I read my first chapter in it last night before bed. BIG mistake, after that I couldn't sleep. All I could think about was what just happened to my heart. It got WALLOPED.
To give you a clear picture of what happened I'm going to tell you a story, yes this would be the one I sat up and thought about when I should have been sleeping. Had my bed not been warm and cozy I would have written this last night in the dark so nobody could see the tears streaming down my face. Oh convicted heart of mine.
There was a woman named Sara. Sara thought she was a good person. She never stole, or cheated, most of all she hated lies. Sara had transparent skin, she had been hurt many times by people and she had wished her skin were thicker. Sara also had a fragile heart. It began to break when she was a child. When mean words were thrown her way tiny cracks began to appear in her heart, she had to learn to pad it so it wasn't so delicate. As Sara grew older she became more and more comfortable in her thickly covered skin and her padded up heart. She even began to feel pretty, choosing to wear her two favorite colors: Black and White. Never varying the color, it had to be black OR white.
When Sara would go out, she was careful to dress accordingly. Putting on her most padded undergarments, her best sarcasm sweater, in black, Her crisp white perfectly spotless slacks and her shiny, flat I can sure run in these, walk carefully on egg-shell, ballet slippers.
She would coif her hair and attend to her make-up, putting everything in "look at me, like me, please don't hurt" perfection.
One day Sara was walking down the street. This particular day Sara was feeling quiet proud of herself, she was finally walking down a busy street she had always wanted to go but was concerned about all the other people and would they think she wasn't right to walk down their street. But Sara was confidant she had chosen the right outfit to fit in. The right style.
Sara stopped to check her reflection in a store window. An instant of doubt popped into her head. She blew it away with one breath, no I can DO this! She told herself. Her confidence boosted she turned to walk on down the brilliant street. Suddenly Sara was bumped to the ground falling hard on her nice crisp white slacks, that were now no longer spotless.
Anger rose up inside her, who the the world would run into her, hadn't they seen her standing there? After all she was perfectly dressed, looking perfectly normal.
She looked up, at first she thought she saw a stern, angered young man standing with his arm out ready to cast her aside.
As she gulped back her anger, she realized he was holding out his hand to her. This made the anger rise again.
"I don't need your help thank you." She replied, taking stock in her soiled pants.
The hand remained out stretched. Looking up again she saw he wasn't stern, she saw compassion, she saw kindness, empathy.
She reached out for his hand, not because she really wanted to, but because she was now worried how this would look to others passing by.
"Are you hurt?" The man kindly asked.
Sara was shocked at the emotion in his voice, she could only stare at her soiled pants and think, my pants are ruined. Now I will have to start all over again.
He seemed to notice her concern over her pants.
"I will pay to have that cleaned." He said gently.
Sara looked up at him, thinking darn right you will! But then something in his eyes changed her anger into sadness. She thought, why should someone else pay for my mistake? I should have wore black pants today, they hide the blemishes better.
Before she could answer or think, the man was leading her up the street. Sara tried and tried to tell him "No, I just came that way! I don't want to go back! I want to go forward!"
All the while he was listening to her, when finally she dug in her feet and began crying.
"Don't you understand I don't WANT to go back. I just got these new clothes I was going somewhere ELSE, not back."
He noticed her sweater had pulled away from her arm, exposing her thin skin. When Sara realized he could see it, she quickly made to cover it.
"No, please don't. I think it's beautiful. I can see how wonderfully you are made."
A warm comfort fell over her at his words. She decided to tell him about her padded heart too.
"You see, I have to pad it or it will break into a thousand pieces and I will have no strength left."
He looked into her eyes and said "I will be your strength."
Sara felt strength move through her body, starting at her heart and growing outward toward her limbs. It wasn't like a super-hero strength, but a new firmness in her muscles.
Again she looked into the man's eyes, this time there was a generosity there.
"My clothes are ruined." She said sadly.
"I will give you clean new clothes."
Sara could not believe her ears. A stranger was offering to buy her new clean clothes, all because of her own clumsiness.
He led her past all the fancy boutiques, each one looking more tempting then the last, but he led her on, until they came to a faded little shop that looked as if it had seen better days. The windows were grimy, nothing looked appealing about this place. What could she possibly find in this dump to wear? Sara was beginning to have doubts again. Her flesh began to feel itchy, tight and cold.
"Do you not want something new to wear to replace the old?" His face was warm, caring. He held the door open for her.
Sara got a whiff from inside, it reminded her of a warm fire, of her favorite meal, of a piece of melt-y chocolate. She went inside. It was a kaleidoscope of color. All different shapes, sizes and textures. He seemed to be leading her over to a particular rack. As Sara looked around she realized she didn't see many things that were black or white.
He held out a new sweater, it was a light shade of blue.
"To match the subtle shade in your eyes." He smiled.
"But I only wear black and white." She said softly.
"Try this, I promise this was made just for you."
Sara went to try it on, she was met by a woman who looked like she had never seen the outside world. Her hair was a mess, her garments were ratty and she was covered with dirt.
"Let me help you miss." She said sweetly, not feeling the least bit conscious of her own clothing.
She held out her hand for Sara's old sweater and just before she handed her the new one, she held out the prettiest pink bra, which was very much NOT padded.
"Oh, I can't wear that! It has no padding." Sara exclaimed.
"But it will make you feel so much prettier then that bulky thing. Let me have that," She said pointing to Sara's old bra. "You take this one." Handing her the new one. The tag said
brand: Holy Spirit, model: Truth
"It's the HST bra! It's our most popular." the woman grinned.
When Sara put it on she was amazed how pretty she looked and felt. She turned smiling to the woman. Sara noticed that the woman's hair looked softer, straighter some how.
"You're right! I do feel a little more pretty. I feel lighter too."
"Ready for the sweater?"
Sara nodded, as she pulled the new sweater on she was impressed by how soft it was. It felt so good against her skin.
The woman gave a shake as she took the old sweater.
"Ooh, that one was quite rough on the skin wouldn't you say?"
Sara again looked at the woman and noticed her dress looked cleaner somehow, and her hair had definitely gotten more sleek.
"Not quite finished." she said darting off and then back again.
She held out a pair of jeans.
"Oh, I don't wear jeans. Too tight, to form fitting."
"These are tailored. Special fit. Just your size."
Sara couldn't imagine how those tiny jeans were going to fit her thighs and round bottom. When she slipped her one leg in the fit was surprising good. Then the other leg, she was sure the zipper would not zip. But then it did. No pulling, no sucking in, no laying on the floor trying to heave it up. There was no gap in the back either. They were the perfect fit.
"What ARE these jeans?" She called out admiring herself in the mirror.
The woman looked at her and smiled "Well we here call them a Touch of Grace. Doesn't matter what kind of body you have these one jeans fit everyone."
Sara smiled at the woman, she noticed the dirt was now gone and the woman looked stunning standing in front of her.
"Thank you for your help..." Sara realized she didn't know the woman's name. She looked at her name tag that she just noticed it read Hope.
"Thank you for your help Hope."
The woman smiled and then walked away. Sara walked back out to see the man again.
"You were right, the sweater fits, it's so much softer and more comfortable then the one I had. She noticed he was leaning on the rack where he had pulled it from. The sign on the rack said
Sweaters of Love.
She glanced around and started reading the other racks.
Sweaters of Joy
Sweaters of Peace
Sweaters of Patience
Sweaters of Kindness
Sweaters of Goodness
Sweaters of Faithfulness
Sweaters of Gentleness
And Sweaters of Self-control.
The man was watching her carefully. When Sara turned back to him he asked
"Do you see another one that catches your eye?"
Sara hugged her new sweater, she couldn't imagine one of the other sweaters feeling quite as good as the love one.
"It's okay, you can choose another one next time. This one brings out your eyes."
As they approached the counter the man selected a necklace from the case.
Sara looked at it, it was much to expensive for her to wear. He held it out to her. She wouldn't take it.
"I can't except that! It's much too expensive."
"But it's a gift!" He said.
Sara took it gently from his hand, she thought it would feel heavy around her neck, look too gaudy. The tag read MERCY.
Sara was afraid to put it on. He nodded to her.
Sara was surprised at how light it felt, it wasn't too heavy. It made her cry to look at it.
"Everyone deserves Mercy." He said to her.
"Thank you." was all she could say.
Just before they were to go a short woman came back out with a pile of clothes. She handed the clothes to Sara.
"What is this?" Sara asked
"They are your old clothes. Cleaned and pressed. Good as new." She said.
Sara looked at her name tag, it read: Forgiveness.
Sara looked from the man to the woman.
"You cleaned these?" Sara asked.
The man answered winking, "Amazing what a little Forgiveness can do."
"Don't you want your old things back?" Forgiveness asked.
Sara looked at the clothes, they were so plain, so white and so black and sweater was kinda itchy and tight.
"Can I trade them in for something else?" She asked.
The woman looked to the man who nodded. Excitement filled Sara's heart.
"Which one should I choose?" She asked moving from one rack to the next.
The man was at her side as she looked.
"Well that depends on where you will be going I suppose."
Sara was watching him.
"You picked this one, Why don't you choose again. You seem to have good taste."
This time he held one up, Sara looked shocked. The color was all off. She had never liked that color before. She pulled one from the rack next to her that said Sweaters of Goodness.
"I like this one." She said ignoring his choice.
Hope was standing there now, hands on her hips, shaking her head.
"They always try to go for the goodness next don't they Lord?"
He laughed at her observation.
"Have I not chosen well the first time Sara?" He asked.
Sara was struck at how gentle yet convicting his words were..
Then she realized Hope had called him Lord. Who was this man? Sara suddenly felt self-conscious again. She felt panic rise in her. Her hand shot up to her neck and felt the steady weight of her necklace of Mercy. Her arms felt down to her sweater of love and then into her pockets of her Grace Jeans.
"No, you have chosen well." She looked at the rack he was standing near again. She felt disappointed. It said Sweaters of Self-control.
Hope came forward and made a suggestion.
"Perhaps Lord, you may try one from that rack over there? It may not be so shocking. After all this is her first time visiting."
Sara smiled at her, she noticed the rack Hope had mentioned and it wasn't as bold as the rack he had first chosen.
He reached out and grabbed one from the rack of Sweaters of Patience.
"Now with that one you will have to wear it a while before you get used to the fit. Sometimes it shrinks in the wash. But every time you wear it you'll be surprised at how content you are in it." Hope said taking the sweater.
Sara noticed all of Hope's clothes sparkled. Not a speck of dirt was on her face.
"How does Love feel?" He asked her.
Sara couldn't deny it felt good to wear Love. She had a feeling he had more to say, maybe that she hadn't been so loving to those around her.
"Now you are to put off all of these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful."
"So we must act like we love someone? I am suppose to pretend to like someone? Isn't it wrong to be deceptive and two-faced? Don't I need to be honest with my feelings?" Sara asked.
"Let the peace of God rule your heart. *The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out. But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind.I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be." (*Jeremiah 17:9-10)
Hope handed Sara her bag, saying "Choosing the truth of God's Word and acting in a loving manner, even when our own feelings may mock us, is the right thing to do. When we reject the temptation to trust in own fickle feelings and, instead, trust in Christ's heart, then we will be rewarded for that act of faith." (*note* this paragraph was taken from TMILD book Chapter 1)
Sara's heart sprang open, not with pain but with regret. How could she have gotten it so wrong?
The man led her outside. Sara turned back to look at the store. It looked nothing like it had when she first saw it. It was now covered with richly colored bricks, the windows were spotless and she could see into the store. The sign that hung outside read: Fruits of the Spirit.
A sign in the window read: All who are thirsty WELCOME.
No money, we take good deeds.
That made Sara laugh.
He noticed her giggle.
"That gets me every time too."
He led her down the street. Sara enjoyed walking with him. The longer she was near him, she felt her fear and hurt fade away. She noticed her skin had a thicker appearance.
Sara was about to take a step when she realized it was the exact spot where she had run into him. There on the ground was a hole that was full of muck.
"What is that?" She asked
"That would be a puddle of lies."
She looked down into it. It was gross and smelly. It looked like it would never come off if you got it on you.
"You'd be surprised how many people fall into it." He said matter of fact.
Sara noticed the store they were in front of, it was where they had met. She had been feeling rather good about herself before falling into the puddle.
The store was called Pride.
Sara made a face. She didn't want to go in there after all. She looked down the street, where she had been heading. It didn't look so appealing anymore.
"What's down that way?"
"The way you were headed?"
"Oh, that's the city of Deceit. Rather lonely place."
"But it looked so..." She stopped herself "Hey, I see things differently. Since I went into that shop..."
"Yes, I do have that affect on people." He smiled warmly. " I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. " (John 12:46NIV)
She took one last look up the road.
"I do not want to go that way anymore." She said.
He turned to her and said:
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid;when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet." (Proverbs 3:5-6,23-24)
With that he was gone. Sara looked around, trying to determine which way she should go. She decided she would return the way she had come, feeling the peace her new clothes offered her.