It was a sticky summer day maybe six years ago and as per usual I was running late. We were leaving for a family reunion at Knoebels Amusement Park and it had taken me way too long to pick out something to wear. My incredibly patient dad was already sitting in his Jeep waiting for me to come out and I was feeling the pressure, so I grabbed my makeup bag and some hair products and made a beeline for the door.
As we made the hour-long drive I realized something devastating: While I had grabbed my makeup bag I had neglected to put the makeup that I needed into it, forgetting the majority of my products at home. We had gone too far now and there was no way that I could ask him to turn around so I panicked. I couldn’t possibly go out like this!
I distinctly recall begging my dad to make a quick pit stop at the closest Walmart so I could run in and buy what I had forgotten. I also recall him telling me that I was being ridiculous and that I looked fine and that we were late enough as it was. There may have been tears and a definite promise that it would be so quick he would barely realize that I was gone. He relented and I ran as fast as I could go to the cosmetic section to spend the little bit of money that I had brought on makeup that I already owned. I knew it was ridiculous; I didn’t care. I just wanted to be able to make it through the day with the ruse in place but in the anxiousness that I felt during my desperate plead, I came face to face with a rather uncomfortable truth.
The truth: I wasn’t afraid of people seeing blemishes or wrinkles because frankly I was 25 and had neither. There wasn’t some physical flaw that I desperately needed to cover up to feel presentable. I was afraid that they would see how ugly I was on the inside, that if I didn't put this mask on my secrets would be out in the open, the veil that I so desperately tried to hold in place would be removed and I would be exposed for what I was: Unlovely.
I wonder if that’s a vague notion of what Adam and Eve felt in the garden as they frantically gathered and sewed fig leaves to cover their nakedness? I’ve always understood that their shame stemmed from a change in their internal condition, but the gravity of that didn’t dawn on me until today. I can’t even begin to imagine what the initial awareness of sin must have been like, I was born into it, it is all that I have ever known. But Adam and Eve were created by the hands of God! Time and gravity had not had their way with their bodies. Eve was not carrying around the by-products of pregnancy and she wasn’t contending with an unrealistic standard of beauty. She had never even heard a negative word said about her appearance. This wasn’t them looking down and realizing that they were ugly, this was the shame that they now carried radiating out of them that tainted their perception of self. Their outsides didn’t change, it was the inside that became defiled. God wasn’t a big meanie when He banished them from the garden; He did it from His goodness. Had they stayed, had they partaken then from the tree of life they would have lived forever in this fallen state. That is a fate worse than death!
“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
What I didn’t know that sticky summer day while I frantically tried to cover up my ugliness in the front seat was that I didn’t have to carry it all inside of me. Jesus had paid for it to be removed; He had paid for me to be made new. I knew that Jesus died for me to go to heaven one day but somewhere along the way I believed the lie that I deserved to carry the weight of those sins on my shoulders, that I had earned that ugliness and ugly I would stay. Beloved that is not the gospel; He died for new life now!
The shame that I carried was heavy, and rightly so, for it was the weight of many sins—many sins that Jesus had died for, many sins that I had repented of, many sins that I still allowed to define me. I had sewn a scarlet letter on my heart and when I looked in the mirror that is what I saw: a woman tainted and unlovely, a woman who destroyed lives and hurt so many, a woman that I hated. I sang Jesus paid it all but still I was holding onto the bill.
I wish that I could pinpoint the moment when that perception changed. I wish that there was some defining scripture that broke into my self-induced prison and freed me in an instant but that’s not how it happened. It was little revelations, little moments with my Savior that chipped away at the hatred that I carried for myself. It was my life being transformed to look like Him from glory to glory—that’s what made all the difference. It was all of that coupled with a conscious choice to put off the old life and put on the new, not just in action but in perception.
“For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
-Ephesians 2:10 NLT
I am not the person that destroyed everything I put my hands on. I am God’s masterpiece. Regardless of how I feel. Regardless of how many times the enemy or those in his grip remind me of who I once was, it matters not. For I have been created anew in Christ Jesus, so that I can do the good things He planned for me long ago. And you are too. He’s written a testimony in and through your life. Use it, proclaim it, but do not be defined by it. Only Jesus should define you now. Claim this truth over yourself, even when you don’t feel like it…especially when you don’t feel like it.
You are a masterpiece and He died so that you can walk in newness of life. Drop it at the cross beloved, all of the weight that you have been dragging behind you because you felt like you deserved it, drop it and leave it there. He paid for it so you wouldn’t have to. How splendid! He has work for each of us to do, it’s time to get to doing it. It’ll be a lot easier if you let it go—here, now—just accept what He’s done. Forgiveness isn’t fair but it is too good of a gift to allow it to pass us by.