When God is Within You, You Will Not Fall, by Sharon Hersh
AUGUST 29, 2020
WHY DO WE BELIEVE WE NEED TO BE THE JUDGE OF OTHER PEOPLE’S STORIES AND MAKE OUR JUDGMENTS KNOWN IN CONVERSATIONS?
Sometimes the answer is because we have not experienced the power of God’s grace in our own stories. A few years ago, I was smack-dab in the middle of judging my daughter’s story. She was irresponsible, making bad choices, and completely self-absorbed. I was about as far away from the Door as possible.
We were driving home after a late night out and her car started to sputter. I looked over at the dashboard of her fairly new car (that I helped her buy) and saw the flashing lights indicating that the radiator was about to blow. Sure enough, before I could get out the words “Why didn’t you check the radiator fluid . . . ,”steam spewed from the hood of the car, and we came to an abrupt stop. I was mad. I was right. My daughter’s story was a tragedy of neglected responsibilities and missed opportunities. I had no intention of turning the conversation into something that might be life-giving to her.
We sat by the side of the road and I glanced at my watch. It was 12:30 a.m. Being skilled in the ways of martyr mothering, I called for an Uber to take my daughter home and said with an exasperated sigh, “I will take care of the car” and waited for a tow truck.
As the tow truck pulled away—leaving me in a Home Depot parking lot at 1:30 a.m.—God was still writing my story. Thank God he doesn’t need our permission to keep writing our stories. But occasionally he gives us a glimpse of the splendor of his storytelling.
I noticed lights on across the road from Home Depot. It was a bar, and I quickly calculated I had thirty minutes before last call. I crossed the street, anticipating the burn of alcohol going down my throat. I thought God would turn away from my story as quickly as I turned my back on my daughter’s. I imagined he would stop watching me and leave me alone.
The bar was empty except for the two servers standing behind the counter. “What can I pour you?”A beautiful young woman, far too perky for 1:30 a.m., waited for my order. I was just about to ask for a sip of my forbidden fruit when I noticed a tattoo on her shoulder. I couldn’t make out the words. Before I asked for a drink, I asked the bartender, “What does your tattoo say?”
“It’s a Bible verse,” she replied. A Bible verse? On a tattoo? In a bar at 1:30 in the morning, just as I’m about the throw away my story?
“It’s from the Psalms,” this unlikely evangelist continued. “It’s one of my favorite verses. It says, ‘God is within her, she will not fall’”(Psalm 46:5, niv). Can you believe that? The Grand Storyteller of my life showed up in a bar at 1:30 in the morning when my faith was tired, my hope seemed lost, and love was the last thing on my mind. I’d never read that verse before, but I knew God was writing it into my story just in the nick of time.
God followed me into a bar and used a tattoo to show me that even though I was quick to dismiss my daughter’s experience, he remained with me in mine. I couldn’t wait to tell my daughter about the bartender, her tattoo, and the Storyteller God who is within us, so we will not fall. God met me in my experience to reveal the scary, beautiful reality that we desperately need one another.
I love Anna McCarthy’s blog about going with a group of pastors’ wives to meet women who worked in strip clubs.
Anna learned the power of with as she entered their stories:
As I drove home, I totally fell apart in my car.
Not because I felt sorry for them. Not because I thought I was so much better than they were. Not because I pitied their circumstance.
I cried because my heart was broken.
One thing the Lord continues to do in my heart is humble it. Like over and over. Countless times, I think I’m going in to minister to some lowly soul and then I walk out, completely undone because the condition of my own heart was exposed. . . .
Man. HE WRECKED ME.
[I learned,] “Apparently other churches send [these women] hate mail. ALL THE TIME.” . . .
Did we forget (or do we just sing it in songs) that Jesus was a friend of sinners?
Did we forget that it’s his kindness that leads us to repentance? . . .
Jesus was UNAFRAID of walking in love to the least of the least. . . .
. . . if Jesus were here, walking among us, wouldn’t it be just like him to walk into the most un-Christlike place (strip club or whatever) and completely freak the religious folk out?
Just a thought.
He loved then.
He loves now.
But, he can only reach as far as you and I are willing to go.[i]
What stories are you willing to walk into?
What makes the gospel good news isn’t who it excludes but who it pursues. The night Jesus walked into my story when I was in a bar at 1:30 in the morning, I decided to stop debating other people’s experiences and trust God to be the Storyteller. Author Dallas Willard, known for his writings on spiritual formation, explains it this way: “We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it or even when we believe we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”[ii]
Where is the Story taking you? The Kingdom of God is for liars, outcasts, addicts, oddballs, fools, and the totally uncool gathered in a communion of stories because they are hungry for More.[iii]
Go. Invite everyone. Whisper or shout, “Welcome! There’s bread and wine. Come eat with us and talk. This isn’t a kingdom for the worthy; it’s a kingdom for the hungry.[iv] You belong!”
Taken from Belonging: Finding the Way Back to One Another by Sharon Hersh. Copyright © 2020. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries.
About the Author
Sharon Hersh is a licensed professional counselor, an adjunct professor in graduate counseling programs, a sought-after speaker, and the author of several books, including the acclaimed The Last Addiction: Why Self Help Is Not Enough, the popular Bravehearts: Unlocking the Courage to Love With Abandon, and the award-winning Mothering Without Guilt. Sharon lives in Lone Tree, Colorado and is finding freedom and adventure in the empty nest years. Sharon’s latest book, Belonging, releases from NavPress in August 2020.
[i] Anna McCarthy, “‘I Was Shocked by What I Saw’: The Night I Went Strip Clubbing with Pastors’ Wives,” faithit.com, May 22, 2018, https://faithit.com/night-went-strip-clubbing-pastors-wives/.
[ii] Quoted in Rachel Held Evans, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2018), 186.
[iii] Evans, Searching for Sunday, 148.
[iv] Evans, Searching for Sunday, 148.