In her song, “On My Way,” Country music artist Kellie Picker writes, “My eyes have seen more than they want to/My heart has scars that run so deep.” Those two lines broadly encompass the reasons why I never thought I would be where I am today. Christian music artist Brandon Heath has a song titled, “I’m Not Who I Was.” And while that sentiment is true, I am not the person I once was, neither am I the person I thought I would be. If you had asked me 4 years ago where I thought my life would be in 2015, my current circumstances would not have even come close to where I envisioned myself.
4 years ago, I saw myself as this ugly caterpillar who was never going to come out of the cocoon. Too many things in life created “scars that run so deep.” I was filled with shame and guilt over things in my past and convinced that no one could ever love me for who I really was. When friends would talk about grace and forgiveness and justification, I would verbally agree with what they said; I could spout the lingo and be the good little church member. Inside, I desperately wanted grace and justification and forgiveness, but was convinced those things could never be mine. I had made a profession of faith as a child, but spent over a decade angry at God over situations and circumstances in my life, and even did some things just to try to hurt Him the way I felt He had hurt and betrayed me. Surely, He couldn’t still love me. My thought was, “I’m glad grace is true for you, but it could never be true for me.”
4 years ago, God used some very special friends to show me how wrong I was. Through months of conversations and counseling, God was showing me that He did still love me. I was blessed to be in a church where I heard the message of God’s grace and love every week. Slowly, like the winter turning into spring, God began transforming my heart. Hearing of His grace every week was like experiencing a flood in the desert. The words flowed over me like water over dry ground, and as the message sank deeper in, the ground softened. John 4:1-26 became one of my favorite stories. I was always terrified that God couldn’t and wouldn’t relate to me because of my sin. Yet, my pastor reminded me through that passage that Jesus was with the Samaritan woman the entire time he was exposing and dealing with her sin. He didn’t leave her; He didn’t decide that she was too dirty or might contaminate Him. Instead, He sat by her and calmly, patiently, related to her. When I doubted God’s goodness, my pastor reminded me of the crucifixion. Look at the lengths to which God went so that I could be His child. How could I doubt His goodness towards me? What more could He do?
1 year ago, my life and outlook completely changed. My pastor approached me, knowing my story, and asked me to help lead a children’s ministry at our church. I was shocked. Had he forgotten what he knew about me? My gut reaction was to say, “you don’t want someone like me leading ministry” or to argue that past circumstances and struggles somehow disqualified me from serving. Yet, as we talked and prayed, he reminded me of my identity. Who I am, how I define myself, is not found in my past. My identity is not found in my job, relationships, or talents. My identity is found in Christ. I belong to Him and I am what He has declared me to be. I am a beloved, redeemed, child of the Most High God. When my Heavenly Father looks at me, He sees me clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, not covered in my sin and shame.
The past year of doing ministry with children has been a time of learning and growth, with more to come, I’m sure. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This verse encapsulates the past year of ministry. My passion is to work with children, and God has given me that passion. Not only did He place the desire in my heart, but as I have grown in my relationship with Him, He has provided a place for that desire to be expressed and fulfilled. Between my work as a math and science teacher, and my ministry with children, my heart is full. My cup overflows. If someone had told me 4 years ago that I would be helping lead a children’s ministry, I would have sarcastically laughed at them and told them they were cruel to suggest it. Yet, God is faithful. He uses broken vessels to showcase His power and love. When people find out that I teach or do children’s ministry, they always ask, “do you have kids?” My first thought is, “yes. I have too many to count.” My heart is full.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:10
This verse is true in so many ways. What I consider the shameful and ugly parts of my story are still God’s grace to me. Those circumstances have given me a deeper understanding of His love and grace. My current roles as teacher and children’s ministry leader are further evidence of His grace to me. The ugly caterpillar might still look like a caterpillar to some people. Yet, I have no doubt that my Heavenly Father sees a beautiful butterfly.
By the grace of God I am what I am.