Have you ever done something you didn’t want to, and then regretted it?
I regret being a woman who desperately wanted men to like her. I regret not standing up for who I was. I regret not standing firm when people tried to tell me what to do.
Because I think all this produced a thick heart. Skin that is like cow hide.
And now I tend to not trust people easily, believe what they say, accept things without considering the strings attached or believe people will like me – for me.
I consider ulterior motives. I consider God’s ulterior motives.
As if he says to me:
If you aren’t good, I won’t be good to you.
If I don’t think you are serving me well enough, I’ll be distant from you.
If you don’t spend time with me, I am angry at you.
If you don’t give enough to me, I am over you.
If you don’t have something to offer the world, I’ll pass you over.
I am being frank with you today.
I am also convicted that hearts covered with protective skin are not God’s best working ground. He loves a supple heart that lays in his hands. One that, when he presses on it with just the slightest amount of loving pressure, responds.
So, I’ve forgiven those who never asked for forgiveness. I’ve asked God asked to soften my heart. And I’ve requested to hear his voice. God speaks to us today, something like this:
I won’t hurt you.
I don’t need anything back from you to love you.
I’ll love you as a good, pure and holy Father, forever.
I know where I am taking you. It is not to a place of harm or ridicule.
I don’t have plans to help and then hurt you.
It’s not what you do for me. It is what Jesus did for you.
If you take off what covers your heart, I’ll reach in and heal it.
I’ll grow you because I love you.
I care for hearts, including yours, with care.
You can trust me.
I sat in a body-piercing studio with the owner gazing at a tattoo displayed on the nave of my back. It was a gnome, sitting on a mushroom and playing a fife. Everything about it screamed pot-smoker, hippy and apparently, pagan.
And to think I got it because I thought it looked cool. To me it said, “Outsider,” a label I gave myself during my younger years.
The man’s question caught me off guard. I was twenty-one at the time and wasn’t sure who I was, let alone what I believed.
“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. The artist seemed as surprised by my answer as I was. Immediately, I felt ashamed.
Who was this person, anyway?
I spent the next eight years trying to figure out the answer to that question. Eventually, I realized all of the places I ran to seek my identity were fickle and fading.
It wasn’t until I started with the One who gave me my eternal name that I would know my true self.
These days, my tattoo is usually hidden. But the other day, while on family vacation, I was changing into my swimsuit and my five-year-old saw it.
“Mama, what’s that on your back?”
I told him what the picture was and explained how a tattoo is like a permanent picture on your skin. Then, my mind went back. Back to the person I was. Back to the mistakes I made and the years I spent wasting my life. Things much bigger than a silly tattoo that shape the person I am today.
For a little while, I let the voice of condemnation darken the light in my soul.
Scenes of things I wish I’d never seen replayed in my mind. Faces of people who left this life for the next one burned in my memory and left my heart heavy.
Perhaps you’ve been there? You’re walking in the new life Jesus freely gave you, and then all of a sudden you’re hit with a blatant reminder of the mess you used to be? That, despite your best efforts, some days you still are?
In those dark moments when I’m not sure I can escape my past, God often gives me a reminder. This time was no different.
We arrived at the pool and found it closed because of an incoming storm. After playing for a while in the arcade next door, we made our way back to the campsite. As we made dinner, a beautiful site caught my eye.
A spectacular sunset over the river.
The sun was big and radiant, dipping to the horizon in a circular blanket of clouds. I hurriedly got my camera and ran down to the beach.
I must of snapped a dozen pictures, but when I flipped through them in my viewfinder I was disappointed. This huge ball of light and fire looked tiny and dim. I couldn’t capture its draw. It was uncontainable.
As I sat in our camper later that evening, I felt that gentle whisper in my spirit.
“Don’t try to put limits on my grace, Abby. It’s more limitless than the sun.”
And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
John 1:16 ESV
I was putting God in a box again, thinking I could somehow run outside his grace. But it doesn’t just cover me. It drenches me.
We can’t put finite limitations on the grace of an infinite God.
And the moment we stop trying to put God in a box, we find we don’t want Him there. We find freedom. We find joy and rest.
So today, if your past is trying to haunt you, take a lesson from my tattoo. Remember it shapes you, but it doesn’t define you.
God can take the shattered pieces of your life and turn them into something far more spectacular than a sunset. He does it each and every day. Sometimes we just need a reminder of who he is.
Sometimes we have to take him out of the box and come to the altar.
Abby McDonald is the mom of three, a wife and writer whose hope is show readers their identity is found in Christ alone, not the noise of the world. When she’s not chasing their two boys or cuddling their newest sweet girl, you can find her drinking copious amounts of coffee while writing about her adventures on her blog. Abby would love to connect with you on her blog and her growing Facebook community.
I am delighted to welcome Dr. Stacy Haynes from Gloucester County Community Church to this Women’s Ministry Monday guest post series. Her words bring life and encouragement to my heart.
Post by: Dr. Stacy Haynes
Sometimes as a wife and a mother, I reflect too much on the mistakes I have made in my past. I think about the days when maybe I am not as nice as I should be to my husband or I respond to my children in a short tone.
There are moments that I feel guilty about, as a mother and wife. Then God reminds me of many examples of women in the Bible and the past mistakes they had made in their walk with the Lord.
We can easily think of Eve, why the first woman in the Bible who made a pretty huge mistake because of sin and temptation. And yet she goes on to be the mother of all living things and raises her children to love and worship the Lord.
One woman stands out to me, as her past created her future. Rahab the harlot as the Bible calls her was not aware how two spies would change her past and bless her future.
Joshua 2 tells us the story of how Rahab hid the spies, made them promise to save her and her family and she vowed to profess her faith.
She believed in God despite her circumstances.
Rahab- whose first part of her name Ra- the name of an eyptian God, was a pagan. She was not a believer and yet she is proclaiming here her faith to these spies.
Rahab was not concerned about her past and what things look like. Sure she was not worthy to house these spies- but she believed.
Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.
I remind myself that circumstances sometimes are not the best and behavior may not always be Christlike in the moment, but God has chosen me to be a mother and a wife in this season for His glory.
She trusted in the promises of God.
The Bible has a Hall of Faithers list if you will and Rahab is listed in the Bible Hall of Faith in Hebrews- with folks like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and David.
Hebrews 11:31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
A prostitute was spared, and did not die with those who were disobedient.
God can forgive my past and give me a future. God is not sitting up in Heaven, counting our mistakes as mothers. He asks us to trust Him, to confess our faith and ask for forgiveness when we sin.
She brought others to salvation.
One thing I love about Rahab – she immediately became a disciple and brought others to the Lord. And yet God saved her and her family. All because of Rahab.
A woman who decided her past would not determine her destiny.
A woman who decided her life was worth giving up for God.
A woman who will always be remembered in the family lineage of Jesus Christ himself.
A woman who made mistakes, and lived to tell about it.
As the story goes, one of those spies, Salmon- decided he loved Rahab and married her. She became the mother of Boaz, who married Ruth from whose son, Obed, Jesse the father of David came.
Salmon was a prince of the house of Judah, and thus Rahab, the prostitute became a princess.
You see in those moments when I doubt my imperfections, my mistakes as a mom and a wife I am reminded of how good God’s grace and mercy is. I am reminded that God loves us, He created us and He has forgiven us.
I am reminded of the lessons that can be learned when we go through trials and the patience that God is building in my character with each new experience.
Jesus healed a man demon possessed in Mark 5. And when the man wanted to travel with Jesus, Jesus replied, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19)
You see I am able to share my faith through my mistakes with others. My life is not a story of perfection, it is a story of Great God whose grace and forgiveness allows me to serve Him each and every day.
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About Dr. Haynes
STACY HAYNES, Ed. D, LPC, ACS, is the Chief Executive Officer of Little Hands Family Services, LLC. located at the Washington Professional Campus in Turnersville, New Jersey. Stacy is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and an experienced therapist, teacher, and counselor with over fifteen years in the mental health field.
Dr. Stacy Haynes is a specialist in the treatment of behavioral and emotional disturbance of children, adults and families. Stacy uses evidenced based practices in working with children and families to help strengthen children and families. Stacy has lectured on topics including ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Effective Classroom Management Skills, Anger Management and Conduct Disorders and is also an Adjunct Professor teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in Child Psychology, Intro to Counseling, Abnormal Psychology and other Human Services courses.
Dr. Haynes received her Bachelors Degree from Liberty University, her Masters Degree from Bowie State University and her Doctorate in Education with a concentration in Counseling Psychology and a specialization in Clinical Supervision and Teaching in Higher Education from Argosy University. Dr. Stacy Haynes is a clinically licensed professional counselor in Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.17
I am good at organizing my faith. It means I line up all the little pieces of my life in a straight line and expect them to fall like perfect dominos.
I expect my plans to fall into place. I expect that the dominos will hit the ground – and not me as I sin. I expect that my perfectly placed pieces will keep my faith in a straight line.
Perhaps, this is why I feel so devastated, so demolished and so pushed over when I do wrong. It is as if all my attempts to control my faith, my sin and my progress press on my shoulders, compacted and ruined.
It’s nearly back-breaking.
How can God’s ways be light when this work seems so hard?
Is this light-load wording really even truth?
Because if it is, I am living by a lie. Again and again, my faith falls and I do too.
But, what if? What if? I am looking at everything all wrong?
What if my inability to carry, isn’t so much because of him – but, because of me?
One with the weight of shame,
can’t really pass out the grace of Christ.
One whose hands cover her face,
can’t let God hold her hand.
One who laying down in despair,
can’t see up in hope.
One lining everything up,
can’t help but take everything personally when it all falls down.
And, in a heart-pumping way, I can’t help but think, maybe this line of thinking is real progress.
Because my way = the wrong way. God’s way = a chance to see his work at play.
God’s way is his Word and it restructures our approach:
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy. . . Jude 1:24
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God. Jude 1:20
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” Luke 17:5
And he said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace. Lu. 7:50
He makes us stand before his presence.
He grants us joy. He keeps us from stumbling. He holds us in the love of God as we pray in the Spirit. He increases our faith as we ask him. He makes our faith win when we rely on him.
We don’t need us, we just need him. We don’t need strategy, we just need prayers. We don’t need plans, we just need the Spirit. We don’t need holy roller practices, we just need help.
Every time, we need his help.
All the time, we need his help.
Every hour, we need his help.
Bottom line, as our heart cries out for faith by his Spirit, he will keep us and help us. He makes our load light as we lay our load on him.
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