The Fear of Man

Indiana University, 1998redstepper1998

Women were born to help, nurture, love, and encourage.  While these are great Godly qualities, the enemy does all he can to add large doses of fear to a girl’s innate assets.  The end result of this addition is a disease that almost every woman must fight: people pleasing. 

Hi.  I’m Julie.  I am a people pleaser.

I want everyone around me to be 100% happy 100% of the time (realistic, aren’t I?).  When I think someone is upset with me, regardless of the reason or if I am innocent of any perceived wrongdoing, I hate it.  As in, I can’t sleep, I constantly think about the matter, and I break my neck to fix it.  In the past when conflicts have arisen, I have admitted fault knowing full well that I was essentially blameless.  It was better to lie and apologize (and that’s what it was… lying) than for the fight to continue.  If someone even looks at me with disapproval or disappointment, panic bursts in my belly.  I have a hard time drawing and keeping boundaries because I’m anxious about even the potential of upsetting someone I love.  Even if my schedule is completely full, it’s hard for me to say no when someone asks for help or wants my services.  Sometimes, I serve folks not out of a holy motivation of love, but out of an unholy desire for someone to “like me more”. (Do you see how that subtle yet powerful difference makes even a good deed selfish?  I served for me and my validation, not for them.)  When my boss calls me into his office, my first reaction is usually fear.  My internal monologue sounds something like, “Uh oh, he’s mad.  What did I do wrong?”  These thoughts come even if I’ve been doing great work!  Meetings with any authority figure freak me out.  I am compelled to give the “right answer” and hate to ruffle feathers. 

It’s not fun to admit all these things.  Shew, when I write it all out like this, I see what a mess I am!  My desire to please others can, if I am not careful, direct my entire life.  This is wrong.  It is God that should be calling shots.  I cannot please man and God at the same time.  I just can’t! 

A great Biblical example of a people pleaser was Saul.  When the prophet Samuel anointed Saul as king of Israel, he looked the part.  The Bible says that Saul was tall and very handsome (1 Samuel 9:1).  Because he was so good looking, he probably got used to hearing the praises and adoration of others.   The Bible shows us that he cared more about what the people thought of him than about obeying the Lord.  Saul’s ultimate downfall came when the Lord commanded Saul to destroy the Amalekites and to keep none of the plunder.  God asked this of Saul because the Amalekites had tried to destroy Israel without provocation as they traveled in the desert after the Exodus.  After the Amalekites’ initial defeat in the desert, God promised Moses that He would “blot out the memory of every Amalek under heaven”.  (Exodus 17:14)  The Lord was trying keep His promise to Moses through Saul, Israel’s king.  However, after Saul defeated the Amalekites, he did not carry out the Lord’s orders as instructed.  Instead, Saul spared the Amalekite’s king, Agag, and succumbed to the people’s wishes by letting them keep the best of the livestock.  Because Saul disobeyed the Lord and listened to the people, God chose to give his kingdom to David.  In addition to these short term consequences, king Saul’s disobedience spelled almost certain disaster for the Jews centuries later.  A decedent of Agag, Haman, led the plot to kill all of Israel during Babylonian rule.  The Lord was faithful to rescue Israel through Queen Esther’s brave obedience, but all the suffering and worry could have been prevented if Saul would have fulfilled the Lord’s command years earlier!

Do you see that if we work to please people we cannot please God?  What’s worse is that we can, in our desperate and often times cowardly desire to please others instead of Jesus, thwart the purposes and plans of God in our life and in the lives of others.  What a wakeup call!

The first time I went against my mother’s wishes to do what the Lord called me to do, I was in my mid-twenties, and I was terrified.  I felt led to attend a different church.  My mother loved that I went to the service with her, and I knew the switch would not be well received.  God wouldn’t let me wimp out by avoiding the situation or by sending an immature email, but instead He insisted that I act like an adult and tell her of my plans to change churches face to face.  I sat on my parents’ back porch in a plastic white lawn chair and stared trembling into my mother’s disapproving eyes.  As I communicated my intentions, she reacted exactly as I knew she would.  Mom was angry and hurt that I would consider going somewhere else without her.  It took all my reserves and Jesus’s strength to not cave in to her wishes and to say plainly and openly, “I want to do God’s will, not yours.” 

About a year later, the Lord called me back to my childhood church.  While I was away, Jesus grew my faith.  I learned much about life in ministry.  These were great fruits gleaned from a hard decision.  However, I believe the main reason Jesus asked me to leave in the first place was to test me to see who I would obey- man or God.  I’m glad I passed.

The Lord wasn’t finished testing me the area of people pleasing though.  This time when the trial came, it wasn’t one person I had to stand against.  It was ten thousand.

When I was younger, I was a pretty girl.  I was a dancer, had a cute little figure, and people complimented me frequently on my looks. The compliments felt life giving, and I blossomed under the praise.  Slowly, I began to be prideful about my appearance.  I enjoyed it when guys watched me walk down the hall at school.  While my mother never let me get entirely out of hand with my wardrobe, I sometimes chose things that were too tight, short, or clingy to get even more attention from the opposite sex.  I had so many clothes that at one point my friends dared me to try and go an entire quarter without wearing the same thing twice.  I succeeded.  I loved makeup, shoes, and dressing up.  In college, I was on an Indiana University dance team called Redsteppers.  One of the prerequisites to be on the team was not only dance ability, but also attractiveness.  During home games, I used to smile with shy satisfaction when my dance team would enter the stadium.  Boisterous boys in the home crowd would clap, whistle, and yell, “Red-Step-ERS!  Red-Step-ERS!”  Not unpredictably, over time I began to believe that my value was somehow linked to my physical appearance.  Everything in America’s culture reaffirmed the lie. 

During all those years I spent countless hours shopping, primping, and looking into the mirror, I gave little or no thought to developing Godly character and integrity.  When I gave Jesus Lordship over my life however, He would not let this wrong focus and arrogance continue.  God does not look at the outward appearance, but at the heart!  (1 Samuel 16:7) 

After I got married and had my daughter, I began to struggle with my weight.  After the birth of my son, I lost the battle completely.  As the pounds came, I prayed, cried, and continually asked God to help me lose weight.  I tried every diet.  While I had some temporary successes, nothing worked over the long haul.  Finally, the Lord unexpectantly answered my prayers for help through a Godly woman during a woman’s Bible study.  His response was, “I will not help you right now, Julie.”  Not the answer I was hoping for, but I knew why the Lord gave me a temporary no.  Because of Bible reading I was self aware enough to know that Jesus needed to humble me in this area, and He also wanted to show me that true eternal value had absolutely nothing to do with hairstyle, lipstick color, or dress size.  Scriptures I read taught me that physical beauty was vain and fleeting , but a woman who feared the Lord and of noble character was more precious than rubies or gold.  (Proverbs 31).  Unlike the shallow compliments I had received in my youth, women of Godly character would get deserved honor and praise in this life and in the next.  As I walked with God, I was changed from the inside out.  Jesus frequently whispered in low moments that I was more beautiful now than I had ever been. 

You would think that after I had learned all this truth, man’s opinion wouldn’t matter.  But it did!  I still cared what others thought about me and was addicted to their approval!  People were kinder to me as a thin person.  I found that the curvier I got, the less eye contact I got in public.  Instead of being noticed by strangers, I felt like others saw right through me. 

I’m glad I serve a God that sees us all! Amen?

One day in the summer of 2012, I was perusing my email’s inbox when I noticed a message from the Indiana University’s Redsteppers.  Upon reading, I learned that there was to be a 40th anniversary performance in the fall at a Hoosier football game, and all team alumni were invited.  I didn’t even give a second thought to the invitation.  I would never go.  Who would want to see a chubby gal dancing on the sidelines?  While seeing my old friends would be fun, it would not be worth the humiliation.  No.  NO THANK YOU! 

A few days later, I was driving down the interstate singing praise songs when the Lord jolted me out of making more joyful noises with thoughts of the Redstepper’s 40th anniversary. 

Patiently He inquired, “Did You ask me if I wanted you to go?” 

“Well, no, Lord,” I conceded.  Uh oh.  This didn’t seem like it was going to end well.

“I want you to go.” 

“But Lord!  It would be so embarrassing!  I would rather die!”

“I want you to go. I want you to be a living sacrifice for Me.” (Romans 12:1)

“But….”

“If you want your prayers for your neighbor to be answered, you must obey.  Whose opinion is more important?  Mine or man’s?”

“Yours,” I sighed in surrender.  “Okay, I’ll go.  I’ll go for You.  I’ll go for my neighbor.” I blushed at the mere thought of prancing about in front of thousands of fans on game day.  This was going to take all I had to carry out the promise I had just made.

God did not give me time to back out.  Less than one minute after I made the promise, my cell phone rang.  I looked at the caller ID and rolled my eyes not even surprised.  Of course it was Alexis, my Redstepper friend.  Alexis lived in Maine, and I hadn’t spoken to her in literally a year.  I knew she was calling to see if I would be going to the 40th anniversary game. 

“Hello?” I answered.

“Hi Julie!  It’s Lexi!  I was wondering if you were going to the football game?”

“Yeah I’ll be there!” I said with feigned enthusiasm. 

After we chatted awhile, I hung up the phone and groaned.  She was going to book a flight to Indiana now that I had said I was going.  I couldn’t change my mind.  “Well played, Jesus,” I thought.  “Well played.”

In the months leading up to performance day, I learned the routine by watching a video online.  My body remembered how to high kick and move.  I still loved to dance!  However, the day my shirt size was emailed to the entire group, my stomach dropped and a dark blush colored my face.  Obviously, the email wasn’t meant to shame me.  Organizers simply wanted dancers to confirm orders.  However, my size “L” stuck out like a sore thumb among a long list of mediums and smalls.  The worst part was knowing that this small embarrassment was only a precursor to the humiliation of actual game day.   

Love is an action word. Faith without works is dead (James 2:20)!  God had never asked this much of me before, but I was determined to obey.  I would show Jesus how much I loved Him by doing this thing.  I would have obeyed for no person on earth. 

Game day came.  I drove to my university campus with butterflies and arrived at the practice field with great trepidation.  Alexis was there and we caught up in between our old coach’s 8 counts and directives.  Throughout the day, I smiled and made polite small talk.  I faced over 10,000 fans in the fall sunshine and performed my turns and kicks without error.  I held Alexis’s new baby.  I cheered with the fans and with my supportive family after my half time routine.  Predictably, the Hoosiers lost the game, but I won the war.  In short, I ground my teeth and powered through

Why did God want me at that game so badly?  I can guess that it was for a couple of reasons.  First of all, everyone on my Redstepper team knew how I got married: I had only known my then boyfriend now husband for a couple of months, we got hitched in the courthouse against my parents’ wishes, I dropped out of the dance team and out of college entirely, etc.   Nobody, and I mean nobody expected Jason and I to still be together.  Even less predicted that I would finish school.  The fact that my marriage was still going and that I had graduated was a witness to the redeeming power of Jesus.  I got to tell other dancers about my faith.  Secondly, God asked me to go for my neighbor, “Amy”.  After I had obeyed, the Lord honored this one act of obedience and began to hear my prayers for her salvation.  I will write more about this in the next story.

 While everyone was kind that day on the football field and no one said a negative word, I could still sense their disapproval at my fuller frame.  The miracle is not as spectacular as some of the others I have described, but no less important.  It is this: I lived through their disapproving stares and negative judgments with God’s strength and presence.  I proved to myself and most importantly to Jesus that I would obey Him even at great personal cost to my own ego and need to please.  His will was more important than man’s opinion.  I wasn’t like Saul that day at IU.  I was a David- a woman after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). 

redstepper2012 I am on the back row, forth one from the left.

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Beloved

My life verse is:

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 emphasis added)

Abiding denotes a relationship. If you live together, you know each other. I want to know my Savior. It has been my experience that prayer, like nothing else, allows me to know Him. In prayer, I can, by the power of the Spirit (the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead), think and feel what God thinks and feels. Look at these verses to see this amazing promised confirmed in scripture:

1 Corinthians 2:9-16 says:
However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ
.”

I can humbly yet resolutely confirm that God’s mind directs my thoughts and even my feelings. One Sunday quite a few years ago, for example, I was praying during communion when I began to think of my sister-in-law out of the blue. Suddenly, I was completely overcome with grief and sadness. I had a very great burden to pray for her, and my heart ached in my chest as I wept for her unnamed pain. As I drove home with my husband that morning, my eyes continued to ooze tears. In an impassioned plea, I looked over at a confused Jason in the driver’s seat and said, “We need to pray for your sister!” Without revealing too much about a very personal situation, the next day I was to learn why I had felt such grief. My sister-in-law’s long term relationship had ended with painful betrayal the day the Lord asked me to pray for her.

Through this experience, I knew my King because my heart was truly abiding with His for those few moments in church. I discovered with absolute resounding clarity that Jesus is compassionate in ways I had never understood until then. His compassionate heart literally leveled me, and I intuitively knew the feelings I experienced were only glimpses. My weak body could only handle small doses of His infinite oceans of empathy.

Hebrews 4:13-16 “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need
.”

Christ’s mind moved me, His vessel, to grieve and empathize with my sister-in-law’s pain even when my physical mind had no idea about her situation. Then, because of grace, the Spirit began to make intercession through me, a used vessel, as I begged God to show her how lovely, precious, and beautiful she was even in the face of rejection. The Lord refused to leave my sister-in-law alone in her grief. How deep the Father’s love for us! To know His love changes one forever.

I have a neighbor that I love dearly. For the sake of privacy I will call her Amy, because Amy means beloved. Amy married one of my brother’s best high school friends. For this reason, I began praying for Amy and her husband long before they serendipitously moved across the street. She is a proud atheist and a beautiful, gregarious, generous person. At first, conversations with her were awkward and confrontational. I worked to convince her that Jesus was real. One day, after responding to Amy in another long-winded admittedly argumentative private message on Facebook, I took a walk with my family to depressurize. As my husband and children strolled ahead on a neighborhood bike path, I fell back a bit to speak to God about our “debate”. My mind was twirling and running in the aftermath of the heated discussion. I wondered aloud to the Lord if anything I had written would get through. Suddenly, my rampant thoughts were interrupted with what I can only describe as the heart of God. For a moment, I saw my neighbor as He saw her. My Father was her Father too. She was His creation. Beautiful. Loved. Treasured. Father’s feelings for Amy, His beloved little girl, hit so hard that I could barely continue to walk. Then I heard the Spirit whisper, “I just want you to love her.” At that moment, I was convinced that arguments would not win her heart, only love would.

And so I love Amy. Not with a fake phony love. But with the supernatural love of the Father in heaven who loves His child even as she denies and mocks Him. Remember my life verse? Jesus said “apart from Me, you can do nothing.” All my defending and apologetic arguments for the Christian faith were in my own strength and flesh. God told me as I walked down that little path that all that talking and debating amounted to nothing. However, if I loved Amy with the love He gave me, she would come home.

I have heard Christians say that unbelievers cannot live happy lives without God. I disagree. What my brothers and sisters in Christ fail to realize is that lost folks don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t understand supernatural joy and peace because they have never experienced it. If someone has never heard the Lord’s whispers or felt the Spirit quicken, then how can I explain it? To atheists, my stories probably sound like utter foolishness. “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

I can only continue to intercede and ask that God draws those precious lost souls I am burdened for to Himself for Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

Sometimes the burden for the lost literally leaves me breathless. One night as I prepared to go to sleep, I approached the Lord in prayer. I closed my eyes and saw the throne of God. My King sat in light and looked down on me in love. I fell to my knees and cried, “Holy!” Then, after I told Jesus I loved and adored Him, the Spirit began to intercede for the lost though me. I starting calling out for the salvation of my friends, loved ones, and neighbors. After a couple of seconds of speaking names, I knew I would repeat myself or forget important people without some sort of organization.

So, I looked up at God’s face hidden in light and asked Him for something to write on. If I could symbolically write each person’s name down, the process would help me keep track of who I had prayed for and who I still needed to bring to the Lord’s attention. To my surprise, God did not hand me paper, but a rectangular piece of wood about 3 feet wide and six inches long. So instead of writing, I began to carve the names of those I loved into the wood Christ gave me. When I had finished carving the first a name, I sat the piece of wood to the side, and asked for another piece of wood. I continued like this for a long time. I cried and carved and stacked pieces of wood. Eventually I was completely overwhelmed at the enormity of the stack of wood I had built. “There are so many, Lord!” I cried. Finally, when the burden lifted, I fell into an exhausted sleep. I dreamed that night and woke up to the sound of my own voice singing to the Lord.

The next day, I drove to work as usual. My kiddos were quietly reading in the back seat, so it gave me time to think about last night’s prayer time. As I reflected on these events in the light of day, it all seemed so strange! So, I said, “Lord Jesus, I need a sign that it was You directing my thoughts and actions last night. I would love a confirming sign showing me You heard me.” I didn’t know how God would answer my prayer- it was so specific- but I knew He could.

I walked into work and sat down at my desk in the front office of a school office. About five minutes later, I was engrossed in a task when I heard my boss, the principal, say, “Have you seen this, Julie?” I looked up and saw him holding this:

gracepaddle

Apparently the “grace board” had showed up on campus over the weekend, and it was strangely leaning against the building during car line drop off. My boss decided to bring it inside and didn’t quite know what to do with such a strange object.

This was a goose bumps moment. I smiled and shook my head. Astounded. Yep, that was the word. I was astounded. God had obviously heard my cries. The Lord of the universe had heard my prayer, and the Spirit was there guiding me the whole time! But how could I explain this? Would anyone understand?

As I continued to reflect on what the Lord was trying to communicate, I was stunned. The above picture is obviously of a paddle- typically a tool used for punishment. However, because grace is carved into the wood, I knew God was pointing to this:

kingofthejews

The day God’s Son hung from a tree, a sign was posted above Him. Although it was an attempt at mockery, every word written was true. Carved in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, were the words: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews”.

It should have been my name carved in the wood. I should have died on that tree. All those that I had prayed for that night- they too deserved punishment because they have denied their Creator in unbelief or aloofness. They were among those in the crowd who mocked and laughed at God’s Son that dark day.

However, Jesus, King of the Jews, is unlike any other king in history. Even while He suffered and died at the hands of hateful men, He prayed, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!” As His blood was spilled to ransom the world, a tool of punishment became the ultimate tool of grace.

We are not on this earth to live moral lives.
We are not here to seek our own happiness.
We are not here to survive and endure.

We are here to abide with Jesus as it was in the beginning before the fall.
We are here to declare the work of the cross so that others might also experience the free gift of grace.
We are here to love as He first loved us.

Beloved, it is my prayer that you would know Him. From my soul I cry out to you and for you. He is Lord! One day soon, His Bride, His beloved, His Amy, will cry out in victory as she sees Jesus coming back for her:

“Listen! My beloved! Behold, he is coming, Climbing on the mountains, Leaping on the hills!” (Song of Solomon 2:8)

Guilty as Charged

I’m gonna let ya’ll in on a little secret.  I’m a crazy driver.  I was born with a lead foot and wouldn’t even want to guess at how many tickets I’ve accrued throughout the years.  I have managed to avoid an accident in recent history, but you’d better believe I’ve had my fair share.  I used to loathe the day when my car insurance bill arrived each month.  It made me cringe.

Back in ’07 or ’08, I was pulled over for speeding in a school zone.  (I know, I know.  I’m bad.)  I believe my ticket was around $150.  Because we were so broke after I had lost my teaching job, buying groceries and putting gas in the car was difficult.  So at that point, my ticket may just as well have been $1000… Paying the fine was going to be difficult! 

The deadline to pay the ticket came and went.  That spelled bad news for Julie.  Until I paid the ticket, I was living dangerously by driving on a suspended license.  It was nerve wracking.

Finally, one chilly Friday (which happened to be payday), I drove home from a substitute job intending to pay my ticket.  (Honest to goodness… I was planning on paying it THAT DAY!)  As I drove to pick up my daughter at her community bus stop through slushy snow, I slowed to obey the reduced speed limit in yet another school zone. 

I didn’t slow down fast enough. 

To my utter dread, a police car pulled out of its hiding spot and flashed ugly lights at me.  I pulled over immediately.  Adrenaline spiked my blood stream.  I knew I had been caught driving illegally on two counts, but that was the least of my concerns.  I was due at my daughter’s bus stop in less than 5 minutes.  Zoe’s community stop at the local Bureau of Motor Vehicles (oh the irony!) was miles from my home on a busy road.  She was only in 2nd grade.  I had to be there!

A young brash police officer stepped out of his car and sternly addressed me through my rolled down window.  In a flurry of words, I tried to explain that I was in a hurry.  The policeman was unmoved by my story.  Trying to settle my nerves, I dutifully handed him my license and registration.  He went back to his car to process my ticket, and I stirred in the driver’s seat.  As the seconds and then minutes ticked by, I got more and more nervous knowing that my daughter would feel forgotten and abandoned if I wasn’t there to retrieve her at the bus stop.  Finally, in a state of panic, I opened my car door to try and plead with the officer to let me walk to the bus stop which was only about 3 minutes away by foot. 

At once, the officer went from harsh to hostile.  “Close your door!” he roared in warning.  I obeyed.  While I understood that his training dictated such a response, it took all of my self-control to ignore the mother bear response I was experiencing, to walk to the bus stop anyway, and to face the ramifications of disobeying an officer later.   

Finally, Mr. Grumpy came back to the car and handed me my ticket.  He then informed me that I could not drive because my license was suspended.  “Okay okay,” I thought!  “Who cares?!  I have to get Zoe!” 

After getting permission to exit my car, I lurched out of my seat.  I was wearing red silk ballet slipper shoes as I tromped through 3 inches of snow.  My feet were soaked within a minute.  Tears spattered my face.  A couple of sweet drivers stopped to ask me if I needed help. “No thank you,” I replied.  I would walk even if my feet froze and I looked ridiculous.  I didn’t want to explain my humiliating situation to another soul.

I arrived at the bus stop just as the bus was about to pull away with my daughter on board.  Mercifully, the courteous driver saw me and stopped in the nick of time.

As soon as I had a very befuddled Zoe in tow, I used a (thankfully close) payphone to call my parents and ask them to meet me at my car.  I did not own a cell phone at the time, what with me being so broke and all.  I silently prayed and hoped that Mom and Dad would make it before the tow truck. 

As my daughter and I walked back to my vehicle, I tried my best to explain what was happening.  How does one describe traffic laws to a seven-year-old?  Shame washed over me.  My very innocent and pure 2nd grade daughter had a front row seat to witness her mother being disciplined not only by man, but also the Lord.  Clearly Jesus had had enough of my continued disobedience on the road, and He was sternly correcting me.  God disciplines those He loves, and man I was loved that day. (Hebrews 12:6)       

Thankfully, my parents showed up in time to rescue Zoe, me and my car.  As soon as they drove me to my apartment, I paid the outstanding ticket.  Then, I went into my bedroom, closed the door, and howled. It was one of those rare cries where the pain and frustration accumulated over many months came spilling out in the course of a few minutes.  (This period of my life was very difficult as I’ve described in earlier stories.)  The cry was ugly, cathartic, and exhausting.  My mother sat by my side, patted my back, and said absolutely nothing as my body was wracked with sobs.  There is a time for corrective reproof.  She was wise enough to know that this was not the moment for such discussions. I’ll never be able to say enough thanks for her nonjudgmental presence that afternoon.  

In typical Julie fashion, after my good cry, I pulled up my boot straps and dealt with my crazy afternoon.  I was never one to wallow, and God’s joy was and is always my strength. (Psalm 28:7)  Within a few days, I could laugh and roll my eyes at the ridiculousness of my decisions. 

By now you might be wondering where the miracle is in this story.  After all, the title of this blog is I Have Seen Miracles.  Keep reading.  It’s a doozie.

Because I had been pulled over for driving on a suspended license, I was due in traffic court in a few weeks.  The scheduled afternoon came, and as I drove to the courthouse, I prayed a little prayer.  “Lord, You and I both know that I am completely guilty of speeding and driving illegally.  I won’t even try to deny it or give excuses.  Please be with me and grant me grace as I face the judge.”

When I arrived at court, I was astonished by the number of people gathered.  A line of at least fifty yards filled the rotunda of the vast building.  “Great,” I thought.  “I’m going to be here all night!”

As many others and I waited for the courtroom doors to open, I made small talk with those next to me in line.  I know I talked about Jesus some- I always do.  After some time passed, a gentleman standing behind me began to discuss his particular case with anyone who would listen.  He had been pulled over for speeding, and it was his intention to try and find some loop hole to get out of paying the fine.  After listening to his arrogance for as long as I could handle, I turned around and simply said, “But, are you guilty?”  He blinked at me when I interrupted his reverie.  I continued, “When I face the judge, I’m not going to give an excuse.  I’m going to go in there and tell the judge that I am guilty, because I am.”  After a beat, he shrugged me off with a few words obviously intent on sticking to his weaseling plan.   

Literally less than thirty seconds later, those of us standing in line were interrupted from our small talk when we heard the sound of a lady’s voice yelling over the crowed, “Julie So-and-So?”  (I’m not sharing my last name here for obvious reasons.)  “Julie?” 

“I’m Julie,” I replied, waving to her as I did so.  She walked over to me, checked my ID, and then said, “Your case has been thrown out.  You are free to go.”

My face morphed quickly into an earsplitting grin.  The guy behind me was absolutely dumbfounded as well as all the other drivers within earshot.  I didn’t have a clue why in the natural world my case was thrown out, but I had no doubt that Jesus had heard my prayer and answered beyond what I could have possibly hoped or thought. (Jeremiah 29:11)

I have had time to reflect on this whole experience, and I believe it is a beautiful parable of what Christ did for me at the cross.  I was guilty that day, but allowed to go free without punishment.  Christ was guiltless, but because of His great love for me, He died on the cross to bear my punishment so I could go free. 

Those that approach the Judge of the Universe trying to convince Him that they are innocent of breaking His laws defined in the 10 Commandments will get just punishment for their actions.  On that Great Day just as so many do in today’s culture, many folks will try to justify themselves according to their own standards.  They’ll say to the Judge, “I’m a good person.  I never did anything really bad.  Sure I told a few lies, but I never murdered or raped anyone.  I gave to the poor.  I was a good citizen!”  However, God’s standards are so high that He considers lust adultery and hatred murder.  According to the Lord’s law, we are all guilty.  (Romans 3:23)  Those that try to justify themselves with their own works will stand condemned in front of the Judge.  Isaiah says it succinctly: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

However, the Good News of the Gospel promises that if we approach Jesus by admitting our sin and asking for His forgiveness, He grants rivers of unmerited grace and mercy.  Just as I was allowed to walk free even though I was clearly guilty of driving on a suspended license, the Lord Jesus will declare those who call on His Name innocent because of His sacrifice at the cross.  John 3:16-17, in many ways the Cornerstone of the Christian faith, joyfully declares: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal live.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” Isaiah said 700 years before the birth of Jesus, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) And finally, Paul, writing to the Corinthian church says in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “God made him who had no sin [Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This is THE GOOD NEWS!  Glory to God!  May we believe and rest in these precious promises.   

The words to my favorite hymn bubble up just now as I reflect on what He has done for me:

Stuart Townsend
How Deep the Father’s Love for Us

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocing voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast inJesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom