Working at a Christian training centre, you hear a lot of what we in Christendom call "testimonies" which are personal anecdotes about God with some life application sprinkled in. Most of them range between pretty generic to straight up boring to a veteran churchgoer like me.
As I sat in a mock church service to train some of the fresh blood, I could tell the group I was assessing realized they had an hour left of their test service and nothing else planned. They passed a panicked look to each other, and after a moment of tense silence, one of them stood with confidence and started speaking.
Here we go. Another generic message about freedom in Christ, I thought to myself.
The young woman, let's call her Sarah, tried to speak, but couldn't quite find her words; tripping over her tongue like badly poured concrete.
About 30 seconds into it, it was overwhelmingly apparent she had a stammer. She began to open up to us about her lifelong struggle with stuttering and never being able to communicate clearly.
The solution to this problem was obvious to me, as I'm sure it's obvious to you. Why doesn't God just heal her?
Wouldn't she then have the confidence to stand in front of her peers and be able to have relationships with others in fulfilling and meaningful ways?
But that didn't happen. Not when she was a child, and not now as she stood before me, a young woman.
There she was, a beautiful contradiction. Sarah was obviously imperfect, and that didn't seem to scare her anymore. She knew she was loved by God as she was, and that was everything.
The Way of Nature
Since that day, her testimony has remained at the forefront of my mind. You see, I've never really been comfortable with imperfection. In my own mind, imperfection equals rejection.
When I became a Christian at the age of 17, I made close friends for the first time. I burned my CD's and threw away my Harry Potter books with the rest of them, but something never felt quite right to me.
The more "holy" I became, the more panicked I felt. Underneath it all, I knew that I was irreparably imperfect, and no amount of counseling, support groups, or healing prayers was going to change that fact.
I was trapped in an unending cycle of proving to God, myself, and every one around me that I was worthy of love and belonging because I was good or "holy."
The Way of Grace
I've grown a lot in my years as a Christian, but religion lingers in my heart like cheap cologne. I think that's why Sarah's testimony hit me so hard. I'm not totally comfortable with this beautiful contradiction; sinner and saint.
It's easy to take my shame and self-hatred and turn that into a god of its own to give my life to. However, the true God became man and died for me while I was still a sinner. He now sits at the right hand of the Father, the God-Man; a beautiful contradiction himself.
He calls me into the tension, not in order to perfect me, but simply to love me.
At the end of all things, I don't want to be standing on my own, boasting of my own accomplishments in life. I want to be standing with Sarah; imperfect and loved.
A beautiful contradiction.
Brenden Bell is working as a full-time missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization in Brisbane. He works as a screenwriter, editor and teacher with their film production team.
Brenden Bell's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/brenden-bell.html