By Jackie Morfesis
Integral to the faith walk is testimony. There is no greater testimony to God working His hand over one’s life than to see how trauma is transformed to glory. Yet, for a million reasons, Christians are ashamed to testify to how God has worked His mercy and love over their lives, because it would entail exposing the sin and wounds, they once carried for all to see.
I never have and will never be ashamed of sharing either my sin or the sins committed against me. I will never be ashamed of sharing my life being brought to ashes, because I serve a God who “brings beauty from ashes.” Again and again. “He will bestow on them a crown of beauty, instead of ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness” (Isaiah 61:3).
We wrongly believe that we must sanitize our faith. That we must only speak about the beauty, the peace, the joy, and the blessedness we encounter as a child of God. We experience beauty, peace, joy, and blessedness because we also experienced sinfulness, committed sinfulness, and with God’s grace, were redeemed through repentance, forgiveness, and salvation.
Recently, a woman of faith shared that she is hesitant even embarrassed and ashamed, to tell God her troubles. To lay her life bare before the Lord. Do we not know that God knew our inmost being even before we were born? “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). There is nothing that is hidden from our God. No thought, no trouble, no grief, no suffering, nor sin, which is too great for our God to know, to comfort us in, nor to wash if we approach Him with humility and repentance and lay them at the foot of the cross. We serve a God of salvation. We serve a God of deliverance. We serve a God who can turn “what the enemy meant for harm for good” (Genesis 50:20).
A wound against our church given that our church is served by man, and we all fall short of God’s glory is believing or insisting that we not speak of the sins committed by the saints and martyrs of the church nor our own. That we seal our tongues because it is blasphemous to utter one word of the days when they walked in darkness.
The days of their sin, the days of their falling short of God’s glory are not only a part of their faith walk but also, in light of the redemptive grace of God, the great and holy testimony to His mercy and love. St. Mary of Egypt was a renowned prostitute, working in Alexandria for seventeen years. She lived a life of sexual immorality from the age of twelve when she left her parents’ home. We know the story of her redemption. She was forbidden by a force stronger than her own will and could not enter God’s holy house for service. In that moment, she pledged to repent and follow the Lord if she were permitted to enter. The weight was lifted off her, and from that moment forward her life of sin became a life of testimony.
St. Paul experienced his conversion on the road to Damascus, where he was part of a campaign to continue the persecution of Christians. Our Lord came to him and said why are you persecuting me? Paul was persecuting the Lord because he was persecuting God’s children. This is chronicled in the Acts of the Apostles. His life of sin, cruelty, and hatred, with God’s redemption, became a life of glory for God. St. Paul was transformed from one who persecuted our Lord to the great defender of the faith for all eternity.
We must never fool ourselves that shame over our lives means that we cannot approach God. Our Lord came for the broken. He came for the lost. He left the ninety-nine to find the one. Christ said: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:5-7). Rest assured, every single one of us was born broken. But we do not stay in a place of brokenness. Our brokenness serves as the very door that when confessed to God will lead us to our greatest victory. Brokenness transformed has a power that can move mountains and souls.
When anyone tells me that it is not acceptable to question, cry, sorrow, or grief, I remind them that our very own Lord and Savior cried out to the Father on the cross: “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1). And St. John of the Cross reminds us of the dark night of the soul. We are not cursed but blessed, when we too, experience a dark night of the soul. This is not the moment of our destruction, but the very wound upon our souls that allows God to enter our lives and heal us of our torment, remolding, remaking us in ways we could have never hitherto imagined. We know that the “Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). That “All things are possible to those who believe” (Mark 9:23).
No, fellow Christians. It is not blasphemy to speak truth to the lives of those we venerate and share the whole truth of their faith journey. In fact, it is the greatest testimony to God “working beauty from ashes.” The same beauty from ashes He can and will work upon our own lives if we only have the humility and courage to lay our lives at the foot of the cross and give ourselves to be transformed for His glory and for our healing and sanctification.
Let us look to the lives of those we venerate and gain strength from their faith journeys. Journeys that many times brought them from the ravages of sin to a place of God’s blessing. Instead of warring against His light, they became His light in the world. So should we.