If you asked my mother to describe me as a teenager, she would use one word – chameleon. And she would be completely correct in that assessment because I would often take on the habits and personalities of those I was hanging around, whether good or bad; and it was usually a bad thing since I tended to gravitate toward a more troubled crowd. At the time, I didn’t know who I was, who I wanted to be, or what I believed in. All I wanted was to fit in, and I thought that meant I had to be just like my friends. I didn’t try to be myself, and in all honesty I wasn’t sure who that even was. As I entered high school and college, I had many nomadic relationships with people. With one crowd of people I was a saint and with another I was a sinner; and eventually I lost all my friends because they didn’t know who I was any more than I did. I was trapped like a fly in a web of lies…a web of my own making.
For several years I traveled a darkly lit road as I gravitated from one bad relationship to another. It was a road littered with drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual immorality, bitterness, suicide attempts, lies, hatred, anger and many forms of abuse. I turned away from my family and became determined to destroy my own life, one way or another. The blackness that surrounded my heart was deep, cold and isolating. After a few years, I found myself completely lost, alone and hurting. No one wanted to be around me, and even those I shared my bed with came and went without acknowledgment. My life had become that of a leper. I was an outcast, living on the fringe of society. I wanted so desperately to be a part of the world again; I was tired of being merely a spectator. But how could that ever happen? No matter how much make-up I wore, or how expensive my outfits and jewelry were, or what type of car I drove, my red letters overshadowed all my vain attempts at normalcy and I was once again forced back into the shadows.
In the Bible, Old Testament law stated that if a clean person came into contact with a leper, even by accident, they were made ceremonially unclean and were required to go to the priests for a ritualistic cleansing before they were allowed to re-join society. However, during Jesus’ ministry, he made a point to touch lepers. Despite the social stigma, he often sought them out and embraced them. His touch made them clean.
When I finally encountered Jesus on my path, he didn’t run and hide or move to the other side of the road. He didn’t turn his back on me or rebuke me to return to my life of sin as so many others had. Like the woman at the well, he already knew what was in my heart and how I’d been living my life, and yet he fully embraced me. He cleansed me and restored my life!
The Bible gives us such amazing glimpses of how Jesus influences us and how he wants us to become influencers in the world around us. He doesn’t want us to shun non-believers or avoid them. He doesn’t want us to think lowly of them, or otherwise make excuses for not socializing with them. He wants us to touch them…embrace them…be forgiving of them. He wants us to influence them for Him and become encouragers and up lifters in a society of misfits and rejects.
“Let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it.” Hebrews 4:16