Living life below the surface of safe, shallow, and careful is where relationships become equally rewarding and risky.
When iron sharpens iron, sparks fly in conversational form when we love each other up close. I think it’s rare to have a circle of friends living in the same community, all in some for of leadership or ministry. But, I have that.
We have been through many phases of life together, on roads and intersections where brokenness meets impactful decisions and life-altering messages take a different, beautiful shape because we have lived fully, wonderfully, and painfully.
Across the table, a question was asked because we were not just ministering to broken girls, we were recovering ones at the time still working through really big things. We all have our things. But, we all have a choice to make- will it become a noose around our necks or a noteworthy moment where God showed up as we seek him?
Many years have passed since this question was asked and still, I think of it like an echo.
“What will you be when you are no longer the broken girl?”
I sent my friend a text to ask her about this moment. This was her response:
“I don’t even remember what I said. But, I can tell you who I am now. I am not a broken girl. I’m new. I’m strong and tender and confident and childlike and free. I don’t feel a constant tug on me to look back anymore. It’s like Jesus untied all the strings, grabbed my hand, winked and said, ‘Let’s go, baby girl.’”
Heck-to-the-yes! Ditto that.
Who knows what I would have said during that season years ago. Maybe I would have been silent or said, “I don’t know.” My guess is that I would have whispered softly one word: unbroken.
I thought that was the ultimate goal then, but not now. I have a much different view of brokenness. I don’t see it as damaged goods or “more issues than Vogue.” No, none of those labels will do. Only one.
Brokenness is not the ending; it’s the beginning of something beautiful inside of you being rebuilt.
People can talk about what you used to be, but God is stirring something inside of you that will motivate you beyond labels to unlimited grace.
What if I told you that proving yourself and jumping through hoops would cause you to miss the most important reason why we long to give the best of who we are to God and the ones we love?
As I began searching the pages in scripture I felt God leading me to dive deeper into the history of someone who was vastly misunderstood and underrated. I met her in the pages of scripture with fresh eyes. This time I wanted to know her not just read about her. Beyond labels and limitations, which she had plenty, I saw a legacy of godliness and getting-stuff-done. I found myself writing her a letter after combing through pages, commentaries, and familiar passages because she is so much like us- a broken girl who found the One who makes you whole.
But, here is how she is different from those of us who find ourselves still in need of mending: she let go of her past because her newfound purpose was stronger than the chains that used to tie her frail hands.
To the woman, question mark and mystery named Mary Magdalene:
People still talk about you, speculations mostly, saying you were young and beautiful and troubled. Only one seems true, the troubled part.
They have tried to Hollywood-ify and glamorize you because a scandal appeals to them more than the truth. They have found a box to put you in much like the one they thought you held over your Savior’s head, anointing him with perfume and tears and gratitude. It could have been you. It could have been all of us. Grateful girls motivated by love, feeling much like we owe our most priceless, box-sized gift.
We are still carrying small boxes thinking that is all we are worth. Still shattering that box of gratitude fueled by grace and hustling till we’re spent trying to earn it.
It seems to me that God is shattering the box we’ve been putting ourselves in if we will read his word and believe all of those promises are for us, not just the unlabeled, mostly together ones. Even the “mostly together” ones still feel the walls closing in on us, boxed and told to remain very small because unboxed women are a threat to the enemy of our souls. They even make the churchy people nervous. Trust me, I have cardboard cuts from ripping open my box. The unboxed are the prayerful ones who pray until something happens, work until their hands ache, and love even the ones who are so hard to love. They keep going because quitting is out of the equation.
Searching the scriptures trying to figure you out I believe I have found all that I really need to know about your story.
You were set free to serve and be not only faithful but fruitful and effective. Your “grateful soul” was what motivated you to service. You were too busy pleasing God to concern yourself with pleasing others. You served the one who set you free, not the box that was way too small for you.
Being freed from seven demons you left little time for speculation because you were too busy GETTING STUFF DONE.
Your hustle was different from mine. You see, at times I’m still trying to prove myself. But, that is only making me tired. So I give up. Gratefulness will be my motivation too because I’ve been freed from far more than seven things.
Working to earn love and measure up
I’ve been freed from saying nothing because I want so much to be nice, now I can say what I must and hold my own with a brand new backbone.
I can take criticism to my face, sift it like sand and remove the chunks and shards of what is simply not true. I can take the criticism of what needs to be heard from others who are fruitful and faithful like you because they love me and have established a relationship with me.
I can do so many things now because I have been set free from many things.
I learned how to shut down. Becoming free in Christ propelled me to figure out how to come back alive again instead of pleasing and invisible.
Seven demons couldn’t thwart the power of Jesus who needed you as a member of his support team. You assisted Jesus in ministry; your face was woven in key moments. The cross. Death. Resurrection. You were a witness to the crucifixion, present at this burial, you were both faithful in the hard and heartbreaking things.
You kept company with older women, so either they were your peers and close in age, or you were smart enough to surround yourself with mentors, sisters, and spiritual mommas who were fruitful and faithful, not busybodies, but busy with holy work. So, maybe you weren’t young. Age aside, you were wise.
You stood outside by the tomb weeping, two angels asked you a question.
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” (John 20:13-14)
Jesus showed himself to you, called you woman and then by name. You were there when everyone else had left.
You ran back to tell the other disciples, they didn’t believe you. (Mark 16:10) I mean, after all, you were still referred to as the woman with seven demons cast out. You probably didn’t mind, they didn’t believe the other two after you. (Mark 16:13)
You wept because he was yours.
Not once do I see you limited by your weakness, not as a woman or by your tattered past. You were seeking Him and serving Him; that was your fuel…not proving yourself.
I want to be like you. Grateful. Grace-filled. Too busy to be boxed. Too busy to look back. Fruitfully faithful.
At the intersection where labels meet legacy, I’ll take the long road of servitude and legacy.
Serving my Lord.
My God who is much too big for a box.
And, my Savior who made me much too big for one as well.
Today I ditch the box because of an empty tomb.
Pursuing God and serving Him out of a heart filled with gratitude is our fuel.
Loving him with all of our hearts and soul is our focus.
Whispers and stares couldn’t hold her back. They can’t hold us back either.
In a culture that told her to go to the back of the line, if for nothing else, because of her womanhood, she was mentioned fourteen times in the gospels. In eight of those references she is mentioned with other women, but she always is at the top of the list, which means that she was a leader in service and held a prestigious place.
I’m barely scratching the surface of what all we can glean together learning about Mary Magdalene. You have no idea how desperately I needed to study her this past week.
I ran my fingers through pages, looked at commentaries, and cried the kind of tears that sting a little from working so hard and realizing that I didn’t have to prove myself anymore. My gratitude can propel me to service, not seeking the approval of others.
What I feel right now is the joy of fruitfulness and favor…and that makes me pretty dang happy.
I love you all deeply.
I would love for you to join us tomorrow for another FB live conversation with two of my dear friends, Holley Gerth and Suzanne Eller. We love inviting you into our conversations and hearts and homes. I think you will love this timely topic about comparison. Join us at 4:30 CST here. Be sure to share and like our pages.