Friday at MLJ, we had a gift exchange at our Christmas party. Everyone was invited to bring a gift and throughout the exchange, you could either pick an unopened gift or steal a gift from someone who had already picked. I was predictable and brought jewelry from J.Crew to give. When I purchased them, they came in a jewelry bag, a nice black box and then a small J.Crew bag. The J.Crew bag said J.Crew on it, obviously, but was nice enough to give as a gift bag. That was the plan. Until yesterday. We were talking around work about how if it was appropriate to not officially wrap our gift, but bring it in a nice gift bag that may give away where the gift was from. I was suddenly self-conscious about my nice J.Crew gift bag. Had I had extra time and didn’t work two jobs, I probably would have gone out and bought a different bag for my gift. I did not, and today everything went fine. No one commented on the packaging, they loved the bracelets. It’s silly to think I almost spent time, money and energy on packaging.
I’ve had three different conversations this week that have made me reflect on the way we wrap our testimonies – stories of what God is doing and has done in our lives – the same way that I felt the pressure to rewrap my gift exchange gift. I’ve had a version on this conversation three times this week. What is this fascination with making things look “good”? We want nice, neat before and after testimonies where the after is dramatically different from the before. I was addicted to porn, now I don’t even struggle, because of Jesus. I had an eating disorder, now I don’t struggle with control in any area of life, because of Jesus. I was never in a relationship where we weren’t having sex, now I don’t even struggle with purity, because of Jesus. If one of these is your story, I celebrate with you. God can deliver us out of those strongholds. It is a beautiful thing!
But what if you story is more like mine? Even once I found Jesus, I struggled to manufacture control of my life through eating. While I’ve seen victory, when things are tough, I’m still tempted to grasp for control in whatever way I can, sometimes wanting to go to unhealthy lengths with food or exercise. Is my story not a story of victory? Is God not at work in my life because I struggle? Do I need to re-wrap my story?
No. I see God to be so faithful in the struggle. It is in the struggle that I am reminded that dependency on God not self-sufficiency is the Christian life. I should be reminded everyday that the gift inside of the bag is the same –grace, freedom, life with Jesus – why should I re-wrap it? I want to embrace my brokenness because it brings me back to the cross. I want those who I do community with to feel safe to bring things into the light before they’re completely resolved. If I wanted to know everything that someone loves in their life, I don’t need to look further than their social media, but over coffee, the phone or a glass of wine, I want to know the real truth, without the pressure to re-wrap it.
Here’s to telling stories that aren’t quite complete yet. Here’s to celebrating the struggle because it makes us more like Christ. Here’s to living in freedom of not having to put our testimonies in better gift-wrapping.