First impressions are lasting impressions. I hate that. Most probably my hatred for that statement is because I make terrible, terrible first impressions. (And second, third, and fourth ones too.) I get nervous, I forget words, and I'm worried that we'll run out of things to talk about in the first two minutes. But more than that, I hate that expression because it can go against any form of grace. Grace is unmerited favor and kindness. Grace can and should redeem those awkward first impressions.
But grace in our relationships can go so much deeper. And this is really what I want to talk about today, although talking about redemptive impressions could be helpful. (smile) I recently came into contact with someone who desperately needed advice in dealing with their child. The advice was difficult to give because it reached the deepest corners of my heart. And for days after sending along my words to her, I couldn't get away from the past that those very words uprooted in my soul. It was painful. And, at some point during those first couple of days, when thoughts of the past surrounded me, I realized that the fearfulness, the doubts of who I am, who I've been changed into and what I've been saved from, were not from the Giver. They were from the Taker.
In my brief life, all thirty two years of it, I've known deep brokenness. I'm fairly certain many of you have known it, too. And sometimes, that brokenness teams up against us, in our souls, with the fear of man. It wreaks havoc in our lives, steals our joy, and mars the full person our Creator intended us to be. It whispers to us in a hiss, "your mistakes are too great, you're worthless, you'll never amount to anything!" And it slithers away while we frantically gather and sew together fig leaves.
But brokenness taught me a valuable lesson-- it taught me that everything is a gift. As a child of God, it showed me that Grace, the greatest gift, is greater than all of my sin and brokenness. And secondly, it opened my eyes to the gift of goodness, its beauty, its power to mend the broken. I'm talking about the fruit-of-the-Spirit goodness, the kind that is only grown in our lives by the power of Christ, the great physician, the healer of our hearts.
There's a growing written movement about the misconceptions in social media, the portrayed perfectness through Instagram, the facade of Facebook. And almost every time I come across this written movement, I think to myself-- Are we still being deceived by the Taker's lie, the one that sinks in deep with its venom of comparison and covetousness, turning our hearts black with envy? And are we so cynical that we throw out someone's capture of beauty, assuming that they're promoting a somehow perfect life? Where is the goodness in that? Where is the joy? But these questions shouldn't pertain only to our social networks, they're for the whole of our lives.
Let's stop believing the lies. Let's start healing. When you see a beautiful Instagram photo, stop and thank God for the beauty someone else has found in the tangible. When you see beauty in someone's life-- whatever is lovely, commendable, or worthy of praise as Philippians 4 speaks to-- call it out! And in so doing, we'll be literally mending one another's wounds with the beauty of the gospel. The truth is, we crave beauty because we were made by the Beautiful One. We compare and judge, we assign motives because we are broken, and in that brokenness, we suddenly turn beauty into ashes and joys into sorrows. I wonder what would happen if we chose to love and rejoice with those who find the Intangible in the tangible? I'm wondering if those lacking moments might turn into long moments of praise and thanks to the One who allows us beauty in brokenness.