I wore a purity ring until I was 23. For those who don’t know what a purity ring is, it’s a wedding band sometimes worn by young, unmarried Christians. The ring is meant to remind yourself and everyone else that your heart belongs to Jesus and your virginity belongs to your future spouse.
When I was 18, I told the most elaborate lie of my life and I did it because I was lazy. I worked at the meat department of a grocery store where the assistant manager, Harold Johnson (a pseudonym), was known for recruiting meat department employees to stock shelves. That wasn’t my job and I was determined to avoid it.
So many times the same frustrating thing happens when I try to pray. “Heavenly Father,“ I say, but almost immediately I get interrupted by my own thoughts.
One day when I was in my 20s, I was struggling with a lot of guilt and shame because I felt like the only thing God ever saw about me was my sin and brokenness. God must’ve told my mother. I came into the dining room where my mom was and she said, “Joshua, look at that angel up there on the shelf,” and then she pointed to a ceramic angel behind me.
I can’t picture the Holy Spirit. I want to, but I just can’t. Now Jesus is different — I can see Him in my imagination: a Middle Eastern man with black hair, a beard, and smile wrinkles on His face (there are probably scars on His face too).
I pushed the elderly woman in the wheelchair and started our conversation but I knew I had to whisper. For this college sophomore, the workplace had become a tricky arena in which to talk about Jesus.
My wife and I did not intend to have another year of sweeping changes in 2016. We never do. We told ourselves this year was going to be different. The roller coaster was finally going to stop. No more big transitions like the previous eight years of marriage.
I knew my accent would stand out when I moved to Washington, D.C. I didn’t think anyone would make fun of it. As I walked away from the break room and said, “Bye, y’all,” to a group of coworkers, I hadn’t gotten far away before I heard one of them say, “Byyyyye yawl!!” It stung.
A few weeks ago, there was an unpleasant and unfair turn of events in my life that knocked the wind out of me. Feelings of disappointment kicked in. Those feelings eventually turned into anger, and the anger turned into a low-grade anxiety. I couldn’t stop looking in the rearview mirror and reliving what happened.
For a lot of my single years, I was hopelessly awkward. No doubt, there were still attractive things about my personality (or at least my mom says there were), but overall, I was kind of weird.
When I was in my 20s, I was obsessed with the fear that I was not actually saved — that my so-called “faith” was nothing but an elaborate web of self-deception that would end in eternal damnation.
Here’s a tough memory verse for all of us social media users: “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). “Worthless.” Whoa.
I spent a lot of my early Christian walk hiding the areas of brokenness of which I was most ashamed. It was like I believed the worst stuff would go away if I simply didn’t acknowledge it. All it did, however, was cover up the symptoms until my issues bubbled to the surface, causing me to sink into shame. But over the years, the Lord spoke a lot of comfort to me with this Bible story about a man who was seen as unapproachable.
Yesterday, my wife called me at work and told me there was an animal of some kind in the chimney. “How do you know?” I asked. “There are little pieces of leaves and cotton falling down into the fireplace, and I can hear scratching noises.”
Be careful what you name yourself; and be careful what you allow others to name you. Clown. Dumb blonde.