Some details of a particular man’s inner greatness may have come to one’s mind, like the story of the young woman whose death I witnessed in a concentration camp. It is a simple story. There is little to tell and it may sound as if I had invented it; but to me it seems like a poem.
This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. “I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,” she told me. “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.” Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, “This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.” Through that window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. “I often talk to this tree,” she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. “Yes.” What did it say to her? She answered, “It said to me, ‘I am here — I am here — I am life, eternal life.'” …
From Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Copyright © 1959, 1962, 1984, 1992 by Viktor E. Frankl. Reprinted by permission of Beacon Press, Boston (www.beacon.org).
There’s a tendency in Christian communities to sometimes hide your “dirt,” things that potentially place shame or accusation over your identity. Perhaps it is concern over the judgement of Man, fear that these people in our community who should embrace and love us for where we are will instead judge us for who we were or what we’ve done. But this is not our identity, and it is not the way we were intended to relate to one another. In fact, our “dirt” is where we bring freedom to one another; freedom from lies and invitation into a deeper relationship with our community and God.
“Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
And so it is not our wisdom but our foolishness that God teaches through; He shows up again and again not through our strengths but the places where we were weak. When God restores us from a place where we feel lowly and despised, who are we left to boast in but the Lord? We did not restore ourselves but were restored by God, from whom stems our righteousness, holiness and redemption. We cannot point to ourselves but only to God. Is this not the best testimony for our Father?
What better way to show that God is alive and moving in this world, through His people, than through the testimony of true redemption? So it is our dirt that is a critical part of our story, the story we must share, because it is there that God plants His seed and reclaims it for His own. This doesn’t mean it is effortless on our part; no. Love, faith, hope: actionable things that transform life through the power of God. But in every place where I once felt shame, where I once felt a fear of judgement or accusation I see God transforming it into testimony to His power. What can I do but boast in the Lord when he takes my darkness and turns it into light? What else can I do when He takes my faithlessness and turns it into faithfulness?
My friends: Your dirt, your testimony. These are love notes to a King who served you. These are ballads of praise to a Savior who redeems you. These are tools in an effort to show the sacrificial love to others that our God, in His grace, has shown to you.