Fifty Shades of Confusion

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The first thing you notice about Jasmine is a smile that lights up a room and soft, welcoming eyes. But, sit down with her for just a few minutes and you’ll be surprised by the road she’s traveled. I was surprised to learn that this beautiful, put-together mom spent six years of her life trapped in the sex industry where she was beaten, abused and turned to drugs to cope with the reality of a life she never agreed to.

~

She slid the heavy packet of papers across the table to me; I could tell that her heart was even heavier. I started thumbing through the documents as she started talking. “These girls… they’re right here in our community and they have nowhere to go. I want to open a safe home for them. A place for them to go and recover from the hell they’ve been ensnared in. Human trafficking shouldn’t exist here, not in our neighborhood. How do we help them?”

~

She could barely talk through her tears, “Our marriage is falling apart. He pays more attention to those girls on his computer screen than he does to me. I’ll never measure up; I’ll never be enough for him. I hate myself and can’t do this anymore.”

~

I fasten my seat belt and pull a new book out of my bag as the plane makes its way down the runway. Through the author’s words I’m instantly transported from my safe seat on the airplane to a shipping container filled with 59 women. Women who were deceived into thinking that new life and new opportunities awaited them on a distant shore, but discovered too late they would be joining the 27 million enslaved in human trafficking around the world.

~

I log onto Facebook after being off line for a few days and find my news feed filled with posts from women who are “so excited” and “can’t wait to see” a new movie coming out in a few months. The movie? Fifty Shade of Grey. 

Can I be honest? I am so confused.

I’m confused by the message we are sending our daughters. We’ve fought for decades and generations to be treated as equals. We’ve fought to be seen as people and not as objects. We’ve fought for our right to say no to unwanted sexual advances. Why would we, through reading this book and watching this movie (and others like it), risk confusing our daughters with the message we are sending them?

I’m confused by the message we are sending our sons. We’ve declare that no one has the right to sexualize us or enslave us. We’ve fought for stricter punishments for domestic violence and date rape. We teach our sons to honor and protect women. What message do we send them when we tell Hollywood that the brutalization of women isn’t just okay but it’s what we want them to make movies about?

When women say yes to Fifty Shades I wonder if we confuse the men who buy little girls for their own selfish pleasure. I wonder about the message we are sending to husbands and sons who are wrapped up and consumed by their addiction to pornography. I wonder what message we are sending to businessmen who travel internationally and are offered their choice of women to satisfy any desire they have. What message are we sending to men who have been taught that no means no when we send a book to the New York Times bestseller list that says our no means yes?

We can’t say no to human trafficking and yes to erotic novels.

We can’t say no to date rape and yes to Anastasia Steel.

We can’t say no to pornography and yes to Fifty Shades of Grey.

We can’t say no to the victimization of women and hand Hollywood millions of dollars when they produce movies like this for our entertainment.

We can’t pretend that us reading a sexually explicit book and a 12 year old girl’s body being sold a dozen times a day aren’t connected because they are. We either stand up for the rights of women or we don’t.

My friend asked me an interesting question the other day. “How on earth are so many girls trapped in the sex industry if we all have mothers?” It’s a valid question. What mother wouldn’t fight with every ounce of strength in her body to rescue her daughter from a predator? Yet, as women, as mothers, we are not fighting. We are not raising our voices and saying “no more”. We are not going into the darkness and rescuing the daughters. We are sitting poolside with our worn paperbacks and in dark movie theatres with buttered popcorn and we’ve forgotten this war we are in. And, ladies, we are in a war. When we allow ourselves to be entertained by movies like this the enemy wins.

Contrary to what E L James might say, there is no grey here.

~Keri

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. – Ephesians 4:19

Join the fight against Human Trafficking. Learn about how you can help through A21, Project Rescue, or other ministries rescuing daughters around the world.

Photo by Cedric Lange. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Taboo

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I’m not a really big fan of games, but from time to time my family twists my arm and makes me play with them. If I do have to play a game I have my favorites; Scrabble, Boggle, and Taboo top the list. Notice a theme? I love words and word games.

Taboo is one of our family favorites. A quick refresher in case you haven’t played in a while: each team is trying to get their teammates to guess the “secret word” the only problem is there’s a list of words that are “taboo”. If you say one of the taboo words someone on the other team will buzz you. Buzzing people just happens to be my son’s favorite part of the game. I hate getting buzzed. Just when I seem to be on a role and getting lots of points for my team I’ll let one little word slip, hear that awful buzz in my ear, and be completely derailed.

It happened to me just last week, but I wasn’t playing Taboo, I was filling out insurance paperwork so one of my kids could get some dental work done. I’ve yet to meet a mom who enjoys filling out the endless piles of paperwork for their kids, but it’s unavoidable. I was about finished with the first page when I heard the buzzing… Are you: single, married, divorced, widowed. Ugh. Seriously? Why does it matter? And why do I hear that stupid buzzer every time I have to check the “divorced” box?

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My parent’s divorced when I was a teenager. I was mad for a long time. Mad because they gave up. Mad because they didn’t try harder. Mad because they chose to walk away instead of fix it. I carried that anger into my own marriage. I was convinced that if you tried hard enough and loved Jesus enough that every marriage could last the length of time.

I was the most judgmental person you’ve ever met when it came to divorce. When I heard about someone going through divorce, especially if they were a Christian, my first response was to roll my eyes and inwardly scorn them for not trying harder. Pretty ugly, huh? But I’m being honest. I had zero mercy in my life when it came to this issue.

Then one Tuesday afternoon I came home from work to find my husband waiting with bags packed. He was done, and there was nothing in that moment that I could say or do to stop him from walking out that door. The day my marriage broke so did my Pharisaical condemnation towards divorce. I had created a standard for myself and imposed that standard on everyone around me; divorce is always avoidable and therefor never an option.  Now here I was facing the one thing I had determined I would never face. What do you do with that? How do you cope when you’ve moved from the position of casting judgment to being the very thing you’ve condemned?

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I had become taboo. I was labeled with the one label I swore I would never wear; the one label that I was convinced would bring me the most shame.

There are certain things that we tip-toe around in the church; divorce, abuse, addiction, mental illness, depression, doubt. I understand why we do it, they’re hard things attached to real emotions affecting real people. We don’t know how to broach such difficult subjects so we often stay silent or, even worse, spout off without thinking. I’m not pointing fingers, I’m the guilty one. I’m the one who sat in the seat of the scoffer. And as a result of my own judgment, three years later I still hear a little buzzer when I have to check the divorced box.

There are certain sins, certain struggles that we have deemed “taboo”. The problem is, making something taboo is pretty much the opposite of what Jesus did.

Luke allows us to see what Jesus does with those who have been labeled with something taboo in his gospel. He tells the story of two people, one a religious leader, the other a sinner. One who seats in the seat of the scorner, one who sits in the seat of the condemned. The Pharisee does exactly what I expect him to; he welcomes Jesus into his home and then proceeds to silently judge the sinful women talking to Jesus. He did just what I would have done, elevated himself to a position of “better than” and judged her and deemed her “unworthy”.

The woman, on the other hand, does exactly opposite of what I expect her to. Instead of hiding from Jesus, instead of avoiding the gathering altogether, she marches right into the thick of it. Does she feel shame? Probably. Does she feel like she doesn’t belong there? Most likely. Does she feel like her whole life is taboo? I’m sure she does. But, she doesn’t let that stop her.

“There was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that Jesus was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.” Luke 8

The Pharisees had a reputation, she had to know they would judge her if she walked into that room. Apparently Jesus had a reputation too. I don’t know what she had heard about Jesus, but it was enough for her to press through the fear of being whispered about to get to Him. Jesus wasn’t afraid of her label. He didn’t buzz her and see her to the door when she bowed at His feet in humble adoration. He didn’t ignore her sin; neither did He condemn her with it. He simply loved her.

He loved the broken, sinful, repentant, humble woman.

There are two places we can stand when we feel condemned. We can stand outside, fearful and ashamed, weighed down with the buzzing we hear, or we can stand at the feet of Jesus.

The woman who came and washed the feet of her savior was washed by His love. She entered condemned, and left forgiven, cleansed and at peace.

The boxes don’t go away. We will still have to put check marks next to things we never dreamed in a million years would apply to us. But the buzzing can be silenced. No. Not silenced, replaced. Instead of the buzz of condemnation, if you listen hard enough you can hear another sound, a quiet, loving whisper, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

~Keri

 

Photo by (cup)cake_eater. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Melissa Emmons Photography. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Allison McDonald. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

Dirty Hearts & Unpacked Bags

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“Everyone comes with baggage. Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.” ~Anonymous

Jesus walked this earth to set hearts free, not only did He help others unpack their baggage; He removed it. In John chapter 8 the scribes and the Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in the act of adultery. I can’t imagine the shame she felt, all eyes on her eager to condemn her and throw stones at her to end her broken life. But not our Jesus, He stooped and wrote in the ground as if he did not hear them testing him. As they hurled accusations at the broken woman with baggage He raised himself up and said:

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 

And then he writes some more on the dirty ground in a crowd of dirty hearts who needed to see their own sin in order to walk away from the woman who was caught in the act. One by one they left and it was just the woman with baggage, desperate to be loved, and Jesus who mends broken places in ragged hearts setting them free.

“Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, my Lord.”

“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

The more baggage we carry, the more intense our desire is to be loved and please others. It becomes a craving that is never satisfied and a lingering emptiness that takes us down dusty roads that lead to dead ends in every aspect of our lives. Ragged hearts tend to find people with jagged edges to pierce their tender state of being and this is our Jesus, the God who goes out of His way to meet with a broken girl in a broken relationship. He sees the jagged edges and tear-stained face and refuses to move on until the stone throwers walk away. He writes in the dirty soil and rewrites this woman’s history. Go and sin no more, your slate has been wiped clean. When the enemy reminds us of our past, let us hold unswervingly to the promise of our future. No matter how many times we fall and fail, we must get back up and remember that moment as Jesus stooped low to write on the ground and set a woman free.

That day a woman with a sketchy past met true and last loving, one that restored hope instead of inflicting shame, scars on her heart, and an imitation of love that only wanted one thing. Loved walked onto the scene and unpacked a very large, ugly bag. Loved removed the label of shame and welcomed her home baggage free. I pray we can love like Jesus does when we noticed the hurting and the wayward, may we rally around them and help them to unpack baggage they have been carrying around for decades. If we can look past all the things we don’t understand about them, maybe we could be more like Jesus and less like a judge and keeper of wrongs.

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and not a single one of us has it all together no matter how long we have been serving Christ. (Rom 3:23) Let us be grace givers, not stone throwers, for this is the heartbeat of Christ to seek and to save those who are lost. I pray I never forget the way I came to Christ and my all-consuming need of a Savior.

The Jesus who writes in the dirty soil is unafraid of a dirty past, wiping the slate clean and rewriting our story where baggage becomes a platform, under our feet…exactly where it should be.

Much love,

Jennifer

Keri Sallee’s Broken Girl Story

We are so excited to share Keri’s story with you today. Keri is a joy! She’s one of the most talented girls I know, has a contagious laugh and is beautiful inside and out. She blogs at The Creative Life where she takes bits and pieces, lots of glue and makes art that will take your breath away, her story will do the same thing. 

We pray you will be encouraged by Keri’s Broken Girl story.

Love,

Keri & Jennifer

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Crushed by Grief. Not functioning. Forcibly separated into two or more pieces. Incomplete.

These are all definitions of what it means to be broken and for most of my life, it was a perfect description of my life.

I grew up in a home many would give their lives for…a mom…a dad… and a big sister. We moved around a lot, but when you’re a kid, it seems like one big adventure.  But in the midst of my adventure, I was forced to find my own way. My parents were still there, but they were so caught up in their own issues, that I felt alone and abandoned in my own home.

I soon realized that the only way I would get noticed was if I made good grades, so I put all of my effort into doing that and tried to be the “good girl” and fade into the background the rest of the time.

When I was 12, we made our first big out of state move to a small town in Texas where, if you hadn’t lived there your entire life, you didn’t stand a chance. My parent’s marriage was rapidly crumbling and so I didn’t add to their stress, I kept everything bottled up. I bottled up my loneliness. I bottled up my hurt. I bottled up the fear that consumed me, when at age 12, the thought of suicide first took root in my mind and seemed like an actual option.

Our next move took us to West Virginia and took me deeper in to the cycle that would be my go-to act for many years: I would be fake happy at school, be the typical vague teenager to my parents and I would lie awake at night hating myself for not being stronger.

I became very easily influenced by others at this time. I had my first cigarette. My first drink. I became so easily influenced by others that I let a friend talk me into running away from home. And when I came home and my parents asked me why I did it, I wanted to SCREAM at them “I’m just so unhappy and I just wanted you to notice me.” But…I didn’t. I told them I don’t know why I did it, they believed me and we moved on.

Upstate New York was our next move and it gave me something I had never had before: friends. It was so much easier to pretend to be happy, but I still couldn’t shake the depression and the feeling that something was missing from my life.  So, I started searching. I began to read my horoscope daily. I began to read tarot cards. I read books on crystals and how they were supposed to bring me love and hope and friends, but no matter how many rocks I wore around my neck or carried around in my pocket, the war inside my head would NOT cease.

By now the war had become a series of battles that played on a loop: I would think about ending it all and when I wouldn’t have the “guts” to do it, it would only add to my feeling of inadequacy and loneliness which would lead me back to suicide.

It was truly a painful, sadistic cycle I lived in.

The battle caused me to loose so much of my life; so much of my childhood. So many experiences that I should have had as a teenager but I was too scared someone would find out my secret and label me “the freak” that I never stepped out and experienced.

Then came Faith…

Faith was the first girl we met when we moved to a small town in Missouri. She was our tour guide at our new school and Faith invited us to church.

For six months, I sat through sermon after sermon and didn’t believe a word of them. God didn’t love me and He sure didn’t have a plan for my life. I sat there waiting for it all to be over so I could have social hour with my friends.

That is until one night in April of 1997 when we had a traveling show come through called Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames.

The basic premise of the show was it showed people who did and did not believe in Jesus and what happened to them after they died. And like most other church things, I sat through it, but didn’t really listen. That is, until about three quarters of the way through the show.

The scene came up and it consisted of a girl sitting on a chair on a completely dark stage, except for a single spot light on her. And as she began to talk, I felt like she was telling my story.

She began to talk about how lonely she was. How no one loved her and how no one would miss her when she was gone. And from behind her back, out of the shadows, she pulls a gun and as the lights go out, the sound of a gunshot reverberated through that small church.

That night I realized that I didn’t want to end up like that girl on the stage, where she felt her only option was to end her life and for the first time in a very long time, I cried. I cried for the years I had lost and I cried for the person that I knew I would never become if I didn’t choose to make a change in my life.

So that night I gave my heart to Christ and for the first time in my life, I felt put back together. I was still fragile and I knew I couldn’t hold it together on my own. Only with God as the glue, could I keep the pieces of my life whole.

A few years later, I moved to attend Central Bible College and I thought that I had everything together, but during summer break, my life was, once again…broken.

It was the Saturday before Memorial Day and like any college student on a Saturday I was still sleeping when someone knocked on my door around 10:00 that morning. I opened the door to my little apartment to find my dad standing on my doorstep. .

I asked my dad where mom was and he told me she’s down in the car with Leslie (my sister) and Andy (my brother in law.) I told him to have them come up and he said no, he needed to talk to me first.

We sat on my little thrift store sofa and he said, you and your sister have always joked about being adopted…..and the truth is you are.

And I remember looking at him and asking “IS THIS A JOKE?”

He said “No.” and he hands me a letter and tells me “Your sister got this letter in the mail and you’ll be getting one soon, too.” And I start reading this letter and I always joke that it sounds like an after school special from the ‘80s because it says:  “MY WIFE AND I GAVE UP TWO DAUGHTERS IN 1981.” Gave a name and my sister’s birthday. Then gave another name and gave my birthday. “I think you’re my daughter.”

And in that moment, my perfect bible school world was gone… all of those feelings I had struggled with as a teenager came crashing back on me. I was once again that lonely, insecure and self-destructive girl. And now I had evidence. Look…even your own parents didn’t love you enough to keep you. They gave you away. You weren’t meant to be alive anyway.

That summer…I was shattered. Pieces of my heart and my soul were flung so far and wide that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt I would never find them all, let alone be whole again.

Trying to ignore my brokenness, I began to fill my life with self-destructive distractions. I began to drink and party. I put myself in a situation with a guy that I almost didn’t get out of.

I was lost and lonely and I didn’t have any one to turn to because I was so angry. At my biological parents for picking drinking and drugs over us. At my adoptive parents for lying all those years and for not loving me the way they I felt they should have.  And honestly, I was mad at God—I gave my heart to Him…wasn’t it supposed to be safe from this kind of heartache?

Anger and fear colored my everyday life for a long time. It colored my marriage. How I treated my kids. How I made friends.

It colored my healing process three years ago when my sister and I finally opened up about abuse that had happened to us as young teenagers by a relative. In all honesty, I had shoved those memories away, under lock and key. But when my sister decided to open her vault and told me what had happened to her, the lock on my secret box broke wide open and those memories became Technicolor. I remember thinking as a teenager “At least someone is paying attention to me.” For that brief moment, in my messed up, lonely brain, I wasn’t alone.

That is my heritage…I’m a product of abuse…abandonment…depression…anger…suicidal thoughts…hurt…neglect… unworthiness… COMPLETE BROKENNESS.

So why am I still here and how can I call myself an un-broken girl?

I found HOPE.

Being an un-broken girl is as much a journey as being a broken girl. An un-broken girl is not perfect or loved more by God or “has it all together.” The only difference is an un-broken girl has HOPE that a broken girl does not.

Those of us who call ourselves the un-broken have battled the same loathing, depression, pain, hurt, abandonment, abuse and so-on in our lives and the reason we are here and are able to say “I am un-broken” is that we looked up from ourselves, past our issues, and away from our past and current situations and found HOPE in Christ.

Psalm 31:12-14 & 24 says this (bold added by me):

I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot. I have heard many rumors about me, and I am surrounded by terror, My enemies conspire against me, plotting to take my life. BUT I am trusting you, O Lord, saying “’You are my God” So be strong and courageous, all you who put your HOPE in the Lord.”

Those verses are my life in 67 words.

I still have cracks…I still have noticeable flaws, but that’s OK because in my eyes now, when the light of God shines through those cracks, it’s even more beautiful.

You don’t have to live broken…God’s life for you has you whole…strong…and courageous.

It will not be an easy journey to un-brokenness…trust me…I’ve walked it, but it can start with just the one small step of HOPE.

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Keri Sallee is a lover of all things creative…from cooking and scrapping to mixed media and music to reading and writing. You name it…she loves it (well…except for sewing). You can join her on her journey of daily creativity at The Creative Life. Or follow her on Twitter @creativelifear

Because of You

This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel with a group of single moms to the Survive and Thrive Conference. My head is still spinning with information and encouragement and heartbreak from the weekend. I feel like I need a week in solitude with my journal to process all that I experienced in those few days. But one thing from the weekend just won’t seem to go away. It’s begging to be processed first, and I think it must.

First can I ask you to watch a video? One of the sessions I went to was titled Filling the Daddy Gap and the facilitator showed this video. I sat in a room with 80 or so single moms wiping tears from their eyes as they saw their own pain and their children’s pain being portrayed in video and song and my heart thought of you.

We all carry pain. We all have been hurt. Damaged. And we can all cry out right alongside Kelly Clarkson and say “Because of you…”

Blame isn’t new. It’s a natural reaction to pain and consequences. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. We all want to justify our behavior by reminding others why it is we behave the way we do. And most of the time our blame is justified. We truly were wronged. We truly were hurt or abused or abandoned or betrayed. So we blame. And we justify. And we stay trapped in our pain, repeating the cycle of suffering.

We rightly cry out “Because of you…” Mom, dad, childhood bully, ex-husband, rapist, abuser, drunk, coach, teacher, pastor, friend. Because of you I’m afraid. Because of you I can’t trust. Because of you I lost my way. Because of you I’m angry. Because of you I’m bitter. Because of you I’m broken. Because of you.

It’s easy to get caught in the cycle of “because of you”. Easy to let it take over our thoughts and emotions. But it’s a dangerous place to live. It’s a place of perpetual pain. It’s a trap that our enemy loves and God despises. Yes, God hates the sin that hurt us. But He also hates the cycle of blame that we continue to live in.

So how do we move forward? How to we break the cycle of blame? The same way, with the same words.

Because of You!

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,

who for the joy set before him endured the cross,

scorning its shame,

and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Heb. 12:2

When we take our eyes off of our circumstances and look to Jesus and say “Because of You, Jesus!” everything changes. Because of You, I am free. Because of You, I am healed. Because of You I am not afraid. Because of You I have found hope and trust and joy! Because of You.

It’s time to turn. Away from our pain and towards the cross. It’s only when we fix our eyes on Jesus, only when we see His love for us, demonstrated by the suffering He endured so that we could be forgiven, and that we can truly be free.

When we’re tempted to point a finger and dish out blame, instead let’s look to the cross and say, “Because of You…”

Monsters in the Closet

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As a little girl I was scared of monsters hiding in my closet. Then I got older and learned that six eyed, clawed, sharp teethed monsters aren’t real. Then life turned cruel and I learned that monsters are real, and they’re deadly. Real monsters don’t have sharp teeth and claws, but they do hide in closets. Not because that’s their natural habitat, but because that’s where we put them.

At least that’s where I put my monsters of shame, and anger and hurt. That’s where I hid the whispering monster that said I wasn’t good enough. That’s where I placed the loud monster that told me to be afraid. That’s where I hid the ugly monster that convinced me that I deserved to be angry and bitter and unforgiving.

The monsters we’re too big and too scary to face, so I did all I knew to do… I tucked them away behind closed doors and locked them up tight.

It was much better that way. As long as my monsters were in the closet I could pretend like I was okay. I could smile and act like my life was “just fine, thank you”. Until it was dark and quiet. Then I could hear them scratching on the door to get out. I could hear their muffled voices, smell their rancid breath. Or if you were getting too close to me, if you were pressing in and truly interested in my heart and not just my image. Then I would hear them again, beating and pounding against the door. Frantic to get out. In the dark night and in the intimate conversation my heart would race and panic would grip me. I was desperate to keep those monsters locked away.

It was exhausting.

But it was the only way I knew to coexist with my monsters. Keep them locked away, hidden, out of sight. What I didn’t realize was that as long as I kept my monsters in the closet I was the one trapped.  That as long as they were concealed behind closed doors I was bound to them, bound to hide them, bound to fear them, bound to check on them.

Finally, I got so sick of the monsters that I decided to do something brave, and perhaps a little crazy. I opened the door and let them out. Not all at once. One or two at a time I released them. And never alone. Always there was a brave companion by my side. A counselor, or trusted friend, or spiritual mentor. Together we would stand and face that beast.

A funny thing happened when we opened the closet door… when those monsters stepped into the light of day they became a lot less intimidating. When they stood before me, with the Sword of the Spirit in my hand and the King of Kings standing beside me and a trusted friend praying on my behalf, they lost their power.

I know they would have overtaken me and killed me had I faced them on my own. I’ve seen it happen before to people I love. When they faced their monsters without Christ they were the ones who lost. I also know that they would have killed me if I’d have left them in the closet. Slowly but surly they would have drained the life from me. I’ve seen that too. Seen friends slowly shrivel up and die because they’re too afraid to face their monsters. But when we stand empowered with the Word of God and the victory of the cross, the only things that die are the monsters that haunt us.

“The pain is real

You can’t erase it

Sooner or later

You have to face it down”

JJ Heller (song is below, so worth 3 minutes of your time)

Monsters can’t be tamed and they can’t be silenced. They can kill you or they can be killed, but they cannot be ignored. They are real. The pain is real. The hurt is real. But as long as you ignore it, it has power over you. You can lock it up, but it will not die. And eventually, it will get out of that closet and come after you. The only way to not live in constant fear of that day is to finally, once and for all, face the monster and put it to death.

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And you can! Yes, really! You can face the monster. You can defeat the monster. It might be a long hard battle, you’ll need to be vulnerable and ask for help. It will require you to know and stand on the Word of God. It will demand that you pray and trust Jesus like you’ve never done before. But the silence that comes after the battle… it’s worth enduring the fight.

“Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” Eph. 5:11

“Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Eph. 6:10&11

Over and over and over again the Word of God commands us to be strong and courageous (see Joshua 1:9). Following Jesus isn’t easy or safe or sweet. It’s a battle. It requires courage and strength and sometimes blood and tears. But girls, we have to fight. It’s when we run from the battle that the enemy runs over us. When we turn and face the enemy, when we stand our ground with Jesus, our enemy cowers in fear.

It’s time to pick up our swords and fight. It’s time to kill the monsters.

Do-over?

Choice: a decision to choose one thing, person, or course of action in preference to others

Consequence: something that follows as a result

Regret: to feel sorry and sad about something previously done or said that now appears wrong, mistaken, or hurtful to others.

Do-over: a chance to redo an action

 

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about Eve. About the choice she made to believe the lie of the enemy and doubt the goodness of God. About how one simple choice ushered in such overwhelming consequences. About the regret she must have felt the moment her lips tasted the bitter-sweet fruit of her decision and her eyes were opened to the truth of her choice.

I’ve been thinking about the endless consequences that followed that one bite. Instant shame and fear. Broken trust and blame from her husband. Forcibly removed from the only home she’d ever known. Giving birth through tears and much pain. Receiving news that her youngest son had been murdered. Receiving news that her oldest son was a murderer. Being blamed for every heartache, every sickness, every disaster in the history of all mankind.

I wonder how many times tears flowed down the face of the first woman? I wonder how many times she whispered “if only”. I wonder how many times she begged God for a second chance, for a do-over.

I wonder if her heart was filled with regret as she stood at the grave of her son.

I wonder if her heart was filled with guilt every day when Adam came home sweaty and calloused.

I wonder if her heart was filled with shame every month when blood flowed from her body.

I wonder if her heart was filled with remorse every time she remembered walking side by side with God.

Like Eve, I know what it’s like to be deceived, to listen to the lie and doubt the goodness of God. I know what it’s like to face consequences that you never expected. I know how regret and guilt and shame feels. Many times I’ve quietly whispered “God, can I have a do-over?”

Can I have another chance?

Can I go back and choose differently this time?

Can I undo what I have done?

And just like Eve, He answers me with a soft but firm “No.”

No we can’t have a do-over. We can’t go back in time and erase the foolish choices. We must live with the consequences of our sin.

But that doesn’t mean we live without hope. For where God says “no” to do-overs He says “yes” to redemption.

Redemption: the act of saving something or somebody from a declined, dilapidated, or corrupted state and restoring it, him, or her to a better condition

Through Eve sin entered the world. And through Christ redemption entered the world. The seed of a woman defeated sin and death once and for all. And now, because of redemption, because of the choice Jesus made to offer Himself up as payment for our foolish choices we get something better than a do-over, we get new life. We get beauty for ashes.

God doesn’t want us to live with regret. He doesn’t want us to carry guilt and shame. He doesn’t want us to live constantly aching for a do-over. He wants to redeem. He wants to restore. He wants to heal our broken hearts, and bring glory to His name.

Redemption comes at a great price. A price that has already been paid. Redemption cost Jesus His very life, which He freely gave for the joy of seeing us set free, not just free from sin, but from regret as well.

I don’t know what regret you carry. Maybe it’s harsh words spoken, an abortion, a failed marriage, or sexual sin. Maybe it’s not standing up to an abuser, years of addiction, or not doing something you should have. Maybe it’s an empty womb, an arrogant heart, or a missed opportunity. Whatever it is, can I assure you that God can redeem it. Redemption may not look like you think it should. It may not include restoring what was lost. It probably won’t erase the consequences of your choice. But it will be beautiful. You will be beautiful.

Because God makes beautiful things out of the ugly ashes of our lives.