Tag Archives: healing

Grace is Messy


I’ve been thinking about this blog now for some time and it’s just been a matter of sitting down to actually write it.  I am not writing this to embarrass anyone, so I’m not going to use any names.  The reason I’m writing this story is to cure you of the idea that you have to be perfect to serve the Lord.  I want you to put out of your mind once and for all the incorrect idea that missionaries or ministers or pastors are perfect.  Put that lie out of your mind once and for all.  Grace is messy.  Each of us have been and forever will be the recipients of sloppy, messy, beautiful, ugly grace from God.  Grace is about fresh starts, Happy New Year.

This past week I have spent a few days at a World Missions Summit where I reconnected with some of my best friends from around the world, other missionaries.  I was struck by a continual theme in their lives as we shared family updates and stories of our lives since we last saw each other.  I am stunned by our universal need for grace.  Our lives are sloppy.  Our details are messy.  It’s like we are all children learning how to color in the lines.  Nothing is perfect.  But Father God still takes our childish, out of bounds coloring and proudly displays it on the family fridge.  We are learning the unforced rhythms of grace.

One friend told me that their family counselor told them, “the only way we can do this is imperfectly.”  Liberating Grace!  Her teenage daughter is learning to be a mother.  My friend still aches for the mission field they left behind to nurture their daughter through a difficult season of life.  It is imperfect at best.  Grace.

With detached emotions another friend reported to us the details of a painful divorce he endured this year.  She ran off with another man.  He told us without flinching, “She just didn’t want to be married to me.”  I choked back my own emotion thinking of how much pain he was holding behind his brave face.   Walking out of the hotel at the end of the weekend, we saw him talking in the lobby with a girl he met at the convention.  Healing, renewing grace!  Fresh start.

Broken by abuse as a child, and now ministering through her scars, my dear friend has remained single when all the other girls were getting married.  Brave woman- broken girl, she kept every man at arms distance and the ones she let into her heart were as jostling, joking little brothers.  She has found powerful healing in God’s strong grace.  Now she is feeling sparks, long dormant, flying to the surface.  Her first love is back, fresh from a divorce where his wife walked out on him and the children.  This is life changing, challenging grace.  But it’s not cut and dry.  It’s a confusing and slippery second chance to love and be loved.  Tender, broken grace.

If our lives were pretty and tidy, we would not need grace.  We can speak of Grace and preach of Grace and sing Amazing Grace how sweet the sound because we WERE the wretches who were saved by it.  We once WERE lost and broken and dying of our wounds.  Now we are found, healed, and saved to live again.  Grace means we live with scars.  Grace means that Father God still loves us when our lives are imperfect and resembling King David.  Poet warrior king who was a man after God’s own heart, yet he still fell into adultery, lies and murder.  He fell and was restored again by God’s messy grace.  It’s what grace is for and why we all need it.

May your New Year be full of messy, much needed Grace.



So on his way down the mountain after preaching “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus was healing and touching the people who pressed in around him.  He was on his way to Peter’s house to have dinner with Peter’s family.  As he entered the town of Capernum, a Roman Captain came up to Jesus in a panic and said, “Master, my servant is sick.  He can’t walk.  He’s in terrible pain.”

Jesus said, “I’ll come and heal him.”

“Oh no,” said the Captain, “I don’t want to put you to all that trouble.  Just give the order and my servant will be fine.  I’m a man who takes orders and gives orders.  I tell one soldier Go and he goes; to another Come and he comes; to my slave Do This and he does it.”

Shocked and taken aback, Jesus said, “I’ve yet to come across thins kind of simple trust in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know all about God and how he works.  This man is the beginning of many outsiders who will soon be coming from all directions- streaming in from the east, pouring in from the west, sitting down at God’s Kingdom banquet alongside Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Then those who grew up ‘in the faith’ but had no faith will find themselves out in the cold, outsiders to grace and wondering what happened.”

Then Jesus turned to the Captain and said, “Go.  What you believed could happen has happened.”  At that moment his servant became well.

This is the story of a Gentile who had a surprising amount of faith.  This is a man who understood authority.  He knew how to obey commands and how to give commands.  He knew that Jesus had authority over sickness and death.  He believed that Jesus only needed to speak the words and the miracle would occur, he didn’t need to come to the house and touch the sick servant.  This man amazed Jesus with his grasp of the Spiritual Reality of Jesus’s power.

It’s been my experience that people who respect authority themselves, are in turn respected when they carry authority.  We used to tell our youth group kids, “You can’t expect anyone to respect your authority if you don’t respect the authority above YOU.”  Kids who had a hard time showing respect did not make good leaders, no matter how charismatic they were.  As a matter of fact, kids that had a hard time with earthly authority, really struggled with the concept of God’s authority.  (Perhaps the military would have been a good option for those kids to teach them how to respect authority.)

Part of respecting authority requires trusting in your leader and his power.  Is he trustworthy?  Is he powerful?  Then you can trust that he sees the big picture even when your vision is myopic.  Just like the servant doesn’t get to ask the master “why” but he just follows directions- trusting that the master has a plan- so are we to trust our Master.  Jesus is the Master of more authority than anyone on earth has ever wielded, and yet we still doubt his power to help us when we pray.  That shows that we don’t understand authority, and likely we aren’t very good at respecting the human authorities God has placed over us either.

Today, try to set aside all the other imagery about Jesus that you have accumulated in your mind.  Just for today, when you think of Jesus, I want you to focus in on the idea that he gives an order and all of creation obeys his words.  He can nod his head and heal your body.  He can look at your fear from the corner of his eye and your nightmare will flee.  This is your God.  This is the One that you can trust with your needs and petitions, the One who wields all authority both in Heaven and on Earth.  Is this image of Jesus the same as the one you’ve been carrying in your mind?  If not, then your image of Jesus isn’t big enough.  Time to expand your view of Jesus to panoramic.

“Doctor, heal thyself.”


Memorial Day in the back yard with family

I was a grown adult squeezed into a child’s school desk.  (You know, those desks with the table part attached to an arm attached to the seat?)  I pretended to examine the names carved into the desk top while I listened uncomfortably to the couple sitting next to me.  We were all there to be “debriefed” upon our reentry into America after serving as missionaries in far off countries.  The couple next to me was serving in China.  As I listened to the husband speak, I felt them shutting down and closing off and retreating into themselves.  His voice crackled with hostility, “I don’t know why we have to reconnect with our friends and family.  We’ve just going to be leaving them again once our budget is raised.  Why go through all that work if it’s just going to be temporary?”  I understood what he was saying- it’s going to hurt to say good bye all over again.  I understood.

In our missions organization, the majority of us are on a 4-year-out-1-year-home cycle.  After a while, it’s easy to forget where your home really is.  That year back in the states is mainly for fund raising for the next 4 years, but nearly everyone comes “home” beaten and battered, worn out and raw emotionally and spiritually.  And no one wants to admit it to anyone outside of our circle of co-workers.  It might look bad to our supporting churches.  We might look weak.  “Doctor, heal thyself,” we fear someone might say to us.

I saw this weakness in me, and I listened to the recommendation of the counselors in the debriefing sessions.  I knew I needed to do the work of reconnecting with my friends and family while I was back home.  But I also knew there was a painful parting up ahead.  I took the plunge anyways.  And I’m glad I did.

Backyard water fight

During our year (and a half thanks to medical issues) home I made several decisions that would guard and heal and refortify my family to let us put down roots again.  First of all, we chose to live close to our relatives (more about that in a minute).  Second of all, we chose to put our kids in the same private school that their cousins went to.  This was an out-of-pocket expense for us, but we felt it was important for our kids to be close to their cousins again.  Frankly, this turned out to be the best decision we could have made for them.  Third of all, I chose not to travel with my husband so much during this fund raising cycle.  In the past, we had traveled as a family all over the Midwest, home schooling along the way.  I decided that we would only travel on the weekends, and only if we could be home for the kids to go to school on Monday mornings. We did not travel midweek at all.  This decision meant that our kids could be involved in age appropriate activities at a home church during the week.  My son got involved in a youth group, my middle daughter joined a Bible Quiz team, and my baby girl made nursery friends at a Mom’s group on Wednesday mornings.  We put down roots, even though we knew they would be pulled up again.

In addition to these roots, I made a concerted effort to “carpe diem” every coffee date and luncheon I could arrange with my old friends.  Knowing the time was short made it all the more urgent and important to get something on the calendar with all the people I love from my past.  Knowing that I was leaving again made it all the more precious to me.  I wanted to listen to their stories of their kids growing up.  I wanted to hear about the changes that have occurred in the last 4 years in my circle of friends.  I wanted to feel a part of a group again.  In turn, they listened to some of my stories, reaffirmed their love towards me, and reconfirmed that I still have a place in their hearts.  Those were some of the healing elements that needed to be applied to my dry, thirsty soul.  My roots could once again draw up life into my soul.

Back yard fun with the cousins

The last rooting measure I took was to fortify my tap root- to reconnect with my family.  I am so glad that we chose to live close by and to get involved in their church because it meant that I saw my parents (and the kids saw their grandparents) weekly.  I remember once my dad mentioned that he was craving baklava.  I went home and whipped up a pan of the heavenly dessert.  I got in the car and drove the 10 minutes to my parents’ house to surprise my dad with a pan of baklava… just because I love him.  It was so worth it to me to live close to them so I could do the little acts of love that we had missed during the last 4 years.  To be able celebrate birthdays and holidays together, to drop in unannounced, and to sit in the back yard together was more soul-nurishing than I would have imagined when we were sitting in those desks back in the reentry debriefing session.  The counselor was right, we ALL needed this.  We all needed to put our roots back into our native soul even though it was just for a season.  We all needed to be healed.