One of my favorite parts of my job and of my life is hearing people’s stories. I love it.
I was speaking at an event a few years ago, and when I was done, a girl I had never met before came up to me and asked if she could talk to me. “There’s this boy, and I have no idea what to do…” she began, as if we were already mid-friendship, and mid-conversation. Without even hesitating I grabbed her by the arm and we ran outside to talk, giggling the whole way like we were best friends with a secret.
Out on the curb she told me the whole story, the dilemma, and asked for my advice. I told her bits and pieces of my story, what I’d learned along the way, and less than an hour later (still on the curb) we were crying (both of us!) and hugging.
The best part is, this happens to me all the time.
This is how I do life. This is how I love doing life. I love going through life together, because we can. We don’t have to walk through it alone.
But the thing about being the recipient of people’s stories is that sometimes they’re really hard. Not even just hard, but entirely life-shattering. And it seems that I’ve heard several of those stories recently.
Suicide, lots of it, car accidents where people are absolutely not okay, the loss of parents, of best friends, of husbands. The list goes on.
And as I was brushing my teeth one night it felt like the weight of these stories sank down hard on my heart making it hard to breathe.
I was suddenly so aware of how hard life can be, and how I’m totally not immune.
I started praying, “God, I’m so scared. What’s to say that tomorrow these things don’t happen to me? What’s to say it’s not my sister who’s in the car accident next week, or my husband who doesn’t come home, or my life that’s all of a sudden rocked by cancer? When is it going to be my turn?”
And as those thoughts formed in my mind, I could feel my insides shrivel.
I could feel myself shutting down in fear, mentally building a panic room for Carl and I and everyone we love to move into.
But even as I did this, I knew that this wasn’t the best response to the hurt in the world. Hiding from it, running from it, or spending the rest of my life pretending that if I do X, Y, or Z, I’ll be able to avoid it completely (which of course, wont work) isn’t the way forward.
So then what is?
How do we respond when it sometimes feels like the world is a nightmare that you can’t ever wake up from? What’s the way forward?
And then in a quiet reminder — like a gentle hand on your shoulder — I remembered… Jesus.
I remember exactly where I was and exactly how it felt to hear the Gospel for the very first time. It felt like magic.
I was sitting across a checkered table cloth from my best friend’s Kelsey and Michelle as they explained it to me, and I remember saying, “Why doesn’t everyone KNOW this!? This is like… the magic cure to everything!”
And that’s exactly how it felt.
But I think after awhile, after we’ve been a Christian for awhile, after we’ve had the mountaintop experiences twice over already, after we’ve been on the mission trip, heard the worship songs, and after it feels like we’ve heard all the sermons before, the Gospel starts to feel just a little less magical. Doesn’t it?
It’s not that it’s not good news. Because it absolutely is. We know that. But the way we react to it is sort of how we react when we hear the most steady, solid person in our lives say, “I love you.” We hear it, we appreciate it, and we say it back. But it doesn’t feel quite as miraculous as it once did. We know it’s there so we don’t really think about it too much anymore.
But as I brushed my teeth that night, and thought about all of the messy, hard, heartbreaking things in the world, I just remembered all over again. Jesus.
I remembered all over again, as if in a sudden download of memory, just how good the news really is, just how much power God has to change everything. Just how magic the Gospel really is.
As I’m thinking about this, I’m tempted to want to show proof of what the Gospel has done throughout history, what it’s changed, what God’s done. I want to give you His stats — He cured this many people, saved this many people, healed this many people.
But He’s God, and I can’t count that high, and plus, I think the small stories mean more anyway.
So I just started thinking about what the Gospel has done in my life.
I was a messy, heartbroken, insecure, (often intoxicated) sorority girl from the University of Colorado with absolutely no interest in becoming a Christian at all. I thought I had life dialed in. I thought I knew what I was doing, and that if I could just achieve this one thing, join that one sorority, get that one grade, and of course — lose the Freshman 15 I’d gained — I’d be the woman I’d always want to be, and I’d finally be happy.
But the truth was, I was miserable. My life was a mess, my heart was so broken I could feel it in my fingertips. The pain of the loss I was going through was radiating all the way through me and into the rest of my life as well. I was drinking ALL.THE.TIME, doing things with boys I shouldn’t because I thought it’d help me move on, I was hanging out with people who I’m pretty sure didn’t even like me, and in all of it, I hated the fact that I had to be me.
I remember thinking one day that I felt like I was the last choice in gym class, and that I was furious that I ended up with myself on my team.
You know it’s bad when you’re picked last in gym class, but when you’re the one doing the picking and you still don’t want to pick yourself? That’s a whole other level and that’s exactly where I was.
But then I met Jesus, and He changed everything.
In a lot of ways, it felt like the lights were turned on in my life when I became a Christian. It’s like something sparked in my heart bringing me back to life when I didn’t even realize I’d been dead. Color flooded my cheeks, this indescribable joy filled my heart, and I could laugh again — easily and often… carbonated holiness (as Anne Lamott says).
And I think this is the thing I have to remind myself on days when I feel like the Gospel isn’t really that big.
I actually became a new person when I met Jesus. Not just in the holy, big-picture way, but in a real, everyday, tangible way. My life began to transform. I started making decisions according to what Jesus says is good and right. And can I just tell you? The life-manual of Jesus really is amazing. My life started to look as good, and whole, and full, and exciting as I’d always wanted it to look — but it was real, coming up from the depths of my heart, instead of manufactured to look good on the outside. He really knows His stuff!
I started to make better friends, having something deep and true to connect over, which helped me feel like I really wasn’t alone — for maybe the first time in my life.
I started to learn what God says about us and our identity — and the crazier thing is that I started to believe Him. I started to believe that I am loved, and chosen, and seen, and taken care of. I started to see myself through His lens, and for the very first time, I started to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.
For the first time in my life I feel like I had real, durable hope. I felt joy beyond anything I’d ever experienced, I found purpose in my life when I’d spent so long feeling like I was floating without one, I felt LOVED, deeply loved, for the first time ever.
And the reason I’m telling you this is because I think sometimes I forget. I forget just how much becoming a Christian changed me. I forget what really happened along the way and start to kind of think I’ve always been this way.
I start to forget the absolutely transformative power of the Gospel.
And when I forget, when I forget just how powerful God is and just how much He can do in a human life, I forget to tell people about Him. I start to think that maybe it doesn’t really matter… that maybe He can’t really help that much anyway.
But He can. He absolutely can.
Jesus simply changes everything, He did for me, and He can for every single hurting person in our whole entire world. And so I think we have to tell people about Him. I really do. The world is broken, and we need help. All of us do, and we need it desperately. We need a savior, help, Jesus. And so WE, as people who know Him, have to tell people about Him.
And maybe you’re like me, and when you hear that, you instantly start doubting yourself.
I’ve shared the Gospel more times than I can even count, and I’m a writer for a living, but still, I doubt myself.
The doubt I’ve been having lately is who am I to think that my words could really change things for someone? You know? We hear 8-bazillion messages a day, I feel like my words are just adding to an already chaotic, noisy pile. My words aren’t going to change anything.
But they do.
My best friend’s words CHANGED things for me. The fact that they shared the Gospel with me, and told me about what life looked like as a Christian, that changed things for me. It invited me in. It was the right invitation, in the right words, at the very right time — all orchestrated by God. All they had to do was show up and tell their story.
When we look back on our lives, I know every single one of us can point to a moment when someone’s words, someone’s story clicked with us — when it was just the thing we needed to hear at just the right time. And that happened because they were obedient, and they shared the good news with us, and God worked out the rest.
All we have to do is show up and share our stories, but we have to do it.
Because the world is hard, and messy, and painful, and people NEED love, and joy, and peace, and goodness in their lives. They need it desperately. And we happen to know where that stuff comes from, so we have to spread the word!
And so sweet friends — I have a few invitations for you today.
1. Remind yourself of the power of the Gospel
Find a before and after picture in your life — what life was like before you really knew God, and what it’s like now. Remind yourself that this WORKS, that Jesus changes things, remind yourself of how important and transformative the Gospel really is.
2. Share it with someone
Y’all… the world is BROKEN. Our lives, our hearts, WE are broken. And we really, really need a savior. So let’s talk about Him. We don’t need to make it weird, or formal, or full of pressure. We can just be us. But really, we talk about the magic power of essential oils and the stylist at this particular salon, and that pair of jeans like it’s our job. We know how to talk about things that really make a difference in our lives, and Jesus is that X100000000000000. So let’s talk about Him. Let’s share Him with the people we love. You never ever know how God might use your words — He might use them to change EVERYTHING in someone’s life!
3. Hear it for yourself
If you haven’t heard the Gospel, or aren’t really sure what this is all about, or if you just haven’t heard the Gospel in awhile, I would love to share it with you today. And my favorite way to share the story is through sharing my story — The Lipstick Gospel. It’s the story of how God got my attention, it’s my very best before and after picture, and I would be so honored to share it with you. The best part is, (okay, not the best part, but a great part!) is that it’s absolutely free. Click here and I’ll send you a free downloadable version of the book!
And my dear friend, wherever you are right now, whatever you’re going through, I’m praying that today you’ll be washed over and washed through with the transformative, out-of-this world LOVE and magic of God that is Jesus. May He bring you as much joy, and peace, and love, and LIFE as He’s brought me.
The peace of the Lord be with you, and all of us, and our country and our world.
Love you all!