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When You Must Look at What You Don’t Want to See (meeting grace and truth in hard places)

Shutting our eyes is easier than opening them wide to the hard truth, because the hard truth casts light on what we don’t want to see.

girl looking through cracked window

It’s a strange truth that people don’t want to see their own messes because if we look at them we think that will make us look messy.

But a mess doesn’t make you messy.

A mess makes you in a grace place.

What if we all said out loud, “I’m a mess and it’s my fault and that makes me thankful for grace,” because gentle Grace came down and said, “Your mess makes you need help, and help is available to you.”

I love the church. Jesus called the church the light of the world. In the church, light streams through stained glass windows hemmed together of messy, broken people. The counselors, the teachers, the musicians are there because they know they are fallen. The church is people who know they need grace.

The grace is the true light. Without it a church is just another dark place making us feel darker.

I’m a big believer in truth. I like helping people see truth. And guess what? It never works if it’s done loud and harsh or with shame or judgement. I’m better at it on a stage than I am face to face with people I love.

That’s why I really believe God’s been calling me off the stage to practice beauty in the up-close-and-personal and learn how to offer grace and face truth in loving ways, instead of with harsh rocks that make everyone feel more broken down.

When I wrote a book on sex I found out it was about gentle and unassuming tones of Love in its finest form– that none of us is really after sex, because love is what the human heart beats for. Without love we might as well shut up this place called earth and find a way out of here.

But love makes it possible to peel back the paper dark and see glimpses of freedom from whatever hard truth we don’t want to see.

So here’s my thought for you today: If you don’t want to look at what you don’t want to see, picture where Jesus is in the picture.

Imagine yourself dealing with your hard truth, bit by bit, step by step. Maybe even draw a picture of yourself dealing with your mess. And then draw where Jesus is in the picture.

I bet you’ll find out what I found out as I walked straight into the black pit of what I didn’t want to see: He was right there beside me. He didn’t look down into my pit and shake a finger.

He walked beside me through it.

So goes with the mess I’ve created today. So goes with the mess you’re in.

(And if you’re not in a mess right now, there is someone you know who is.)

It really is okay to say out loud, “I created this.” And I’m going to own it and face it, determined to come out the other side better than I walked in. As you deal with the hard stuff, use these two priceless gifts to walk through it:  Grace and Truth.

Grace that says: your mess makes you need a Savior.

Truth that says: I need help changing this, and I’m going to do it piece by piece, step by step. 

In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott tells a story of having to do a big class assignment where she had to classify hundreds of birds. She was overwhelmed and frozen with fear that she couldn’t do it all.

She asked her father how on earth it would all be accomplished.

“Bird by Bird,” he assured her. Guess how she got the big job done?

Bird by Bird.

That’s how I wrote a book on Sex. Truth by hard truth. Grace upon grace. Chapter after chapter, each one at a time.

You know friend, you may have a lot of things you need to tackle. Issues that you need to resolve. A long list of things to be forgiven. You may have a wall that seems a mile high or a pile that looks impossible to face so it tricks you into thinking it’s easier to pretend it’s not there.

God will help you face hard truths with gentle grace, not a wagging finger or a cloak of shame. It’s his pleasure to peel back the paper dark and help you take first steps into the light. You don’t need to be afraid to look at the mess, because in the mess you find the gospel, you find the church, you find help in time of need.

Bird by bird.

Brick by brick. Truth by truth.

Knowing God’s got your hand.

He is FOR you,

Your friend,

Jen

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About the Author: Jennifer

Jennifer Strickland is a wife, mom, TEDx speaker, and former professional model. She is the author of Girl Perfect, More Beautiful Than You Know, and Beautiful Lies, among other books and Bible studies that teach women their worth in God’s eyes. Since leaving the modeling industry, she founded URMore.org, a non-profit ministry that provides resources to hurting women and girls. Her favorite moments are found working on the family ranch with her husband, who she calls “the Cowboy”; in her kitchen, concocting a new version of her famous spaghetti; or spending time with their three precious children.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

Jennifer is a captivating speaker. She keeps the listener hanging in wonder of what’s coming next! Her presentation is not only absorbing, it reveals the truth of God’s power to heal a wounded spirit.

Barbara Brown

Barbara Brown, Former Stonecroft Ministries Regional Representative, San Diego, CA

“The ‘P’ word [perfection] may be the heaviest burden women bear. All the misguided things we do to attain it can keep us away from what we need most – the unconditional love of God the Father. The Girl Perfect Study Guide gives you a map to the wholeness you were created for.”

Nancy Ortberg

Nancy Ortberg, author and former teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church

“The Girl Perfect Study Guide shatters the lies girls and women believe and points to the ultimate truth, which really does set us free. I am confident that this study will help thousands discover a beauty, purpose, and worth that truly lasts. Thank you Jen for exposing the ‘perfect life’ and inviting girls to experience God’s ‘perfect love.'”

Allie Marie Smith

Allie Marie Smith, Founder of Wonderfully Made

One of the best testaments to what Jennifer is doing for the young girls and women of today is a comment from my eleven-year-old granddaughter: “Grammy, I want to read this book and hear her again. She’s good and I learned a lot.” This is exactly what I experienced from a grown-up perspective when I was introduced to Jennifer Strickland’s amazing story. Read it and see if you don’t get the real story from an icon model and a powerful speaker of truth.”

Thelma Wells

Thelma Wells, D.D. (Hon), President of Woman of God Ministries
As a teacher, participator, and observer of public speaking for most of my life, I’ve come to realize that many speakers make one of two mistakes when interacting with their audience (especially when that audience is mainly teenagers.) They either expect their audience to climb up to their level (which feels unattainable to the crowd) or they step down to the level of their listeners (which feels cheap and pandering.) The best speakers meet their audience where they are and lead them up to where they want them to be. This feels genuine. This is what Jennifer did over the last few days at our school.
Jennifer Strickland is a funny, engaging, dynamic speaker. She shares truth with authority and credibility that comes from both experience (her story is powerful) and an obvious depth of study in the Bible. The ideas she presents about Value, Identity, and Purpose are truths everyone needs to hear.
I heartily recommend her for your conference, school retreat, or any event where you want your people to be encouraged and challenged with deep, impacting truth.

Andrew Doan

Andrew Doan, Concord Christian Academy, Concord, NH

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