I had been struggling with a bad case of the grumps off and on all morning. On the drive home, with our two drowsy children sitting quietly in the back, I looked over at N and smiled sheepishly. He reached over and patted my leg as I said, "Thanks for loving me in my mess."
He laughed and replied, "I always love you."
If that isn't a perfect example of how Jesus loves us, I don't know what is.
It recently occurred to me that, before these past couple years, I don't think I really understood what it meant to be fully and divinely loved in my messed up, human condition. And, not only does He love me, He delights in me, just as we delight in our small children.
Throughout the early years of getting to know Jesus, I was influenced by the Christian community around me. I went to a small, private high school in west Africa run by career missionaries and their organizations. It was difficult to not feel like an outsider if your parents weren't part of that community, no matter how involved you were as a student. And that's a hard way for a teenager to begin her walk with God.
Then I left home, flew across the Atlantic to college (again, a small, Christian school), thousands of miles away from all that was familiar. It was probably the best way for me to be introduced to America, but again, even with an incredible circle of friends, I couldn't ever fully shake the feeling of not belonging, of not being good enough to be in the metaphorical "club" of Christianity. I didn't come from the right sort of family, with the right sort of heritage, with the right sort of connections.
When N and I got married, we lived in an area that was very non-transient. People didn't move in and out of that community very much, and so most people had generations' worth of roots. We called that place "home" for nearly six years. It was where we began our life as a married couple (and then as young parents).
We never quite felt like we belonged.
This morning, our pastor said, "Year after year, our church becomes increasingly diverse, and I love that. Because heaven will be the most diverse place we've ever been, with people from all over the place, with all sorts of backgrounds. And this is good, because this is a taste of what heaven will be like."
And it dawned on me. We BELONG! Finally, we belong, just as we are, different but the same, still broken, still not fully fixed, still figuring out what it means to follow Jesus wholeheartedly in our daily mess.
There is a Japanese pottery term, kintsukuroi, which means "to repair with gold."
(And lest I lead you astray, let me clarify that I'm Korean, not Japanese.)
The pottery is deliberately broken and then put back together using liquid gold, and the results are stunningly beautiful. You still see where the fractures were, but the pieces are whole.
A few weeks ago, at my MOMS group, the speaker (one of our beloved mentor moms) spoke of how she reminds her grandchildren every time she sees them, that they are each "a beautiful, wonderful child of God." I have made a habit of asking B every night, as I cuddle with him in his almost-too-small toddler bed, "Who are you, B?"
Each night, he confidently responds, "A wonderful chy-uld of God" (notice how he adapted it, because "gurl-las are beautiful and boys are handsome").
I say, "That's right!"
Oh, but that it would be as easy for us to believe this incredible truth as it is for my three-year old!
One of the beautiful Titus 2 women in my life is Diane, who was my Bible study leader in high school and who has continued to be a welcome presence in my life, is so faithful to send me a card on my birthday and Christmas, every single year. My favorite part of receiving correspondence from Diane is that she always picks a portion of Scripture to share.
1 John 3:1 is one of the verses among the many she has shared with me over the years, but it is one that has meant much to me.
Sumptuous, rich, luxurious love.
Generous, bountiful, openhanded, unsparing, extravagant love.
Love that can not only handle my mess, all our messes, but covers them all, and invites us to be a part of the story anyway.
At our MOMS leadership celebration dinner, we were each gifted this:
And that, because we are so loved and cherished, that we are fully able to love in turn. Before our move here (with a few exceptions), I said "Yes" to ministry because I thought that's how I "earned my keep," so to speak, with Jesus' family. I felt like I was asked to serve because I worked hard not to show my cracks and fractures, because people knew me only by what was "church-acceptable."
Then, not even five months after we began attending our church, I received a phone call inviting me to be a part of the beautiful group of women who serve in the MOMS ministry. We had yet to share our news of my pregnancy with our Little Lady, but I felt it was only fair to let the leadership team know before I said, "Yes."
They laugh at me when I say this, but ... they wanted me anyway. I think they were more confident in how I would do as a leader than I was. Truth be told, that confidence gave me the inspiration to do the best job I could this year in my role, to make sure I didn't miss a single MOMS meeting (except for the week right after A was born). And you know what the funny thing is about saying "Yes" to God? It's that when we do, we are blessed in return. I love the beautiful friendships I made with the women at my table, the mentor moms, and with the other leaders.
Rhinestone Jesus, by Kristen Welch, is about just that, having the courage to say "Yes" to Jesus and watching Him work through you. It's about loving people in their mess, with hands held open, because Jesus loves us first in our mess. If you haven't picked up a copy yet, please do. I love Kristen's unabashed honesty, her willingness to say "Yes" to Jesus, even if it means being "weird" and not fitting in with the status quo. Plus, this book is about Africa, and you all know how I feel about my heart-home.
And because of that identity, I am worthy of saying "Yes" to Jesus.
*I received a free copy of Rhinestone Jesus from Kristen as a thank you for allowing her to share a small story about my involvement with The Mercy House, but all praises for her book are mine. Seriously, buy it. Read it.