Every visit is the same.
For the first thirty minutes or so, I stand beside her and the tears roll quietly down my face. For thirty minutes they roll and and for thirty minutes I choke on every word I try to say in response to every word of love and affirmation she speaks. She’s trying to say all the things that need to be said and I’m trying to figure out how to do this walking another home gracefully.
My grandmother is a woman of many words. Even now, when her mouth is too dry to properly round out the sounds, she’s recalling memories from fifty years ago. Yesterday though, I interrupted the verbal struggle with one question.
Can I read you the bible, Grandot? I asked her.
She turned her face to mine and opened her eyes a little bigger. Yes. That would be wonderful. Whatever you choose will be fine. she said.
So I picked up the book of John and read straight through to chapter four, stopping only to tell her what I liked about each passage and why John had recorded each story. After an hour, she lifted her hand and spoke up.
I feel so guilty that I didn’t read the bible more. It’s never made sense to me until now. she said.
I reached out and touched her arm and replied.
Let’s don’t feel guilty about what we can’t change. It’s not too late. I’ll keep reading and you keep listening. I said. Every word you hear shows you more of Jesus.
I read for a good long while longer and later, while she napped I thought about she’s said.
And I also thought about what I’d said.
Quit the guilt. Accept what we can’t change. And keep pressing on towards Jesus.
This morning, I got a phone call that felt like a sucker punch to the gut. It was the kind of two minute phone call that knocks the wind right out of your sails and puts you right on your behind, feeling all the big feelings. My face flushed with a thousand different emotions: anger, shame, hopelessness, betrayal, loss, sadness. I also had the emotional rage that comes with feeling deceived and being made a fool. How did I miss the signs? How did I not know?
I hung up the phone and went back to drying my hair, rehashing the entire conversation, wondering where we’d gone wrong. I couldn’t believe I had missed the truth staring me straight in the face.
And confronted with the glaring truth, I knew I had two choices:
I could question the truth, make this about me and my feelings and walk away.
I could accept the truth, set aside my feelings and keep putting Jesus before my sister.
I rattled off the morning’s news to a quiet listener who felt as sucker punched as I knew she would. And then I paused long enough to exhale the truth I know deep down in my bones.
But you know what? I said. Our enemy wants us to buy the lie that she’s not worth fighting for. He wants to convince us that grace is a fool’s game played by people who want a license to sin. He wants to expose our love and call it weakness of character to love a sinner. He wants to convince us that sin is bigger than the blood of Jesus. We know her and we know her hang-ups. And this is not who she is, no matter what lie I want to believe. And trust me, right now, I want to believe the lie because my flesh feels foolish and angry and hurt and deceived. But I ain’t buying it, friend. If our enemy can convince us that our feelings trump her life, he wins. And he ain’t winning on my watch. I said. We just have to figure out how to keep holding Jesus up to her until she sees Him above the fray.
I inhaled long and deep and waited for the grace-filled response I knew I’d get and then hung up.
And I thought about what I’d said and how all of my life is mirroring itself.
Quit the guilt. Accept the truth. Keep holding Jesus up.
But y’all, our enemy is out to steal and kill and destroy us. He is prowling around like a lion looking to devour the Church from the inside out. He’s picking us off, one by one, and Church, we’ve made His job easy.
We’ve divided and split ourselves so many times that we’re all walking around with gaping wounds, shrapnel still poking through our skin, the Gospel watered down to the point that we don’t believe that it holds any power.
We’ve turned our eyes inward, preserving self, never stopping to ask our brothers and sisters the hard questions for fear they’ll ask us the same hard things that will expose our sin or vulnerability or lack of belief.
We’ve bought the lie that says that sins of the flesh discount the resurrecting power of Jesus in a person’s life, ignoring the simple fact that as long as we have air in our lungs, our flesh and spirit war against one another and the battle is real.
We’ve convinced ourselves that some are beyond Jesus, that grace runs out for those who appear to abuse it.
We’ve chosen to believe that outward actions seal the fate of fellow believers and rather than engage the person acting out and hold Jesus before them, we cast them out as too far gone.
And friends, I’m sitting here at my picnic table in the yard telling you that nobody is too far gone. Every one of us is deceived by the same enemy and the ways in which our enemy deceives us aren’t always the ways in which he deceives others.
We all live in the fullness of our broken humanity and we belong to each other-
In the struggle to believe or keep believing,
In the struggle to slay every addiction,
In the struggle to keep from wandering,
In the struggle to stay married,
In the struggle to come clean and sober,
In the struggle to call sin what it is and quit wallowing in it,
In the struggle to believe that grace covers a multitude,
In the struggle to see Jesus.
And it’s our job to love our people through every bit of hell on earth by walking so closely to them that they can reach out and touch the Jesus we’re holding in front of them.
Jesus is the hope of the world and He chooses to make Himself known in the lives of broken down people, fighting all sorts of battles.
Let’s not forget it.