There is an old saying that comes to my mind quite often and perhaps it comes to yours as well?
'If you could walk in my shoes'
So what would it be like if you could walk in my shoes? What would it be like if we could walk in the shoes of those we reject, those we call ungodly, heretical, the un-churched, or less than?
After 15 years in what my husband calls a 'Nazi Baptist' church, God began showing us what it was like...to walk in the shoes of those the Churched think is less than. Those people they think they want to reach, but who measure them up to the Law and expect 'righteous' living from..the very people they think are 'heathens'. I began looking at these people differently..it was as if I was outside of myself, looking at my thoughts and looking at how I viewed those 'heathens', from an outside perspective. It grieved me horribly. How could I have become such a narrow minded person when I claimed that Christ is my Savior?
He began tenderly showing me that He didn't view people the same way I did. He began to show me my life as if I was Ebenezer Scrooge. He walked me through my pre-church life, reminding me of the time when he protected me from getting arrested in my immature drinking years, He reminded me of when He was there with me as I prayed over the white porcelain..begging for my life as I felt alcohol poisoning plaguing my body. He reminded me of the day He made Himself so obvious in my life that I could no longer deny the very real presence of Him..in me. He lovingly reminded me that He never looked at me, the way I looked at others.
He brought me through to the present and showed me the love He has for me and those I thought were less than, the un-churched 'heathens', He allowed me to feel..but something I had not felt before..not like this. It was as if He allowed me to feel what He feels..when people are looked at..the way I had looked at them. Deep down in my soul, deeper than what my physical body could feel, there was a pain ...a deep pain and sadness..it was compassion in a way I never imagined.
He then showed me a future. It was two futures...two futures that could be what I would become. If I continued on the path I was on, I would become so full of hate, that my own family would part from me, and those that He has compassion on would not want what I had..He whispered to me..
"They should want what you have..they should want Me...in you..through you..but the road you are on is not where I am. I am with you, but not living through you, as I could. The disconnection you will have on that road will not be the persecution I told you of. When you and I walk together, the persecution you will have does not come from being a Pharisee on the war path to obliterate sin from people. I already took care of sin. But you walk as if I haven't,..as if it's your job to handle sin..it was never your yoke to bear."
He showed me the other future. He walked me through the very lives of those I thought were un-churched, those I thought were less than, those I thought I was to remind them of their sin. He walked me through their darkest days and allowed me to watch Him work through me, as He..through me..kneeled down to offer my(His) hand to a homeless man and walk him into a restaurant and buy him a meal..but more than that..I(He) stayed with the man while he ate and he shared with me his heartaches..and Christ through me offered Living Water..by offering hope, love, mercy, and grace. I could feel that deep compassion again as I watched..as if I was on the outside looking in..in..at the miracle He was performing in that man's life,...through me. The man began to cry..then weep deeply, as Christ through me told him how much Father loves him, just as he was..that he didn't need to change to be loved and accepted, that Christ already loved him and accepted him as is..long before he was ever born.
I then said good bye to the man and as I left the restaurant I looked through the window..and Jesus was there with Him, sitting in the booth, having sweet fellowship with him..and at the same time I saw His reflection in the window, standing with me. As I turned to see His face, He said these words,
"I am the Living Water and I flow through vessels who yield. Will you yield?"
Tears welled up in my eyes and my throat swelled so tight I could barely breathe..I couldn't speak, but my mind asked, "How? How do I yield, Lord?"
He then asked me to walk further with Him. I followed. We came upon an alley way where five college aged guys in black slacks, white shirts, and ties were chasing someone, yelling hateful words about sin and judgment. I looked at Jesus and tears streamed down His face. There in the alley, the five guys caught the person and were kicking and punching while quoting verses about sin and judgment. I watched again, as if from the outside looking in, as I saw myself run to see who it was they were attacking. At first glance I thought it was a woman. I saw a pink skirt, white blouse and stringed pearls around the neckline. Upon closer inspection I saw a feminine face of a man. These five guys were screaming in disgust, spit was flying as they vehemently hollered that this man was a sinner...then they said something that cut me to the core.. "God hates you!"
I screamed out as loudly as I could, "Nooooooo!" and I threw myself down upon his beaten body as they kept kicking him. Blow after blow, I could feel the penetrating kicks wreak havoc on my ribs. My tears streamed down my face and washed the bloody wounds in this man's brow as I whispered to him, "God doesn't hate you, He loves you..and He is here with you now. He knows your pain. He loves you as you are and has deeply loved you since before you were born, knowing full well this day would come."
The men grew tired and eventually stopped, not even realizing I was there. Their hate had consumed them so intensely. It was as if they didn't even see me. They only gazed in anger at this man in the pink skirt, and bloodied white blouse, his stringed pearls now broke and scattered in the alley. The men walked away and left us there together, sitting on the rocky pavement, blood stained clothes and tears streamed faces. He looked at me and asked if it were true..about God..hating him like those men had dictated.
Quietly I whispered, "Oh no my dear, they are wrong. God loves you so deeply. God already knew this day would come. He knew full well the path you would walk and knowing all this, He still loves you so much that He willingly came to earth as the Son, to die and resurrect, so you could have life and life more abundantly." This man sobbed uncontrollably and I held him in my arms and cried with him. He thanked me for coming to his side and we both stood to our feet, smiled and parted ways. As I looked down in to the puddle that was next to me, I saw the face of Christ, not my own. Down the alley where I really stood, watching this whole scenario take place, I looked on as I saw Jesus walking with the man. The man, although filthy with mud and blood stains on his white blouse, he smiled. He was communing with Christ.
That day, that very miraculous day, those men had very real encounters with our Living Christ, through me. Now, in present time again, Jesus spoke to me...."Which road do you want to walk down?" I was hesitant as I struggled with my idea of being 'right'..and He knew my thoughts. He turned my eyes over to see those five men walking away..one of them turned his head and his face...was my own...filled with hate and disgust. I cried so deeply I thought I would die at that very moment. That is the road I am on..to become like them..so filled with my own rightness of what I thought was God's way.
But this other road that takes me down the path of persecution with the man in the skirt and the homeless man, leads to a life that is abundant with love. A life filled with compassion, where others want what I have. It's where others want WHO I have. I will get to share Him with them in such a way that they will be thrilled to know Him. Or I could walk the path that leads me to hate, a life that seems to be controlled, but lacks compassion. It lacks the very spontaneous, authentic, compassionate, abundant life of Christ. So the question is for me to answer.. "Will I yield? and how do I yield?"
My heart took a shift quick turn, towards compassion. What was it that changed in me? How did my hardened self-righteous judgmental heart change? He showed me the depths of darkness and pain in the lives of those men and what I felt whelming up in me was Him..The Living Water..flowing from deep places in my heart. That is what I want...and I know what comes with it..persecution for showing love toward those that the overzealous religions want to condemn. Like when the 'white man' protected the 'black' men and the Indians. When we walk the life filled with compassion for others, we will be persecuted. We will be persecuted, because it is Christ in us that loves these people so immensely and it is Christ in us that is persecuted.
Jesus didn't just turn the tables over in anger about the synagogue becoming a den of thieves for monetary gain, He turned the tables to show them He was here to overturn the mentality of the religious. It wasn't me that changed me..it was nothing I did to have my mind change, to have my heart heal, it was all Him. He did it all..I just get to watch, from the outside looking in, and now on the inside looking out. The world looks much different now. It's not us who can change our own hearts and it's not us who can change others. We're just asked to love God and love others. Let Him do the rest...in you and through you.
Shedding religion, to fall deeper in love with Jesus. When you fall deeper in love with Jesus, you fall deeper in love with people.