Go back to last weeks post by clicking here.
So, just in case, this is my one chance to cross paths with you, I want you to know:
You are not lost.
You can go home.
Your story matters.
You are not lost.
But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:9-10 esv
As I write this note to you I wonder about your experience with God and with His family, the Church. Were you born in? By ‘born in’ I mean you don’t remember a time growing up when you weren’t in church. The church life was your family’s norm.
Or were you ‘born out’? Perhaps your family rarely if ever attended church. You just weren’t one of those church-going families. Can you remember a time when a friend asked you to come along, but you weren’t sure if the people at the door would let you inside? Perhaps walking into a church felt a bit like stepping into a foreign country of unknown culture, dress, and language.
I don’t know your story and truly, your story is unique.
My story is unique too. I was born outside church culture. My parents were born in and my grandparents were born in, but a great deal of hurt to my dad’s heart and disappointment from within the church body of his youth caused my dad to walk away. “We are Christians”, I was told as a young girl, “but we don’t need to go to church to prove it.”
Interestingly, God made me a curious-minded girl who wanted to know the “why?” of everything. When I was invited to church, I went. When I went to VBS one summer, I made a decision to have my heart sealed in Christ so I would live with Him in Heaven one day. And I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I didn’t stay in for long though because we just weren’t those church-going folk.
It’s not true that those ‘born in’ automatically belong to God and His people. Just as it’s not true that those ‘born out’ are unwelcome. The enemy of our soul wants us to believe lies and he enjoys stirring the pot of division. He and his minions encourage the lies so they will become part of our cultural norm. Over time people come to believe there’s a real division of ‘in’ or ‘out’.
Truth. God does not see His family this way. Father God wants us to know that being born into a church doesn’t make a person His child. The very real truth is that all who are born are created by His will and it is God’s full intention that everyone He creates is adopted into His family. (Psalm 139:15-16 and Ephesians 1:5-6, John 3:16-17)
However, for a reason only known to you and God, you feel hidden from God and unseen. Perhaps you’ve made a choice to move out from in. Something happened in God’s family and you’ve decided,like my dad did, you’d rather live distant from God because you don’t want to live up close with His people. I wonder, what was it which caused you turn your back, walk away and watch from the outside hoping no one will see you looking in?
Maybe you were never really in, like me, and so you believe you’re invisible. You’ve never had the exclusive membership card and so you feel there’s just no way for God to know you. Is it easier to just live your own life by your own rules hoping God won’t interfere? Or does it seem like you have more freedom if you aren’t bound by church rules and God commandments? I recognize all these questions and thoughts because most of these were my own at one time or another.
I grew up with a whole lot of freedom. Truly, the choice to live out from God or in with Him was freely available to me. With the faith of a child, I heard Jesus call my name and I answered yes to Him thinking I would join back up with Him in Heaven. Having my heart sealed by Holy Spirit but with no training in or understanding of God’s word, I set out to live my life the best I could figure out on my own.
Though I enjoyed making my own rules (I sincerely had my own set of commandments I lived by) as I matured toward adulthood I became increasingly insecure and fearful. Rather than enjoying my unfettered freedom I found myself trying to control everything in my life to create some type of security system. I was a prisoner of my own walls of fear, doubt, and shame. And I was literally dying from the inside out.
The terrible voices inside me were screaming, “you’re invisible. just disappear.” And yet everything alive (Holy Spirit) within my crumbling heart was crying, “please see me. please hear me. please rescue me.”
Wherever I go, your hand will guide me;
your strength will empower me.
It’s impossible to disappear from you
or to ask the darkness to hide me,
for your presence is everywhere, bringing light into my night.
Psalm 139:10-11 tpt
There is a longing to be found
There is a longing in all of us to be found. We want to be seen and heard. Even when we’re hiding we hope someone will come and scoop us up into loving arms make everything good again. Our hearts were designed for love, for intimacy, and for belonging.
The first ones, Adam and Eve, they were born in with God. They belonged and had everything perfectly given to them within boundaries. Yet, when the evil whisper suggested God was withholding something good from them, the first to be created in His image stepped out. As their human eyes were suddenly exposed to guilt and shame they hid from God.
Yet what was God doing as they were hiding their nakedness? God was pursuing His children. He called out to them, “Where are you?” They were never lost from God’s eyes.
My dad heard God ask a similar question one day out of the blue. He could no longer hide, and God wanted to know if my dad was in or out. Thankfully, my dad turned and ran into his Father’s arms of forgiveness and acceptance.
The reason for His question was to open the line of communication which had become damaged. Adam’s voice which spoke out of the darkness was like a hand reaching up for rescue. However, it was God who had made the first move toward the ones He created by His Hands of love.
Why would God pursue a person seemingly born out?
I can think of only one answer. God created every single person. What we see from our finite perspective as born in or born out, God sees from an infinite perspective. God sees His creation and He has an unfathomable love for all He has made by His own design.
And God desires that every single person He creates will surrender to His intentional pursuit and turn to the sound of His love call in the wilderness. No one is lost from His gaze.
There are so many stories of God pursuing the outsider, how could I choose one story to love the most? Jesus was constantly pursuing the outsiders, who possibly felt lost and invisible to God. A few personal favorites:
Rahab, the prostitute of Jericho, who gave cover to the Israelite spies and declared her faith in the One True God (Joshua 6)
Ruth, who left her homeland alongside Naomi, her mother-in-law, whose God would also be Ruth’s God (Ruth 1)
The Samaritan woman who was the subject of much gossip for her promiscuous lifestyle found Jesus patiently waiting for her at the water well (John 4:1-26)
Zacchaeus, the man of short stature who stationed himself in a tree so he could catch a glimpse of Jesus. He was astonished when Jesus found him first then invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. (Luke 19:1-10)
Surely, we are unable to refute the sacred words of Jesus Himself:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 esv
You, my friend, are not lost!
Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!
Future walks on our pioneer journey:
You can go home.
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7 niv
Your story matters.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
Psalm 51:13 niv