Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Maggie's Letter/The Power of Community

I attended the Christian Book Expo in Dallas last weekend, and one of the speakers was Lee Strobel. He is one of the most engaging, passionate speakers I've ever heard. By the time I finished his breakout, I was ready to go share the gospel with the telephone pole, or anyone who would listen. I have two stories in particular that Mr. Strobel shared which yanked my heart out of my chest. I'm going to share one in this post, and reserve the other for when the Lord leads.

It's about the power of small groups open to reaching seekers with tough questions. In essence, they listen and love 'em into the Kingdom, with the Lord's leading of course. Lee Strobel includes this story in his upcoming book (of which I have an advance copy, (gasp)),
The Unexpected Adventure. Maggie's story has been shared in various places on the internet, however, and maybe in another of Mr. Strobel's books as well.

Years ago, a young woman named Maggie began attending the Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago. She was a hurting soul who'd long stopped trusting that the God of the Universe existed, and especially that He loved her. As a child, she'd been deceived by inauthentic Christians. Abused by them, deeply scarred as a result.

But you know God's heart for those grasped in grip of grief. It wasn't long after Maggie joined a small group at the church just to spite Christians that she began to understand the love of God through the hands and feet of Jesus Christ--His church body. She wrote a letter to Pastor Strobel after attending these small groups for awhile, which I believe God intended for all disciples of Jesus to hear:

Do you know, do you understand?
That you represent Jesus to me?

Do you know, do you understand
That when you treat me with gentleness,
It raises questions in my mind that
maybe HE is gentle too?
Maybe He isn't someone who laughs when I hurt.

Do you know, do you understand
That when you listen to my questions
and you don't laugh, I think,
'What if Jesus is interested in me too'?

Do you know, do you understand
that when I hear you talk about arguments
and conflicts and scars from your past, I think,
'Maybe I am just a regular person,
instead of a bad, no good little girl
who deserves abuse'?

If you care, I think 'maybe He cares—?'
And then there’s this flame of hope
that burns inside of me.
And for awhile, I am afraid to breathe,
because it might go out.

Do you know, do you understand,
that your words are His words?
Your face is His face to someone like me?

Please, be who you say you are,
please, God, don’t let this be another trick.
Please let this be real.

Do you know, do you understand,
that you represent Jesus to me?"

Not long after sending Lee Strobel this poem, Maggie give her life to Christ. Praise God that the people in her small group understood that they represented Jesus to Maggie.

How does her letter make you feel? 

My first response when I heard Mr. Strobel tell this story was one of extreme regret. I'm sure the person beside me thought I was NUTS. I could hardly breathe, and my face was flooded teardrops of shame. I thought of all the ways that I have failed to represent Jesus to others.

Now that I've had time to pray about it, repent of legitimate convictions and let the Lord speak Truth to me, I still feel the gut-wrenching emotion from Maggie's letter, but my guilt is gone. I am stirred to respond instead.

And the place I'm starting is on my knees.

Lord, help me to know, help me to understand, 
how to represent You to the Maggie's in my life.
May I treat them with gentleness.
May I be more interested in them than I am about myself.
May I take their questions and doubts seriously.
May I take off the plastic, "I'm perfect" smile, and be authentic to them.
May I show them where I've found, and still find for that matter,
true healing from my scars, bumps and bruises.
May I give them a flame of Hope that won't go out--the One True Hope.
May my Words always reflect You. My face always shine with You.
Help me to be Salt which reaches the bottom of that deep wound,
And Light which shines out pain hidden in some closet of the soul.
Please, God, help me to be who I say I am.
Don't let me be another obstacle.
Please be real in me.
Let Your Holy Spirit, alive in me, revealed through me,
be Jesus to the Maggies in my world.

***Book to come out is called The Unexpected Adventure by Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg, Zondervan

15 friends shared a comment:

Denise said...

Amen, I stand with you in prayer sweetie.

Becca @ The Texas Darlings said...

I needed to be reminded that as a Christian, I am a reflection of God's love this morning.

Thank you- that was beautifully written!


LAURIE said...

That is really a powerful word today. thanks for the reminder that we are Jesus to somebody today! -blessings, Laurie

Joanne Sher said...

So, SOOOO powerful. What a message for all of us. Excellent, and poignant to ME

Cathy Bryant said...

Wow! Thanks so much for sharing this! My constant prayer is that all I come in contact with will see Jesus in me. Thanks again, for this powerful reminder of who we are in Christ! Blessings!

Patty Wysong said...

I've got some work to do...

Yvonne said...

*sigh* I just politely brushed someone off who wanted to tell me all her woes.

Lord, help me to love them like YOU love me. Help me to see them the way YOU see them. change my heart. Let them see YOU in me. Amen


I needed this today...thanks

Laurie Ann said...

Whawt a powerful post. I am shamed. Echoing your prayer, LauraLee!

LisaShaw said...

Hi Sweet Sister,

I feel like I read this already but perhaps it's just very familiar to my spirit. Thank you for sharing it with us. You always share such meat for us to really get our teeth into and to help us to grow and live out our Christian lives in ways that please God.

I stand in prayer with you as well. Bless you.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

That is so powerful and convicting! It makes me desire to live more authentically the Truth that wraps around my heart and calls me his own. I want to be Jesus to everyone. Everyone.

God, help me to live accordingly.


Catrina Bradley said...

Now you've got me almost weeping and covered in goosebumps. I've left church wanting to "witness to a lamppost" before, and it's an amazing feeling. I settled for the guy at the fastfood drivethru window, tho. ;)

Billy Coffey said...

This is a great reminder of the responsibility we all have in this life. It's easy to think we can't do as much as others. Easier to fall for the notion that there's just too much to do and too little time to do it than pause to speak to someone, or even just listen.

Thank you for these words. I needed a little kick in the pants tonight.

lori said...

ANOTHER one I'm printing off to place in my Bible to remind me just spoke my heart here..thank you!

Without any editing to do...God's giving me some TIME to read a little of what I need to hear...
I pray too for the Holy Spirit, alive in me, to be Jesus to the Maggies in my world...

I'm just taking it all in!

love you,

Peter Stone said...

Thanks for sharing that Laura. That's a prayer I prayed with complete conviction. I want to be like that to the hurting, questioning people of this world too. (Wish I could go back to my past, in particular to some times in my high school years, times when I did not do this at all, and relive them the way I was supposed to...)

Josh said...

I wish I could have attended this conference. It had to have been such an awesome experience.

That poem and your prayer brought tears to my eyes. I'm reminded of the Brandon Heath song "Give Me Your Eyes." We so easily forget that as Christ's servants, we ARE the example that the world looks at. Whether we realize it or not, most people are searching 9even if they pretend not to be), but they have seen so many counterfeits that frustrate them and cause them to lose hope. My desire is to reach people daily just by letting them see that I'm the real deal. I want my actions to speak volumes about my faith and not my lips.

Wonderful post. Thank you so much for sharing this!