My friend Julie has lived a hard life.
She’s in her mid-forties, but has the mental capacity of a twelve-year-old. I’m not sure if she was born this way, or if her trauma-filled life caused it.
Usually, Julie is full of positive energy. She comes to our ministry building to shoot pool, drink coffee, and laugh at our lame jokes. She’s a delight to have around.
Every now and then, Julie tells stories about her past. How her ex-husband made her drink urine and threw her down a staircase when she was pregnant.
Or she’ll reminisce about her son, who was taken from her over twenty years ago.
“They said I was an unfit mama,” she says in shame.
Julie has several more stories that I won’t share. Just believe me when I say that her life has been one terrible event after another.
A few years ago, I got to watch my friend baptize Julie.
Man, she was so happy.
Because she loves Jesus so much.
When I think about Julie, I’m reminded of the biblical story of the sinful woman who washes Jesus’ feet with her tears. A Pharisee, who had invited Jesus over for dinner, knows the woman is a sinner. He can’t believe Jesus would let such a woman touch him. So he sits and quietly judges Jesus and the woman.
But Jesus isn’t having it. He tells a short story:
“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other owed fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” (Luke 7:41-42, ESV)
Jesus is asking us this same question.
The sinful woman was probably a prostitute. Have you ever met a prostitute? They’re never women who have had an easy life. They’re women who have experienced unthinkable trauma at the hands of wicked men.
My friend Julie is not a prostitute, but most of the trauma she’s experienced has come from men who have taken advantage of her. And these experiences have led to a tremendous amount of shame.
Yet she wakes up early every Sunday to go to church and serve as a door greeter at both services.
She loves to sing to Jesus.
She loves to tell people about Jesus.
She loves to study the bible and pray.
If Jesus walked into her church, she would wash his feet. No doubt about it.
Despite the trauma and suffering she’s experienced, Julie loves Jesus.
Her life tells a beautiful story:
Jesus is awesome.
Not because he gives her everything she wants, or keeps her from getting sick.
He’s awesome because he loves her, even though he doesn’t have to.
He chooses to love the addicted, the abused, the mentally ill, the mentally handicapped, the rude, the proud, and on and on…
When we measure Julie’s suffering against the love she has for Jesus, we see that Jesus is awesome, not because he keeps us from suffering (because he doesn’t always do that), but because he has chosen to love us, forgive us, and welcome us into his family.
I wish I had faith like Julie.