The Unlearning

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by Sarah Davis

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This past February marked eleven years since I walked into a courtroom and stood before a judge to learn what my fate would be. I stood there in my cream-colored sweater and simple pearl earrings with adrenaline pumping and countless prayers enabling me to stand and not collapse. It would be years before I would learn to hold my head up again.

 My world was a relatively safe and protected place up until then. I knew nothing of life on the other side of the tracks, the side I only drove through during daylight and with my doors locked. I knew nothing of joining a gang at the age of seven because that’s all you’ve ever known and what every single person in your family does. I knew nothing of being ten years old and waging in your mind whether or not to go into the house to get your basketball because doing so means you will endure being sexually victimized. And that’s the edited version. I knew nothing of turning to addiction to escape the traumas you can’t reconcile, and then watch as that addiction takes over and leads you into other destructive and morally corrupt behaviors, taking you to places you never thought you would go.

My world was safe.

 Then one fatal night nine days before my twenty-seventh birthday, that safe world was flipped on its head by a drinking and driving fatality in which I was the driver.

And over the next six years, I would unlearn every judgment I had thought to be correct about people, human behavior, and God’s posture towards them. Once you see, you can’t un-see. Once you hear the stories, you can’t live as though you didn’t hear. It forever alters you. And I am so glad. Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang reentry organization in the United States, says: 

“If there is a fundamental challenge within these stories, it is simply to change our lurking suspicion that some lives matter less than other lives.”

 I used to be the person that thought that some lives mattered less. I pity that old version of me. I pity that shallow and dwarfed part of my heart that actually at one point believed that my doing, my choices, my performance somehow made me matter more in society or to God.

My husband and I currently pastor a newer church planting, and we hold our services in a coffee shop we will soon open that will employ ex-felons. As we stand there during worship time, surrounded by pictures of inmates in the prisons that we work with, I know this is exactly as it should be. Their stories are our stories. We have all been the offender. Ours may be more socially acceptable sins, but God’s measure of good means that we all fall grossly short.

 Jesus is like the attorney that stood next to me in that courtroom eleven years ago. He stands in the gap. He defends you and me even though we areare guilty. He enters your story, and He is not the least bit ashamed of you. He thinks your picture is worth hanging on the wall, no matter what society thinks of you or what you think of yourself. And at the end of the day, His judgement is all that matters.

FOR FURTHER THOUGHT  In our daily walk with Christ, we often get caught up in a works-based mentality of feeling as though there are things we can do or refrain from that will make us more or less lovable by God. Do you have an area of your life that makes you feel like you are better than or less than? Remember that God can handle our humanness and our assumptions, and His love for us is infinite. Romans 8:38-39 tell us “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Today, instead of hiding from the Father in those moments of weakness, choose to run toward Him instead. Be intentional to set aside a few quiet moments to meet with Him, knowing that He wants even the messy parts of you and that nothing can separate you from His love. Pray to Him and be honest with yourself and with God about how you are feelingso He can heal you. Remind yourself that Jesus is your advocate to the Father (1 John 2:1) and He’s got you covered.

PRAYER  Father, thank you for providing me an advocate in Jesus when I fall short, and for loving me with an unconditional love that never fails. Remind me that even when I feel unworthy, there is nothing that can separate me from Your love me and there is nothing I can do to earn it. Remind me today that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).  Help me to live out of a place in my heart that is secure in Your love and not defined by the world’s view of who I am.  I love You, and I thank You for wrapping Your arms around me to help me grow.  Amen. 

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1314 Bourdeaux Way, Dayton, Ohio 45458

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