when I was young, I thought finding Jesus was easy, thought it was a one-time event. like, “Oh, he found Jesus, and now he’s saved.” (whatever those christian-isms actually mean?)
as I got older, I realized it’s never that simple.
because, as rachel held evans says, God chose a side when Jesus arrived here, wrapped up in our messy humanity.
so, today I am writing a thank you letter to every abuser, liar, manipulator, fool, and pharisee who changed my life. I’m writing this thank you letter, because they are the ones who have showed me where Jesus is and is not. they’ve showed me where to find him. they’ve pushed me towards him, unintentionally.
to the people in my youth group who made jokes about me every time I was moved to tears during worship, prayer, or someone’s testimony…
thank you. Jesus is with those who are moved with compassion, because the heart of God is moved with compassion. I felt like an oversensitive drama queen for years, until I realized my heart is soft, gentle, and overcome with empathy. and that those are my strengths. and that you can find Jesus with the compassionate.
to the girl who manipulated and sexually abused me as a teenager…
thank you. not for the abuse, which was despicable and vile, but for opening me up to the reality that Jesus is found with the abused. you can always be sure to find Jesus wherever people are being taken advantage of at their core. he was beaten, stripped naked, and hung on a tree for everyone to mock. Jesus is with us. Divine Love has chosen sides, and as a mother comforts, nurtures, and empathizes with Her children, She sits with us, grieving our abuse, collecting our tears.
to those who told me that the mental illness of anxiety is sin, that I need to repent and have more faith…
thank you. Jesus is with the ill, with the ones in deepest agony and anxiety. who do you think it was who sweat drops of blood and begged for relief? I have learned that you will always find Jesus with the exhausted souls of the mentally ill.
to the group of women who gossiped about me to an entire church, and who, when confronted, told me I should close down my blog and keep my mouth shut…
thank you. though my wounded, reeling heart could not have known it at the time, your uncalled-for judgement and cruel words were the stepping stone to freedom for me. I posted hardly anything for months, until I realized my voice was so strong, even I could not contain it. you have taught me that Jesus will always be found among those who have been silenced.
to the complete strangers who attacked me on facebook, saying that my Christian parents should be ashamed to have had me, and that I bore no resemblance to a godly woman…
thank you. without your self-righteous, slanderous remarks, I might never have remembered that Jesus lives with those cast out by the religious. in fact, Jesus was cast out by the religious. more than that, he was killed by the religious. I now wear the condemning words you spoke out of self-righteous privilege as a badge of honor.
to the girl at my college, who condescended and scolded me into tears on multiple occasions because her way was the only right way…
thank you. I left that campus severely depressed, but comping to grips with my experiences there made me realize that Jesus is always found with the ones who embrace mystery & dance in the grey. if you go to the fringes, where people are questioning, wrestling, doubting, struggling… that’s where Jesus is.
to the person who told my husband to control me, lied to our friends by saying we were having marital problems, left us nearly homeless and broke, and blamed us for all of it…
thank you. this is the hardest thank you of all. it physically hurts to say, and yet… it’s somehow, some way true. I’m thankful that you have showed me that Jesus is with the weak who are trampled over and left to fend for themselves by the hand of the religious powerful. Jesus is with the ones who are spiritually abused and brushed off as less-than in his very name.Jesus is with those who are marginalized and abandoned by the spiritual leaders who are commanded to care for and shepherd them.
Jesus gives compassion to the ones you condemn.
Jesus empowers the ones you crush.
Jesus came to the poor, marginalized, colored, judged, “unclean” people who were the very bane of the religious establishment of his day.
and as miserable, terrifying, and hopeless as it sometimes feels to be in that place… if it is where Jesus is, here I will be.