Last Sunday, Hubs and I participated in a “cardboard testimony” skit during worship. We also shared with a different crowd last Saturday at an outdoor Agape Praise Fest for our community. If you’ve never seen a cardboard testimony, it is worth searching YouTube to see just one. It’s a powerful way to share what sin, struggle, or circumstance you once battled and how God has rescued and redeemed your life. When we were asked to participate, I knew almost immediately what I was supposed to share, though it took a few weeks for me to get comfortable with the idea of standing up in front of a crowd. Normally, I work very hard to stay out of the spotlight–I’m just more comfortable behind the scenes, taking care of details. But, we try to adhere to the rule of thumb that it’s important to share when someone asks us to tell our “God story.”
The first side of my sign had one word on it and it’s a word that I heard over and over and over again growing up. It’s a word that children and adults alike used to define me. It’s a word that could have taken root in my belief system and effectively destroyed any chance of hope rising within.
That word is “ugly.”
It was an everyday word for me. Every. Single. Day. Someone called me ugly every day of my childhood. Usually the mean kids on the bus or on the playground. Occasionally, an adult would use that word to describe me, too. It always hurt. It always stung. It always made me feel unloved and unwanted. My high school Biology teacher told me in a private conference that I should make my peace with the idea that I would never marry or have children–who would find me attractive? And, that I should instead pour myself into a career or cause to save myself the heartache of being rejected. A guy I worked with at my first real job told me that I made such good tips waitressing because all my customers felt sorry for me, not because I was good at my job. I wasn’t popular, I ate lunch alone fairly often, and had only a couple of real, true friends.
But I did have hope. Even before I trusted my life to Christ and fell in love with the way He loves me, I had an understanding that pity was not the road for me. My parents had some role in teaching me that, but I can see so clearly now that God was reaching for me, drawing me in, saving my life. Once I accepted that Jesus was Lord, I found purpose and meaning and belonging. He wanted me, cherished me, delighted in me. The joy of that knowledge was overwhelming…
And it wasn’t just that I understood that He loves me. He has made everything beautiful…and that includes me. I may not be beautiful to anyone else, but I am beautiful to Him and that made me love Him all the more.
So, the other side of my sign simply says, “God says beautiful.” And He does. And I am…but, not because of who I am. Because of who He is.
I’m so grateful for the other side of that sign! For His love for me–for us all! That He would rescue me from despair and redeem me, a sinner, for His purposes…truly amazing.
My husband held up a sign Sunday, too. He only wrote on one side. After I turned over my sign, “God says beautiful,” he stood next to me holding our son and a sign that simply said, “And so do we.”
We know that people wonder in their minds and hearts how our marriage works…how a man can not only love a woman who looks like I do, but desire her as well. And the answer is probably confounding to someone outside of Christ because it is a work of Christ. On the day we married, the love I saw in my husband’s eyes erased every hurtful, wounding, disrespectful lie anyone had ever said to me. Not only does God love me, but He provided the perfect husband for me and is allowing me the privilege to serve as his wife. And my husband feels privileged as well. We believe that we have been created to serve Jesus together. We believe that one of our highest callings is simply to love one another and our children. God will do the rest. So, while we know that on some level we are being used as a tool, as an example, as a witness—our greatest witness is to each other.
After we all held up our signs, one of the men from our skit shared for just a few minutes…about all of us being able to live on the other side of the sign. We can do that, you know. Though we may have the wounds and transgressions of our life before Christ, He has more for us. Sin may have once defined us, but now the truth of God’s love for us is our definition.
As you read this, my prayer is that you are able to live fully as who God has intended for you to be….by His definition. May we rejoice in the other side of our signs…in the power of His redemptive work and His grace.
Jesus, thank You for hope. Thank You for grace. Thank You for Your plan. Thank You. Amen.