Friday, July 18, 2008

Bad Girls of the Bible...

I just finished reading the book Bad Girls of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them by Liz Curtis Higgs. While I didn't really care for the fictional retelling of the biblical stories at the beginning of each chapter, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the real woman's story and the commentary that she gave on each one.

Liz put these bad girls into three categories: bad to the bone (Potiphar's wife, Delilah and Jezebel), bad for a moment (Lot's wife, Sapphira and Michal), and bad for a season but not forever(Rahab, the woman at the well and the sinful woman who annointed Jesus' feet with her tears). I don't know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing but I could identify with each and every one of these women. However, my favorite chapter was the one on Rahab. This is an excerpt from the last page of that chapter:

"It’s grand to see our heroine Rahab so touted, but I have one question: Why did the New Testament writers still insist on calling her a prostitute? Can’t she lose the old label? Must those of us with a hairy history wear our pasts around our necks like a scarlet thread for the rest of our lives?

Yes. And No.

Paul and James mentioned Rahab’s past for the same reason people share their testimonies today – to demonstrate the “before and after” power of knowing the Lord. Stories of how God has changed lives aren’t intended to glorify sin; they are meant to glorify God’s grace.

Even so, some people have a hard time getting past our past. When I share my story – candidly, not trying to make it pretty because it wasn’t – I watch some of the dear women in my audience emotionally, even physically, pull back. The room grows very quiet, and their eyes reveal their thoughts: “Oh, you were that kind of woman.”

It’s not judgment so much as it is a foreign concept. Women who’ve grown up in the church don’t always know what to do with a Rahab. Especially in a smaller fellowship, Rahabs may feel they don’t fit in, that no one “gets it.”

Beloved, if that’s you, listen to Lizzie: There are thousands of us. After I share my own story, women track me down and pour their hearts out. “No one in my church knows.” “I can’t tell a soul.” “I always thought I was the only one.”

Take heart, my sisters. We’re not the only ones.

Thank the Lord we’re finding our way back to the cross, nailing our sinful pasts to the foot of it, and pressing on. The apostle Paul was an “other” too. Different? Ooh baby, he persecuted the Christians – and then became one! He called himself “chief among sinners” yet proclaimed himself made new in Christ.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. Romans 1:16

If God can turn a harlot into a holy vessel, entrusting her with the very genes that would one day produce the King of Kings, surely those of us with a past can leave our shame in the rubble and walk away, fixing our eyes on the One who washes us white as snow."

For the longest time my past controlled me. Another quote from the book, "bad girls blame their situations, good girls rise above them", reminds me of how I ran from God and made excuse after excuse, blaming my past and thinking that it was too bad for Him to forgive. I will never forget Todd Friel telling me that we can't outsin God. That is so true and it has taken me a long time to learn that, but now, I look at my past and it just magnifies the grace that God bestowed on me in spite of it. He sent His son to pay for my past and now, when He looks at me, He sees Jesus. How selfish it was of me to think that my sin was greater than His sacrifice.