One of my best friends lives just around the corner from us. Her girls are the same ages as mine so we get together once a week to let the kids run crazy while we drink all the coffee. She’s the type of friend who I text when I’m sitting on the bathroom floor hiding from the world because it’s been one of those days. She’s the one who, when I told her I couldn’t get together that morning because one of my children was having a meltdown of epic proportions, showed up with Starbucks and watched my youngest so I could parent my other child well. She has seen me dolled up ready for a date with my husband; makeup and accessories in place. And she has seen me wearing a snot-covered t-shirt, my hair in a bun because I haven’t showered in two days. She has seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Despite all of that, despite knowing that she gets me, knows me, and somehow still likes me, despite that, I still run around like crazy every week hiding my junk. I throw dishes in the dishwasher, stash piles of mail on the dryer, and light a candle to (hopefully) cover up the garlic smell still lingering from last night’s dinner. I wipe down the bathroom with a disinfecting wipe and, if she’s really lucky, quickly sweep up the kitchen so crumbs don’t get stuck to the bottom of her feet. I tell myself that company is a good excuse to tidy up. I try to convince my heart that I really just want to give her my best. But the reality is, I don’t want her to see my mess. And I am a mess.
I don’t make friends easily. I’m not one of those women who is surrounded by deep friendships that last a lifetime. I wish I were; I struggle with envy when I see other women “clicking” in a way that just doesn’t come easily to me. For me, and I’m hoping I’m not alone in this, vulnerability is hard. It’s hard to let other people see the messy, chaotic parts of your life, let alone let them see those parts of your heart. So even though my friend already knows those things about me, I still find myself doing my best to hide them anyways. I want to look good, polished, put together. But in reality, I’m not.
I think that’s why I was so struck the other day when I came across Pauls assertion in 1 Corinthians. He’s talking about Christ appearing to people after his resurrection and says…
“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church.”
And here is what really got me…
“But by the grace of God I am what I am…”
I am what I am.
He doesn’t hide his mess. He boldly shares how he persecuted the church, and by that he means he was responsible for the death or imprisonment of many, many Christians. He puts it out there because he realizes something that I’m only just beginning to understand… God doesn’t just get glory from our “goodness” or our “holiness,” He gets glory in the process. My mess, in the hands of a holy God, turns into a beautiful portrait of His love and faithfulness. My past, my struggles, even my sin, when given to God are transformed. They are no longer accusations against me, they become sonnets of His grace. And by His grace, I am what I am.
I am loved.
I am redeemed.
I am a daughter of the High King.
I’m also insecure. And I eat too much. And I constantly battle worry and fear. But God is using those parts of me too. He’s moving in my life, shaping me into the woman He created me to be, into His image.
It’s easy, in the mundane busyness of daily life, to get bogged down in the belief that God can only use your best. It’s easy to think that the way you are now is not ready, not worthy, or not enough to be used by the Lord. But He is teaching me, over and over again it seems, that He is working in and through my story. He isn’t waiting for me to buff off the rough edges of my life and He doesn’t just get glory in the final product, He loves me now, is working in me now, and will receive glory from the very process of the work He is doing in me now. Not eventually, not hopefully one day in the future; He wants to use what I am now because I am what I am because of his grace.
God is teaching me that I don’t need to hide my mess. Instead, He is going to use my it. And He can use your mess too. Paul realized that. Slowly, I’m realizing it too.
Too many times I look for perfection in me to be my offering to God. But it’s not the heroic moments of faith I should be looking for, it’s the moment by moment surrender of a heart humbly given to Christ. I may still hide the dirty laundry when company comes over, but I am learning to trust God with my mess and rest in the knowledge that He loves all of me, now, the way I am.
“But by the grace of God I am what I am…”