Our decisions define, and at times, redefine us. I learned this at the lowest juncture in my life from an unlikely source. For as long as I could remember my only ambition had been to serve the Lord Jesus Christ as my life’s calling. That passion carried me into several pastorates, propelled me through nearly a decade of missionary service, and, ultimately, fueled a great deal of internal conflict when faced with a decision that threatened to strip it all away. The shoe dropped when I determined that the future well being of my children carried more weight than preserving my vocation; Baptists are adept at discarding divorced ministers, with little regard for the truth. I crossed the line of demarcation for all the right reasons, but lines crossed leave scars that resist healing. “Scars tell stories. Scars mean survival. Scars mean you showed up for the fight rather than running from it.” What Genevieve Smythe writes may be true, but scars are not calluses–thickened layers of nerveless skin; they commonly mark the spot of internal damage that stubbornly refuses to heal, like the greater threat lurking underneath an iridescent iceberg.
Fortunately for me, grace brushed across my life when I was most vulnerable, the point at which shame threatened to lead down innumerable deadly trails. Grace always has a face, and the one I encountered in my despair was the unshaven one of an aging prison psychologist. He and his wife were members of my church, and in between raising Boer goats outside of town, he volunteered his time to teach and counsel prison inmates. I never saw him without his signature rainbow colored suspenders, and though I thought him quirky at first, I soon learned that he was a bonafide genius, and genius is often obscured by an odd exterior. Discerning my fragile frame of mind, he offered to talk as friends, were I so inclined. I resisted at first and then agreed to meet, assuming that he would likely take pity and extend emotional support to my plummeting self-confidence. We met in a quiet place and I waited for words of commiseration; instead, he said what shook me to my core: “Get over yourself. You cannot change anyone but yourself.” I fought the angry urge to bolt and run, and what transpired over the course of subsequent conversations saved my life, or at the very least, my sanity. I stopped viewing myself as a victim, and learned that grace never intends to leave me as it finds me; grace flourishes in courageous action. Culture conspires to convince us we are powerless against the current of circumstance and the undertow of guilt. Refuse the lie; get over yourself and get on with life.
“I will arise and go to my father…” Luke 15:18