I never knew how prophetic this question would become until I would experience it firsthand.
I recently returned from a two week intensive study as part of Master’s Degree program I’m enrolled in. As part of our class requirement, I was to give a 10 minute presentation of “my story”. We were asked to highlight our spiritual journey as well as other details about our life that would enable the class to get a good sense of who we were and what we were looking for by taking the class.
These types of class projects are always difficult. How do you select a life’s worth of events and string them together so they become an accurate representation of who you are? Also, I’ve never met anyone who has had a spiritual journey that didn’t have a significant amount of pain and regret included… and how much of that did I want to add to the mix? So I made a conscious decision to add “some” of those painful moments and to intentionally skip over some of the others that had a deeper “sting”.
So presentation day came and I stood before 25 of my brand new fellow classmates and shared the story I was comfortable to share. When it came time for questions at the end of my presentation, I was asked a very specific question that could only be answered with a “Yes or No”. This particular question was one of the most regrettable and painful parts of my life and story. Well, it surprised me when the words that immediately came out of my mouth were not the truth. It was a lie. There I stood…in front of a classroom of people I will spend the next 3 to 4 years with in a class on Character, Leadership and Community and I was misrepresenting to them who I was. In other words…I lied. Nice start Bob.
Three days went by without me saying anything to anyone, but I knew…and God knew. Then as God would have it, I was having a conversation with one of my classmates over coffee and I slipped up and gave away the very fact I had misrepresented to the class. In the first few seconds, I hoped it had not been noticed…but I was wrong. I had been confronted by my deception….now what?
My mind was racing. I knew what I had done. I knew what I had to do. I had to “come clean” with my classmates and admit what I had done and ask them for forgiveness. I was embarrassed, shamed and I was certain that I would be asked to leave the program. The demons in my mind were having a ‘field day”. I had lived up to everything I didn’t want to become. Good job, Bob.
So that night I prayed and wrote a letter to my classmates on our private class website. I outlined exactly what I had done and asked them for forgiveness. When I pushed “send” it was like pushing the knife through my own heart. I then turned off the computer and tried to bury myself in a book.
Hours later before I went to bed, I opened up my computer one last time just to see if anyone had read or responded to my confession…. and what I saw and read brought me to tears. I was met with such an outpouring of forgiveness, love, support and encouragement that my heart couldn’t contain it all. Note after note expressed heartfelt love, expressions of gratitude and forgiveness and even admiration! I was overwhelmed and humbled by it all. I was loved…despite my actions. I was loved for not what I had done…but by who I was. I was loved for my weakness. I was loved by my community.
I was loved as Jesus loves us.
Let me say this…there is nothing that can compare to this kind of love.
Since then, many other hearts in our class have opened and we are interacting authentically and deeply with each other. It is a beautiful thing and I guess I am thankful that God chose to use me in such a way I never anticipated or expected.
So, when I think about the story I want to tell…more importantly…the story I want to live…I know in it…I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to be ashamed of the failures…past, present and future. My story is still being written…each and every day…and it’s not so much what I’ve done that is important….it’s how I respond. This is what matters most…and this was the gift my classmates lovingly extended to me…
It’s called grace…and I’m grateful for it.