BLOGS & TESTIMONIES

Father’s Day For The Fatherless

 

IMG_2567.PNGIt’s interesting, really.

When you lose something so important, so early on in life, you really aren’t sure of exactly how important that thing was supposed to be. The lack that thing just becomes what you’re used to, and you never really know what it’s like to have that thing that you’re missing. You live life, never knowing the difference between having that important thing, and not having that important thing.

In my case that ‘thing’… is my father.

I’ve personally never had to opportunity to say a ‘Happy Father’s Day to my dad. To tell him how thankful I am that he poured out love and sacrifice while he had the chance. To thank him for the blurry memories I have of him, myself and my brothers playing around in our old room back in Jersey.

Dad… even though you’re gone I think about you a lot. I think about what life would be like if you were still here. All the places you would have taken me, all the love you would have shown me and the rest of us, and all the things you would have taught me. Even the little things like working on a car, or mowing the lawn. All the football games we would have gone to see over the years.

All the birthdays. All the holidays. I think about all of that.

And normally there’s not much of a happy ending to put to all of that. Usually there’s nothing positive that can come from such a negative thing. Usually.

But Dad,

I gotta tell you something…

After you passed away, mom needed help taking care of all 7 of us. Grandma and Grandpa had just retired down south, to Orlando. So mom had to pack up and take us all down there so they could help out.

Grandma and Grandpa actually bought a house right across the road from a church called Faith Assembly. So eventually Mom put all of us through the ministries there growing up. Around middle school I actually picked up playing drums, which kept me really involved at the church playing for worship. Soon I grew up through the high school ministry there too, and after that I did the church’s youth internship program.

And Dad, this is when something new stirred inside me.

This is when I realized a purpose that I could have never imagined. Through 2 years of devoting almost all my time to ministry through that internship I realized a purpose for my life so strong and significant. So fulfilling, and when I look towards the future, immensely exciting. Dad, I’m gonna be a Pastor. I’m gonna evangelize! I’m gonna lead people to the same love and peace that I found when I needed it the most. I’m gonna continue playing drums in worship, and I’m gonna preach God’s word for the rest of my life.

Genesis 50:20

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

I lost my father when I was 4 years old and Satan would love if I would take that loss and sulk in it for the rest of my life. He’d love for me to just hold bitterness at God for letting someone so important be taken from me and never letting me know what it’s like to have that father figure there. That’s not how it worked out though. Why?

Romans 8:28

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose

IN ALL THINGS, that means even in losing a loved one, God is working for my good because there’s a love connection between myself and Him. Because of that, God used what the enemy wanted to use to hurt and destroy me, to actually build me up into a leader, a pastor, someone who loves people, someone who’s hungry for ministry and especially, a future father who is so excited to provide his future kids with something he never had.

To anyone in a similar position as me this Father’s Day, understand one thing. My story is just one example of how God can take your loss, and turn it into something so beautiful and so powerful. Not only to bring new purpose to your loss, but so much so to the point where you will then help others to bring purpose to their loss as well.

Satan intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. To accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives, through the ministry work that I’ll do on this earth, and your story doesn’t have to be any different.

Even in death, God is working for your good. You are called according to His purpose, no matter who or what you’ve had taken away from you. The enemy wants to use your loss to destroy your purpose, but God wants to use your loss to fuel your purpose.

Thanks for taking the time to read. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. To everyone celebrating a father this month, never take any life for granted.

-Jonathan

Why are you here?

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“Why are you here?”
She asked the largely female crowd
Young women from across Canada
All strong, smart, driven and proud

Why are you here?
Voices piped up and answers were loud
“I want to make change…end oppression…run for office”
All their dreams reached the air in a muffled sound

Why are you here?
A question I’m all too familiar with
A question I never know how to respond to
A question where the correct answer feels as attainable as myth

Why are you here?
I stay silent, unsure what to say
Because I’m unsure what words would be voiced
Would an honest answer be okay?

Why are you here?
In a room full of people, all diverse and different
Would they understand I’m here for my God?
Would my blind faith and trust in its guidance be sufficient?

Why are you here?
Is it okay I have no idea His lesson in this all?
Is it okay that I’m here on a gut feeling?
That sometimes it just feels better to go than to stall?

Why are you here?
It’s an answer I don’t actually voice
But internally I reassure myself
That I am here, not of my own, but His choice

Why are you here?
Why are any of us here?
Isn’t the point to trust it’s for a purpose?
Even if right now that purpose is unclear?


MEET THE AUTHOR

deighton
Deighton is a 21 year old social work student at Ryerson University in Toronto Canada. Originally from a small town in Niagara, her small town heart feels at home in coffee shops, immersed in podcasts and sharing her passion for social justice with anyone she meets. Deighton is passionate about writing, flat lay photos and always making the perfect cup of tea.

It’s Ok to Be Needy

 

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Have you ever been convinced that because of how audacious your approach has been with God, that somehow it was the same thing as being honest with Him?

I had this ah-huh moment recently concerning a prayer that I’m pretty sure I’ve prayed at least a million times. You know, it’s that prayer you offer with so much passion and fervor, and instead of it reaching heaven, it seems to hit the ceiling, bounce back, and smack you in the face?

Yes, that prayer.

You’ve tried bargaining, pleading, crying, and even giving up on this whole prayer business. And all the while you are convinced that your prayer is, well, honest. How could it not be? You’ve poured out your heart a billion times about how much this means to you, and how much you need for God to come through.

Sound familiar to any one?

As Christians, I would venture to say that we often feel like the prayers we offer place us in a game of tug of war with God. If you’ve been to any sort of summer camp than I’m sure you’ve played along at some point. There is one rope, and two teams, equally battling and competing over the same thing. Each team is strategizing, and throwing every ounce of their weight into every pull, gritting and bearing down with all their strength.

We know how the game ends. There can only be one winner. The team that gave just a little bit more to tip the scales (or rope) to their side wins.

My recent epiphany was about this subtle but powerful lie that if I told God I actually “needed” what I was asking for, that somehow this very thing would also be in competition with my need for Him…sort of like a divine game of tug of war.

I was afraid that by admitting to myself I needed something other than God that my prayer was flawed; somehow if I was gut wrenchingly honest about how I felt than that would mean I was fighting against God.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to be like Jacob and wrestle it out with God in prayer, but if we are not being honest with ourselves we are actually fighting God unnecessarily.

So, here are three questions I pose:

1. Where did we get the idea that by getting real with God about our needs that it meant we didn’t need Him?

2. When did they become mutually exclusive?

3. Didn’t God make us body, soul, and spirit with distinctive and valuable needs?

God understands that we have physical and emotional needs that do not negate our, exponentially-more-important-need for a relationship with Him.

For example, it’s like asking someone for a glass of water after going for a long run, and then thinking that because you need water your request must somehow be in competition with your need for a relationship with God.

How silly!? Clearly, they are completely different, and serve vastly different purposes and functions.

So here I was, thinking I was being honest when I prayed but I was actually attempting to make my prayers more pious, more acceptable, and less competitive in my presentation as it compared to my need for God. I thought, if I acted like I didn’t need this thing, than God would grant my request.

My prayers would go along these lines: “God, I want this, I don’t really need this, because if I told you I needed this than that would of course be kicking you off your throne, and make you less important in my life.”

This approach appears spiritual but it’s actually dishonest and rooted in fear.

The thing is, there are some things we do need, and they are on completely different playing fields than our need for God, but that doesn’t make them less of a need. It goes without saying that we need God, and NOTHING else could satiate or fill that place in our hearts.

God has shown me something about my own heart that He has clearly seen all along. I’ve been reminded yet again that He is never fooled by my religious piety but clearly sees my need, and waits for me to admit them fully and honestly to Him.

These days my prayers reflect a much more honest and understood heart. It sounds more like, “God I need you in your place–on the throne of my heart, my first and foremost desire–but I also need this other thing in it’s proper place.

We don’t have to qualify our prayers with God, we can lay our hearts open and bare before Him, confident that He knows ALL of our needs, and not one of them goes unnoticed or looked down upon by Him. He longs to fulfill the desires of our heart, and as we cultivate a love for His presence, in due time He will lavish us with the long awaited answers to our prayers.

Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.”


MEET THE AUTHOR

barb-hill
Barbara Hill is an East coast girl at heart, and after two amazing years living in Southern California has relocated to the big city of Chicago, Illinois. She is a worshipper, freedom fighter, blogger, and recently completed her masters in Biblical Counseling. Connect with her on her blog.

House of Cards

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It hit me this morning:

I’m a house of cards.

For years I have refrained from saying that I should just stand strong and not give in or something else to that effect. I thought I had learned that G-d is the only one that keeps us from falling. I thought I had learned that only Holy Spirit could give us the strength to withstand sin and trial and temptation.

While that’s true, I don’t want to get into the deep theological details. But, I will say that although He is the One truly keeping us from falling into sin- even though He is the One giving us strength, we are told that SELF-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit. We can’t do it on our own, but we cannot sit idly by and not try to withstand the Enemy’s blows.

This morning the Lord reminded me of the verse in James about a man being tossed about by the sea and taken away with the wind. It says, “But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-8) I don’t want to be that man. I have realized that every time I sin, every time I fall for it, I’m not even trying not to. Sometimes I’m like a rock and nothing can penetrate my fortress. Other times, I am tossed by the winds of life and I lie down for anything that seems too much for me.

I’m tired.

I don’t want to be a house of cards collapsing at anything and everything.

I don’t want to take months to respond to something Christ tells me instantly.

I want to be strong. Not because culture tells me men are strong or because I think that that’s what I should be. I want to be strong because my Jesus has called me to a higher standard and I want Him to know that I love Him with a love that is deeper and stronger than all my evil tendencies. I want my love for Him to penetrate my bones and heat my veins more than the cancer of my sin. He honors strength. He honors us standing on the firm foundation of who He is. It is only here that we will not be shaken. We can stand on the Rock.

Today, I am going to stand strong with everything I have. I’m going to cry out from the buoy of my ocean for my Captain to come rescue me. I’m going to stand in honor, valor, and goodness.

I want to be strong.
I want to be honorable.
I want to be reliable.
I want to be trustworthy.
I want to be vigilant.

And when I fail and inevitably get blown off that buoy, my Captain is right there ready to help me get back up.

When my house is blown over- He will replace the cards with bricks and cement with blood and He will make me stand tall and firm. I may be a house of cards right now, but I’m setting my sights on the One who can make me real.


Meet the Author

 

zachary-herrell
Zachary is 21 years old and is a current theology and counseling student at Liberty University Online. He has been married to his wife for 3 and 1/2 years and they have a 1 year old son. Zachary and his family just moved from a small town in Georgia to Portland, OR. He loves Jesus, camping, hiking, coffee, cold mornings, and sloppy wet kisses from his son.

 

Bring Your Love Up, and The Talking Down

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As I began to write this blog, many different topics came to mind. I could go on to say how great and almighty our God is or perhaps even write over how to have faith in Christ even through our storms. While both of these topics are amazingly good and always a pleasure reading, my topic is one of the not – famous topics: spreading our love through our actions, and putting away hurtful and negative words.

Listen, I’m not here to say that we all haven’t said a not – so – nice comment about that girl that always pushes your buttons at work. In reality, it’s the exact opposite. Recently I had said a negative comment about someone I knew. Honestly, it didn’t seem like such a “bad thing” at the moment and I figured, “It’s not like they’re going to find out.” However, little did I know that they would find out, and that I really didn’t have an explanation of why I said it. It slowly began to sink into my mind, and I realized that this wasn’t just a innocent gossip (as there is no such thing as an “innocent” gossip) this was actually a really hurtful thing to say. I didn’t even know where to start to apologize. To be frank, I couldn’t even believe that the comment had even came out of my mouth. With God’s (any only God’s) grace, they forgave me. However, it didn’t need to be something that happened in the first place. If I would have seeked God’s love before I began to talk, there wouldn’t have been a problem to face.

We, and I speak for myself as well, have got to quit talking negative. What if Jesus had said, “I’m not going to heal her! Didn’t you hear what she did at the market? I wouldn’t even have the guts to come back outside if I was her”. Jesus wasn’t like this at all. Instead he poured his love out to everyone he saw, and get this, he even healed the SINNERS. This is most definitely not going to be an easy task to overcome, but it’s something we all must do. Instead, of pointing out someone’s flaws, we should try to pray for them. If you see someone sinning, instead of gossiping about them to the next person you see, you should pray for them. You should fill them with God’s unconditional love. You will never know what is going on in their life. Even if they look fine on the outside, they might be falling apart on the inside. You never know what one encouraging word can do to a person’s heart.

Ephesians 4:29 English Standard Version (ESV) 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.


MEET THE AUTHOR

christian-bush
Christian is a 14 year old girl that was born and raised in a small town. Her hobbies include painting, writing essays and blogs, and singing. She wants to become a contemporary christian singer, and draw closer to God everyday.

The One

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By reading the title of this blog, you may be thinking that this is going to be some sappy love post about finding your soulmate. To your relief (or disappointment), this is not what I am referring to.

Have you ever met someone who desperately needs Jesus? Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs Jesus whether they know it or not. But maybe you know someone specific who is going through a tough time or perhaps has all this bottled-up potential and talent on the inside, and you know that if they would just surrender it all to Jesus, they would be better off. As a Christian, sometimes in these situations it may feel like you are surrounded by sick people and you are the only one holding the antidote that can cure them all. While there is some truth to this, I know firsthand that there is a difference between wanting the lost to find their savior and wanting to receive the credit for helping the lost find their savior. And if I’m being frank, there have been times where I wanted the title of “savior.”

For a couple of years, there was one person who would be at the top of my prayer list. I felt like God had given me a burden for them and a desire to spiritually intercede on their behalf. I even thought to myself, “Well if I don’t intercede for them, no one will.” What seemed like a noble thought at first quickly turned prideful as I began to assume that no one else was praying for them and that this burden was only mine to carry. At that point, I stopped caring if anyone else was praying for them because I wanted to see them return to Jesus thanks to my prayers. By the way, isn’t it just crazy how the devil can twist something good like praying for others into a personal weapon of destruction?

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

I fell hard. Turns out “the one” I had been focused on ended up rejecting my efforts. They pushed me away. I realized my obsession led me to miss out on opportunities to show the love of Christ to others who may have been more receptive. It was a much needed wake-up call though. As God helped me back onto my feet, I was reminded that Jesus was the one who died on the cross for everyone’s sins, not me. He is the way, the truth, and the life, not me. His name saves, not mine (John 3:16; John 14:6; Romans 10:9). It is not my job to save people; it is my job to point people to the one who does.

Now, I don’t regret praying or interceding for this person. God is not man who should lie and I believe the burden I felt was real. God is also faithful and I have faith that he heard my prayers and that this person will find their way back to Jesus.

So if you have that one person you always pray for, by all means keep praying. But don’t think it is your responsibility to force the sinner’s prayer out of them. If I’ve learned anything through this, it’s that salvation is a personal choice. You can’t buy it for someone and you can’t convince them. It’s an intimate conviction between that person and God. Release the stress, keep the faith, show love, and let God handle the rest.


MEET THE AUTHOR

adrienne delhoyo
Adrienne Del Hoyo is an Orlando-native, fellow UCF Knight, and self-proclaimed band geek. She currently plays clarinet for Faith Worship Arts at Faith Assembly. She is a solid believer in the power of words and using them to encourage others. Adrienne loves metaphors, trivia, and anything that has glitter.

Practice, Not Perfect

Between fourth and eighth grade I was part of my school’s fiddle club. Why we had a fiddle club I will never know, and why I wanted to join is also a mystery. I am the least musically inclined person I know, and as the daughter of a former DJ, I’m able to highly appreciate the talent of those who are actually musically gifted. Either way, I spent four years with this instrument and was a good player, but never a great player. Why? Beyond natural talent, there was a huge deciding factor in this: I never practiced. After the couple hours spent after school was done, I was take the rented fiddle home and instead of playing it and practicing what I had learned like I was supposed to, I put it in its case and let it sit under my bed until the next week.

I’ve used this method of avoidance in pretty much everything I’ve ever tried to do – Irish dancing for eight years resulted in very lazy forms and steps, my shot for archery was enough to get by after six years but didn’t wow anyone, I made it through knitting one scarf and then hung up my needles forever, and I could never quite hit that toe touch after two years of varsity cheerleading, Call it lazy, a lack of drive or being severely uncoordinated, but my practice was never there, so I could never reach the perfect. The saying coaches and teachers always use, that “practice makes perfect” never encouraged me and, if anything, acted as my personal method of defiance.

When it comes to my faith, I’ve suffered this same mentality. Except, instead of “practice makes perfect”, I’ve come to realize that no matter how much I practice I will never be perfect. None of us are perfect, no matter how much we practice, and I think that’s a hard reality for many in their faith journey. I mean, I know if I had actually practiced I probably could have been a great cheerleader and knitter. I know success and perfection were always a possibility. So how can we accept the reality that no matter how much we practice our faith, that no matter how many endless hours we dedicate to God or prayer or servanthood, that we will always fall short?

I actually find this really liberating and freeing and I’ll tell you why. In every other area of our life there are expectations and standards to uphold – there’s an invisible mark we must reach and maintain in order to be seen as good or worthy or valuable. God does not work this way. He rejoices in our practice and mourns in our avoidance but loves us just the same. He doesn’t care that my prayers are simple or that I suffer from human temptation – He only cares for us.

Instead of being disappointed that your practice will never make you perfect, I think we should all be thankful for the opportunity to practice. We have been gifted the beautiful opportunity to try, to have access to the opportunity to grow, without the expectation or fear of failure. Go ahead – try a new form of worship, journal horribly, sing out of key – and know that, to God, it is all perfect.


MEET THE AUTHOR

deighton
Deighton is a 21 year old social work student at Ryerson University in Toronto Canada. Originally from a small town in Niagara, her small town heart feels at home in coffee shops, immersed in podcasts and sharing her passion for social justice with anyone she meets. Deighton is passionate about writing, flat lay photos and always making the perfect cup of tea.

Freckles

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As a resident of Central Florida, sun exposure is second nature to me. I don’t lather on sunscreen to walk out to the mailbox on a 70° “winter” day. I don’t wear baseball caps to the beach or even simple trips downtown. I have had squint wrinkles in the corners of my eyes since birth. Yet, recently I have began to notice a new form of sun exposure: freckles.

While doing my makeup for church one morning I noticed three new freckles – ironically in the shape of a sideways Mickey Mouse – across my cheek. First, I was alarmed: calling for my mom and WebMDing the possible causes. Second, when the freckles were still visible even after a another coat of foundation, I was appalled. As someone who often struggles with self image, I immediately began to degrade myself for the new dark spots along my face and forearms. I instantly hated the blemishes I had obtained because they made me feel unworthy. I tried to connect my scarlet stains of my mistakes to the speckles on my skin. As if my sins were pouring from the inside out, my character felt compromised due to exposure.

I began to realize that something inside my of soul wasn’t right. Something was causing me to doubt my desirability and grow in insecurity. Something that caused me to stand in front of my mirror and believe the lie that I am not worthy, that my vulnerability has caused ill repute, that I will be disgraced for the sins that scar my face. Yet, I am reminded that it states in Genesis 1:27 that “God created mankind in His own image (NIV).” I am reminded in 1 Peter 3:3-4 that “3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” I began to realize that maybe my obsession with the flaws caused by sun exposure was in direct correlation to a lack of time spent with the Son of God. I realized that rather than worrying about the negativities of my appearance, I should be grateful that I serve a King that not only knows about the recent coming of these freckles, but was the One that created the pigmentation to rise to the surface of my skin in the way that it did. I realized that it was time to draw closer to the One who died so that my worth would not be defined by my transgressions.

My friends, I pray that when you are faced with peaked insecurity and fear that you will run to the One who has created you. I pray that you will find comfort in the fact that you are considered beautiful in the eyes of your First Love. Finally, I pray that you will continue to look for beauty in God’s greatness, even when your own reflection becomes your enemy.


MEET THE AUTHOR

hannah larson
Hannah Larson is sixteen-years-old and a high school student at an arts school in Lakeland, Florida. Larson is a Fine Arts participant and a passionate worshiper that loves all things writing, pizza, Disney, and elephants.

Putting on the Light of Christ

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“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our Salvation is nearer than when we first believed.  The night is far spent, the day is at hand.  Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.  But put on The Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”  ~Romans 14:11-14 (NKJV).

I think that what this passage is trying to tell us is the fact that it is, “high time to awake out of sleep”; because now is the time to repent and come back to The Lord Christ for our Salvation is at hand.  We need to stop all of our old ways and rededicate ourselves and our lives back to Him before anything else gets much worse than it already is.  He wants to change the way that things already are for the good and not for the bad; especially since it’s a brand new year so ultimately it’s the perfect time to make all things new.  It’s a blank slate and it’s up to us to start writing a new book with many new chapters taking place in our lives at this very moment for The Lord and not for our own selfish desires.  This sounds pretty harsh, but it’s honestly not.  Yes, the truth does hurt, but it will also set you free.

God wants us to stop living the lies of our dark past and come back into His delightful light.  Who knows, we could be the light in someone else’s darkness.  We are here to help and to encourage others out of their unfortunate circumstances and situations.  God wants those who are down on their luck to know that their lives don’t have to be like this anymore and that their precious lives matter to someone like you to Him.  The Lord doesn’t care how bad our past was or still is.  He loves each of you so much and He doesn’t want to see you hurting any longer; He wants all of this pain and hurt to disappear as soon as possible; He needs you to know that life is way too short to be living this way day in and day out.  You need to be happy and to do more of what you love on a daily basis.  He loves to see all of His children happy, even me.  It is not always easy, but it is so worth it; you just need to be brave and to take that first step of faith and He will take care of the rest.

God gave you some amazing gifts and talents and why do you think that is? It is because The Lord wants you to use your gifts and talents that He has blessed you with to help Him with the furthering of His Kingdom! That’s pretty profound, don’t you think? I sure think so.  The whole point of this God thing is to give back to The Lord what He first gave you before you were even born.  He’s no fool, He knows exactly what He’s doing and why He’s doing it before you do.  It may not make sense to you at the moment, but I can guarantee you this: If you keep fasting and praying about these things, He will reveal to you what these certain gifts and talents mean.  As soon as you understand these things, that will be when He will tell you specifically how to use them and what to do with them to help Him to continue to grow and expand His glorious Kingdom.  Don’t ask questions, just be willing to go and do them.  I promise that whatever it is that He needs you to do for Him, it will be great and so worth it in the end.  If it is truly God’s will, then you’ll be awesome at it.  Let me leave you with this; please don’t give up and keep on going no matter what.  We need to pray through it and He will already be right there next to you holding your hand, and guiding you through it all.  Amen? God Bless!

 

~With Love and in Christ,

Emily


MEET THE AUTHOR

 

emily-pica
Emily Pica is 29 years old and was raised ins Massachusetts, currently living in Melrose, Mass. She loves to read, write, sing with her praise band at Church. She loves animals, is very into drawing (as well as Adult Coloring), and she loves her job at the Michael’s Arts and Crafts store as a Sales Associate.

Shattered Self-Perception

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I’ve always had confidence that I’m a pretty good friend. Not to toot my own horn, but I give amazing Christmas gifts, I’m a great listener, and I have no qualms about sharing my food with you. I’ve also managed to be friends with some pretty incredible people, so they must hang around me for some reason, right? I must have something to offer them. I returned to college after a semester abroad, overflowing with joy and love for friends I hadn’t seen in six months. We all hugged for ages, had two-hour long lunches catching up on our lives, and they all said how glad they were to have me back. I felt so appreciated and loved. I thanked God for them. I assumed they were thanking God for me.

Then one day, a little nasty thought crept in along with all the nice ones. My inner independent diva rolled her eyes when my roommate just had to know where I was when I was out of the room for a couple hours. Another friend didn’t seem to have matured very much while I was away. I would notice these things, thank God for how much growth and character he’d supplied me in my time abroad, and move on. Then one day, one terrible thought after another piled up and the realization hit me at once:

*I could say something to every person I love that would make them hate me.*

Suddenly, my perception of myself shattered. I’m not a good friend after all. I’m a *nice* friend. I can say all the right things to make the people in my life feel loved and valued, but when you get all the way down to my heart, I’m not loving or humble or kind. I’m judgmental. I’m proud. I make assumptions and harbor bitterness. At any given moment, I have several resentments, biting remarks, or thoughtless comments floating around in my head that, were I to give voice to them all, could drive my friends and family in every direction, hurt and angry at my selflessness.

This revelation caused me to spiral for a few minutes as I panicked, lamenting at the idea that I was secretly the worst friend in the world. I’m not kidding. I started to question all my friendships. *At any moment, I have the potential to hurt them. If they knew what I really thought half the time, they’d hate me. Wouldn’t they? Am I just lying to them all the time?* Now I would have to keep up the ‘good friend’ charade in spite of this knowledge, replacing my horrible inner monologue with kind and supportive words, which would mean on top of all my other shortcomings, I was now deceiving my loved ones by pretending to be someone I wasn’t. The image of myself as a real life Dr. Jekyll was hurtling to the forefront of my imagination when the calm reassurance of the Holy Spirit filtered in.

I’m not the first person to think or feel negatively toward the people I love. Everyone has moments of resentment, judgment, or selfishness. Did that mean everyone else was also walking around thinking horrible things about me all the time? Maybe. *That’s a bit frightening. But at least we’re all equally terrible?* It wasn’t much, but at least it leveled the playing field. As I continued to mull over this and the frantic voices of my fears ran out of steam, I could more clearly hear the Lord’s voice, and eventually the truth rang through.

*Grace.*

His grace was covering me. All my nasty, selfish, fleshly human thoughts. My sinful, prideful heart. It was shrouded by His grace, and all condemnation vanished. I wasn’t terrible. What a relief.

I’m a sinner, but my interactions with people don’t have to be defined by that inward sin. All my broken, earthly relationships still have the potential for complete love and truth because of God’s grace for me. It hit me that it must take something to keep all of us from drowning each other in unkindness and discord every day, and that something is grace. God has supplied us with His grace not only to cover our own sins, but to give to each other. It keeps us from heaping our judgments and accusations on everyone around us. It knits us together and makes His love, not our sin, the center of our relationships. What a gift!

If you’re a secret terrible friend like me, it’s okay. You don’t have to be. That’s the great thing about grace. It’s active, and its redemptive power is contagious. When we start to accept Christ’s gift of grace and let it redeem us, the dirty sludge of pride and judgment that’s rotting at the bottom of our hearts starts to be washed away. When I see myself as redeemed, I start to see others that way as well. I’m a sinner. So are they. I’m covered and renewed by grace. They are too.

Suddenly, I’m not seeing their mess. I’m seeing their Maker. The same one who made me and is supplying me with new grace and mercies every morning, to cover me and propel me into His will.

And you know what? I’m pretty lucky to have Him as my friend.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~Romans 12:2


MEET THE AUTHOR

abigail-erdelatz
Abigail is 20 year old, currently pursuing a degree in Theater with a minor in English from Gordon College in Wenham, MA. Her life as a military kid has taken her all over the world, so she’s become very familiar with the inner workings of airports. She loves travel, photography, ramen, getting lost in the woods, poetry, film scores, large cups of tea, seeing good theater, and occasionally, trapeze flying.