn’t let the glass and finished wood create an officious wall between a broken girl and the one who had outgrown her broken girl status.
I’m nothing at all if I forget the power of my testimony, if I shy away from letting her know that I’ve been there too. Broken. Trying. Wrecked not wanting to cry. So fragile yet trying to be strong, trying to learn how to fall apart, and let someone else watch you and lovingly coach you through that process. I believe sharing our testimony is another form of healing for us personally and for those we share with.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (Rev 12:11 NKJV)
What would I have to offer her sitting there with a polished appearance yet remain guarded, unable to show her my heart, even if it’s untidy? The tidy, careful me faded the moment I embraced my true worth and released an insecure heart. Tidiness is for someone else’s space, not mine. Because where there is life, there is mess. Why would I lie and say that I wasn’t tangled up in a handful of messy relationships with messy people? Maybe I’m less of a mess inside because of the way I allow myself to relax and release the need to fix messy hearts. Sometimes my heart alone is a big enough job that I can’t handle the weight of trying to make my husband happy and my kids happy and all the people I love happy. And I love so many people. What a ticking time bomb I would be if I thought I had to be the savior of their hearts and solely responsible as the keeper of their happiness.
This generation is tired of fake and false perfection. It craves real. They need to see that God uses messes and misfits. That He is still drawing them out of unwanted waters like Moses, taking stuttering lips that trip over words creating a mouthpiece and a leader that will usher people out of bondage and captivity. Powerful things happen when untidy hearts surrender to God.
I didn’t want to counsel her from my position, or so called authority; I wanted to counsel her from a vulnerable place where I learned to wade through the murky waters of brokenness just like she is doing now. Navigating through a life that isn’t always polished and pretty has been an oasis of wealth for character building. It’s worth sifting through broken places to find God waiting on the other side. And as I sat on the other side of a pretty table, I hoped that I could be the arms of God extended, asking her to cross safely to the other side.
Finding God in my broken spaces has taught me this; God cares more about a polished heart than a polished appearance. You can fake one, but not both. You can hide behind a cute outfit and apply another coat of mascara, but it won’t mask the pain behind tired, beautiful eyes.
“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7 NIV)
She cried. She spilled out words. I grabbed enough tissue to help her collect them and told her to worry about her pretty makeup later. Just cry, let the mascara run and the worry spill out in salty form. Hold nothing back in this safe, sacred space.
Our time was out and she needed to leave; her heart was lighter as a smile splashed across her face. I did what I wanted to do from the very moment we met, I wrapped her up in my momma-arms and prayed over her before she left the room with the glass tabletop made to impress businessmen.
This is real life, messy ministry-the life-changing kind. The kind that makes me feel alive and brave. The kind that makes me out myself for being messy just like everyone else and yet whole, confident, and eager to see others find sacred, messy space.
My prayer for us today:
Untidy our world and give us eyes for the broken. Let us roll up our sleeves and let their mascara and tears stain our cute shirts. Let us know the power of our testimony because we are unafraid to share our redeemed secrets. Let us be the nonjudgmental arms waiting on the other side of the minefield, or better yet, give us the guts to pull wrecked hearts from the devastation. Let us love in such a way that it wrecks our polished appearance as you cultivate a polished, refined heart within. Perhaps that is the best way to win others and make Your name famous.
Amen and let it be.
Photo by Chelsea Rustad