Since my last two posts, in which I shared my story, there has been a recurring question, "Why would you share such a personal part of your past?" Trust me, I've been asking God why he has been asking me to do that for eight years! Arguing with him, debating with him, wrestling with him and yeah, pretty much ignoring him. As if he was just going to go away. Um, he has a way of winning.
But the answer is this: In our deepest pain, lies our greatest purpose. Sharing my story is the most effective way to share the transforming, saving, redemptive grace of Jesus. Friends, I wasn't coming out of the darkness had Jesus not entered in and pulled me out.
Together as a community here (gosh, I am so grateful for you), we are reading a chapter a day in Luke this December. If you've read it you will understand why Luke 15 is referred to as the "Lost Chapter." I was the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son, simultaneously.
The sheep got lost naturally, the coin accidentally and the son willfully. In each case, someone went searching for what was lost. In this chapter, Jesus underscores God's passion to seek and save the lost and He will not be diverted from this paramount activity. The scribes and Pharisees were constantly grumbling about the amount of time Jesus spent with tax collectors and sinners. Instead of appeasing them, Jesus modeled our father's number one priority: seeking and saving.
Below, is one of my favorite stories. I am not sure if it is a true story. Doesn't matter. It's still how I try to live my life, lead my family, build my ministry.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
The starfish is a universal symbol of infinite divine love. In addition to love, the starfish also symbolizes inspiration, guidance, brilliance, intuition, and vigilance. I am pretty sure it's not reasonable to believe I can touch or love all the people in the world. But I can touch or love one, or two, or maybe ninety-six (that's the number of people who read my last post - thank you all who read and shared it). Whatever the number, it starts with one.
As I was coming out of the darkness in 2011, I was blessed to have been taught, mentored and befriended by some amazing, loving, Christ-filled people. I don't think they really thought of me as a starfish they had to rescue (although some should have, because they definitely did) but I can tell you, their lesson, legacy, advice, guidance and counsel at that time, made a huge difference in my life and my new walk with Christ.
You never know when that kind word, smile, hug, time spent, advice given, heartbreak listened to, judgment not passed or word of encouragement might just be the one little gesture to make that one little difference to someone. In the starfish story, the little boy doesn't get attached to the starfish, have to have a lifelong bond or keep in touch with the starfish. He simply does what he can do and moves on to the next, and the next and the next. I am sure, with the hope that his action is what the one starfish needed at that one moment. He saved them, one by one.
I have always had an encouraging spirit. I refuse to believe anything is impossible. I most certainly would never think of myself as a victim, ever! And refuse to allow those around me to believe they are either. I have been called to share, seek, save and inspire for no other reason, than Jesus did it for me.
Most people think happiness in giving love depends heavily on getting what they need from the other person. The truth is that giving, when it’s done with pure motives, is its own reward. This sense of satisfaction doesn’t depend on how others receive your gift or service. Some people may never be content with what you do for them. Others may never feel worthy; no matter how much you encourage them or attempt to include them in your life. In risking love, you are also risking the possibility of being rejected or turned away. A person may even reject you while saying he or she loves you! But love anyway. Give anyway. Save anyway.
The goal in loving is not to evoke the response you want from another person, but to do what you believe the Lord is pleased for you to do. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God. Hebrews 13:16 Your willingness to love must never depend upon another person’s ability to give love back to you. Pure love is selfless.
And so, I guess in my way, sharing my story is a gift to you. To encourage you. To give hope to you. To model faith to you. To inspire you. And for you to trust that when I say I am dedicating my life to seek and to save, you know I have been that starfish who if left untouched, would have died. Jesus made the difference to me. He will continue to make a difference through me, one starfish at a time.