I made a commitment of faith when I was just nine years old. Wide-eyed and trembling in the cold baptismal, I nodded my head in agreement as the pastor of my small Baptist church asked me if I had decided to give my heart to Jesus. And after it was over, my mama and a group of sweet church ladies whisked me away to a Sunday School room to dry me off, get me warm, and make me presentable. I sat in the pew for the rest of the sermon with wet hair and a warm heart, because I knew I’d just done something very important . . . something that would shape the course of the rest of my life.
The truth is, I don’t remember even one single day where I wasn’t at least aware of God on some level. From the tender age of nine on (and maybe even before), I’ve known God had a plan for my life, believed He was good, and sensed Him watching over me. But in spite of those things—baptism, belief, knowing—I didn’t walk closely with Him until I was almost 21 years old.
A dirty cup
For twelve years I wore the title of Christian well, but if you’d looked inside my heart you wouldn’t have seen much to prove it. I like to call myself a Pharisee, because truly that’s what I was. Jesus describes this state of the heart when He’s talking to the religious leaders of His time in Matthew 23:25 (ESV):
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”
It’s painful to think about, but plain to see that this verse described the way I was living—trying to make my own way while keeping God at arm’s length. Knowing that His rules and regulations were meant to protect me, but choosing to believe my feelings—what I could see, taste, touch, and hear—rather than the truth of His Word.
It was a recipe for disaster, and one that left me completely vulnerable before the God I had surrendered to as a young girl, and needed to surrender to again.
But as it turns out, my self-built disaster was the best thing that ever happened to me.
I sat on my bed in my college apartment surrounded by reminders of my own attempts to build a kingdom that glorified Brooke, and wondered how I would find my way back. Ironically (or maybe not so much), I had decided to take a New Testament class that semester, and I remembered that I needed to do some reading in the book of John for homework. I picked up my class Bible, turned to John chapter 17, and began to read about the final hours of Jesus' life here on earth.
In verses nine through sixteen, Jesus prayed for His disciples. He knew the struggles they would go through after His death and resurrection, and as His own life hung in the balance, He took the time to cover them in prayer, asking His Father to protect them and lead them well. But verse twenty is different. Look at it closely with me . . .
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word . . . "
Friend, do you realize who Jesus is talking about in that verse? It's you. It's me. It's every single person who has ever believed based on the testimony of the disciples about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Directly or indirectly, that's pretty much every single believer that has ever lived. And Jesus took the time to pray for us before He died.
As I read those words, and the true meaning of them became clear, I felt a new feeling wash over me that drowned out the feelings of despair and hopelessness I had experienced just a few moments before.
Jesus prayed for me.
Me. Within a few hours of that prayer He faced one of the most gruesome deaths ever recorded—a death meant for me, a sacrifice meant to be the punishment for my sins—and instead of worrying about Himself He prayed for me.
And isn't that the real meaning of the cross? That God's love for us was so great, His devotion to us so sincere, that He would send His one and only Son to die on the cross and take the punishment for our sins? He's all about love—a love so great that it's concerned with the object of its desire (you and me) even in the face of great pain and trial, humiliation, wrongful accusation, and death.
Today, let that kind of love wash over you like it did for me that day in my apartment, now over fifteen years ago. In your darkest days, the ones where you're tempted to despair and wonder if God truly hears you, truly sees you, remember that He prayed for you, and according to scripture, still does (Hebrews 7:25).
Action Point: I thought it might be fun to share all the way God has extravagantly loved us today. Do you have a story about how God met you in your mess? A story that shows the depth of His love for you? Tell us about it in the comments!
Brooke McGlothlin is Co-founder of Raising Boys Media, best known for its flagship blog, The MOB Society (FOR moms of boys, BY moms of boys). She's the author of Warrior Prayers: Praying the Word for Boys in the Areas They Need it Most, and Hope for the Weary Mom: Where God Meets You in Your Mess.