Every once in a rare while, a book comes along that seeps into my soul. When it happens, it's an answer to prayer, a whisper of the Holy Spirit after i've been casting about, begging to hear Him. It is extraordinary.
A few months ago, a draft copy of my friend Colleen Mitchell's new book Who Does He Say You Are? found its way to my inbox. I read it with tears streaming down my face, her good words watering my parched spirit. I know that dear readers here will recognize that Colleen is one of my best friends and that perhaps that makes my endorsement and hearty recommendation of this book somewhat unbiased;-), but please hear me. This is one that you will return to again and again. You will flip it open at random and trust it to speak into your dark spaces, your wounds, your loneliness.
Still don't quite believe me? Here are just a few quotes I gathered for myself. There were so many more. I've culled this list to a fraction of what I stopped to record on my first reading.(And truthfully, I chose by eliminating the ones with which Squarespace and I fought over formatting.)
As I write this morning, as I sift through just the quotes I've chosen and pick a few for you, I find this book ministering to me anew. I got up early (actually the smoke detector awakened us at 4:30--no fire, thank God) and I took the book with me on a morning run. I carried heavy burdens into the woods with me this morning, and a restlessness that miles and miles of running can't seem to vanquish. Now, post-run, in the relative stillness of a coffee shop at rush hour, these words bring peace.
If you read one book this summer, give yourself the gift of this one.
Oh, how I want to be an Elizabeth to our world. I want to be a woman whose faith in God’s promises holds no matter how long there is no visible evidence of it—a woman who uses her voice to bring hope to the weary and to rejoice with those who rejoice. I want to proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness steadily, with great joy, regardless of what the world around me looks like—because when it is darkest, that is when my voice is most needed.
I forget that my hope is not that things will go as I planned, but that the Lord will make himself known, in the faces of my husband and children, in the unexpected joys of family life that pop up right in the middle of our messy chaos, in the ways he provides for me and shows me his tender care in the most detailed ways.
The courage to live the call to share Jesus with others comes from a hope that gives way to the discipline of prayer. Prayer inspires a life of joyful dependence on the Lord, which allows us to see and recognize him at work in the most surprising of ways. And from a heart focused on God blossoms the thanksgiving that overflows into sharing Christ with a waiting world.
In that embrace, she takes up the same work of all the righteous women we have already seen, that of Anna and Elizabeth, and of Woman herself: Mary. This woman whose life has been lived in anything but righteousness according to Jewish Law becomes their equal, their sister. And she shares in their work of professing Jesus to all she meets, announcing the coming of a Savior. In the eyes of the Lord, nothing in her past prohibits her from taking up her place at their sides.
He doesn’t ask that we compete for holiness or that we mold ourselves into some ill-fitting definition in order to appease him. But he wants us to learn to accept the grace of being loved by him, to learn to be content in who we are in him, so that we can be confident of what he can do for us.
I bet that you, like me, have known what it is like to be the invisible one in your own community, to be so wary of the judgmental glances and the avoidance maneuvers of others that you find it easier just to steer clear altogether
No one knew why the woman in this story kept bleeding. No one knew how to help her. No one knew what to do for her. And over time, no one knew her at all. Do you find yourself in that place? Bearing a pain that no one fully understands, so that no one fully knows what to do with you? And after enough time passes, it begins to seem that no one really knows you at all. You skim the outskirts of your own community, your own family, your own life, hide from the places where people gather, and learn to accept that you will never be fully healed, fully known, or fully accepted again.
We assume that our humanity and our sin are obstacles to Jesus, when, in fact, he has come to the place where we are and waited for us just so he can blow away the lines the world has drawn in the dust, and all the lines we ourselves have drawn too, with the breath of mercy.
He wants to heal us not only from the outside shame that keeps us baking in the public glare, but from the deep, personal shame that keeps us gingerly sidestepping our real wounds while we wither within.
I bow low to kiss the dirt, sure that I have earned my fate, that I deserve to be right where I am, buried under my sin and bruised and broken open by the guilty verdict I cannot rebuff. And more often than not, the fists waiting to cast the stones that will do me in are a million better versions of myself that I have not been, jeering and scoffing and mocking me in my weakness. Yes, the most sanctimonious Pharisee I ever face is the perfect version of myself, who just loves to barge into the heart of the real me—weak, tempted, sinner that I am—and pronounce her judgments with surety: failure, guilty, dirty, tainted, worthless.
First, he forgives. And then, he speaks the words that save—the words we don’t deserve, the words we could never merit, the words that revoke our death sentence and proclaim in its place life, hope, and wild grace.
I think of the way the sacrament of confession works on my own soul, how often I start out afraid to confront my own sin and bring it into the light, forgetting that the goal is not for me to sit shamefaced with my sin but to draw it out so that my own healing can take place. I leave confession, not bowed lower because of facing my sin, but restored by God’s mercy and sent out to live my purpose once again, to serve him with joy and hope. Jesus does not ignore my sin. He looks at it with the tenderness of his mercy and draws me up from it so that I may rise in freedom
The better portion she chose was to set aside the worry and anxiety that comes from measuring our worth by comparing ourselves to those around us, and to instead gaze fully on the face of her Savior who was there in their midst, present to her and offering her a freely given, unearned stamp of approval out of love. Leaning in, she wasn’t worried about what she could offer him, but she focused on what she could learn from him.
We do not have to find a way to be something we are not in order to please Jesus. We do not have to work for his approval. We only have to keep our gaze on him, to lean in and listen from whatever position in which we find ourselves, and to know that he is near. This is the only necessary thing for us to do to find contentment in our lives.