Like many people with a guilt-inclined personality, accepting that the gospel is good news for me hasn’t come easy. Having grown up in the church, I knew the story, but could always think of why I might be exempt from sharing the joy of the gospel. I would worry about Jesus’ future separation between true and false believers (Matthew 25:31-46), troubled by the thought that even people who profess faith can be lost. I was haunted by the passage about the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:30-32), wondering if perhaps I could push God too far away to return to Him. Christ coming again is supposed to be the best kind of news, but I sometimes wondered for how many people it would feel that way.
Afriend opened up to me about the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy. Prompted by God to face what he had buried for decades, he courageously began to unpack tragic memories of seduction and exploitation, events that shattered his innocence and left him drowning in an ocean of shame.
The small car shook as Frank pushed down hard on the accelerator while fixing his eyes on the headlights coming toward him. Having Christlike parents who ran a counseling organization, you would think that Frank would have had the skills to navigate his way through the trials and temptations of life. But his sinful choices, including the abuse of alcohol, had taken their toll, and he resolved to silence the shame and guilt. As he prepared to pull into the lane of an oncoming truck to end his pain, however, he was suddenly stopped by the palpable presence of God.
We all have that space in the home we would rather no one see—the messy garage, the cluttered study, or maybe, like me, it’s the yard. There are few things more beautiful than a well-kept lot with lush, perfectly mowed grass, neat hedges, and precision-trimmed roses. Our property’s hedges look more like an overgrown jungle and the grass is patchy and dry. So when our pastor’s wife, Mel, offered to help plant the roses she’d given me, I panicked! I was ashamed of our yard.
I wet the bed until I was 12 years old. It’s hard to put into words the agony of those moments when I would wake up in the middle of the night and find my clothes and sheets were soaked. Ashamed, I would scurry about, trying to quietly change the sheets and my clothes—doing my best to hide the evidence. But it was found out each time, and I felt a deep sense of worthlessness, failure, and disapproval.
I sat in church with my head bowed and eyes lowered. I’ve failed God so, I thought. He must be very disappointed. Then my pastor said, “Look into Jesus’ eyes. See how He looks at you, how He sees you.” So I did. And in that moment, I wore the Samaritan woman’s shoes . . .
If the book of Judges were turned into a miniseries, we wouldn’t permit young children to view it. The book shows life in early Israel as violent, ugly, and self-serving. Villains abounded. One such bad guy was Abimelech, the son of the heroic Gideon (see Judges 9:1-5,50-56). Spoiler alert: He killed all his brothers except one and usurped power for himself. He also met an interesting demise.
I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I pray for God to grant me a good parking spot when I pick up my children from school. I wonder if I do this because, deep down, I believe that God is able to take care of only the small things of life, and little more.
Attempting a quadruple toe loop, Olympic skater Jeremy Abbott swiveled into the air and fell. He careened into the rink’s wall and lay clutching his side. Amazingly, Jeremy then stood up and resumed skating. The rest of his routine included two extremely difficult, yet well-executed maneuvers. In the end, his perseverance after a serious mistake won the crowd’s heart.
Imagine this scene. Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!
In a Downton Abbey episode, beloved housemaid Anna Bates is brutally raped. It was heart-wrenching to watch her try to keep it a secret. The head housekeeper, Mrs. Hughes, found Anna shortly after the assault—bruised, crying, and hiding in a corner. Despite the strong urgings of Mrs. Hughes, Anna told her to tell no one, not even her husband. She was not only afraid he would kill her assailant, but she also felt “dirty” and believed the attack was somehow her fault.
Although Dubai has some of the most lenient social codes in the Persian Gulf, authorities occasionally make examples of those who blatantly flout the law. During our 2-year stay in the metropolis, there were reports of Westerners who’d been sentenced to jail for kissing in public or exchanging steamy text messages.
One evening my family and I were watching an episode of the TV show Brain Games. It had a segment in which they tested the ability of people to make choices. One group went to an ice cream parlor that featured 50-60 flavors of the delicious dessert. The other group went to a shop that had only three flavors. The group who had to choose from many flavors experienced more anxiety than the group who had just a few selections. Having choices no longer liberated but debilitated.