by Jennifer Slattery @JenSlattery
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20 NASB
Less than five years off the street, I simultaneously craved love and fought against it. I hungered for Jesus but acted as if I didn’t know Him. And in part, I didn’t. I had bits of knowledge, enough to cross over from death to life, but not enough to propel me into freedom.
To the onlooker, I was rebelling against God and His truth. My husband and I went to bars almost every Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t uncommon for us to stay until last call. We were living together while unmarried, and quite honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind that this was wrong.
My entire worldview was contrary to God’s. This worldview, this way of thinking, had developed slowly, over almost two decades. Transformation—which always begins first with the heart and then one’s thoughts—would take time. And love. And Gentleness.
Patiently, bit by bit, God brought light to my darkness and truth to my falsehood.
He used three people in particular, one I initially found strange. This man worked with my husband, a railroader, and in time, a friend. He kept coming around, offering to help, giving and letting us borrow things. Wanting nothing in return. Every once in a while, he’d throw Jesus into the conversation, or subtly say he was praying for us. And then he’d leave.
No pressure. No Bible thumping. No condemnation.
God also sent two pastors our way, one right after the other. They stopped by, joined us for coffee. Took us to lunch and dinner. Answered our questions, but mainly acted as friends–as if oblivious to our drunkenness, foul language, and frequent fights.
They looked past the outward gunk to the hurting, hungry hearts beneath.
And here’s the deal—had they come at us with condemnation, with any expectation, I would’ve bolted. Hid. Maybe never entered a church again. Though I might not have known a lot of Scripture, I had years of condemnation, of self-loathing. Of shame. Of believing I was unworthy of God’s love.
And God saw me (Genesis 16:13). He saw my hurt, my confusion and deception. My shame. And instead of calling me to rise to where He was, He came to me. As the God who bends down to listen (Psalm 116:2). Through three obedient and faithful men, God shattered my expectations, broke through my defenses, and built steady and enduring bridges, gently, lovingly, drawing me closer to Himself.
We moved four years later, and those men never saw the results of their patience. For all they knew, their efforts had been wasted. They have no idea the impact their relationship with this sinful, foul-mouthed couple from the west coast made.
Except for one of them—my husband’s coworker. Last year, this man, the one who’d so patiently reached out, joined us for dinner. It wasn’t long before our conversation turned to my writing and ministry, and all God has done through a street-girl turned speaker. That night, we were able to share how God used his efforts, nearly a decade later.
He’d chosen to build bridges. To show love. To trust that, God would bring two broken, sinful people to Himself, in His perfect timing. He didn’t consider himself responsible for the end result. He was but a guide along the journey, long before any fruit from his efforts emerged.
I’m reminded of their example when I encounter others so different from me. My initial reaction is to pull away, to self-protect and choose the comfortable. To resist focusing on the outside and stay focused on the broken heart within. I’m reminded of who I’ve been, yes, but also of who I am now—another representative of the God who sees, loves, and transforms.
About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Restoring Her Faith and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she and her team love to help women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. Visit her online to find out more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event, and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter to learn of her future appearances, projects, and releases.
Hometown Healing: She’s home again, but not for long…
unless this cowboy recaptures her heart…
Returning home with a baby in tow, Paige Cordell’s determined her stay is only temporary. But to earn enough money to leave, she needs a job—and her only option is working at her first love’s dinner theater. With attraction once again unfurling between her and Jed Gilbertson, can the man who once broke her heart convince her to stay for good?
Join the conversation: What ambassador of God has had an impact on your life?