By Kelli Best
Gates, I hate them! My daughters are 24 and 17, yet I have three baby gates in my house. Why, because of Piper, our 14 month old lab/pointer puppy. She has reduced me to a prisoner in my own home. In an effort to keep her out, I have to lock myself in. She is a pilferer, so if an item is not put away or higher than she can reach, it will be chewed to bits or swallowed whole!
All these gates remind me of gated communities where fences keep the residents safe by keeping others out. I do not have a problem with gated communities or those who live there, it just makes me wonder if perhaps I do live there.
For example, a few weeks ago a young man returned to church after being absent for several years. Kevin, not his real name, had been in and out of prison when we met and was facing another charge against him. He desperately wanted to turn his life around, but honestly, the odds were so against him that he did not know where to begin. Both Bill and I spoke to him and prayed with him on several occasions. The last conversation I had with him revolved around his new little baby and how he wanted to be a better father to this child than what he had growing up. Then, Kevin disappeared, until now. When I hugged him and told him that I had missed him he just smiled and scooped me up in his tattooed arms and said, “Thanks.” When I asked where he had been he simply replied, “Prison.” Kevin has been contained by gates many times in the years we have been acquainted. To a certain degree, I have also been contained by gates in the years I have known Kevin.
As a Christian, I know my responsibility to my fellow man is never to stand in judgment, however, this is not always easy. My intent is not to elevate myself over anyone else, but there are times when it just happens too easily. One reason this happens is because I am more concerned about my “Christian” exterior and my reputation than I am about being honest and real. What would it mean to Kevin if I could tell him my most ashamed moments and how God has extended grace to me. My reservation is that such a revelation would taint his view of me or that he would not think as highly of me. Then my convicted heart screams let it be! Let it be known that I am just one prayer away from a poverty stricken soul. Let it be known that I too am imprisoned by gates that secure my own insecurities and hold me captive to the lies of the enemy. Like Kevin, I am uncomfortable around so many perfect people and feel unworthy to share the terrible things I have thought or said, not to mention the actions I have carried out.
As a church we accept and invite Kevin and others like him into the building and even sit next them, we open the gate, but do we invite them into our own personal gated communities, our own lives and our own experiences. I may have not done the same things Kevin has or know what it is like to be in prison, but I do know what it is like to be forgiven and set free from bondage. Do our own testimonies hold us hostage? Do our reputations? How about our opinions? I can honestly answer yes to each question.
I was raised in a Christian home and come from a rich heritage of believers as far back as I can remember. How fortunate and blessed I am to have such a testimony of faith and perseverance, yet this creates for me quite a standard to live up to. Since I was saved at five years old, there are times I feel expected to be perfect because I have always known Jesus. My past has not been littered with drugs or alcohol. There is no defining moment where I felt God snatch me from death, yet, we have all been snatched from death by a God who desires to save us and set us free!
Reputations are crazy things! Webster defines reputation as “the common opinion that people have about someone or something: the way in which people think of someone or something.” Ouch! From all outward appearances, I would guess most people would assume that I have it all “together!” I have a wonderful family, daughters who are growing in their own faith and becoming strong women of God, a husband who supports my every move and decision all the while loving me unconditionally, a great house and car to drive, plenty of food for my table. I lack nothing, yet there are many underlying currents that flow just under the surface, my surface. There are days when the depression of my mother’s cancer cripples me and incapacitates me with fear. I have times when the health issues that my daughter, sister, and aunt endure crush me with despair. Weeks come and go where the jaws of comparison to my fellow believer gnaw at me to the point of exhaustion. The pressures and responsibilities of ministry at times squeeze all joy from my being and the weight of those who are hurting tethers my soul to their hopelessness.
I sit in my office and cry, a lot! Now it is out there and every time I go to my office and close the door, my girls are probably going to follow me! God has gifted them both with compassion! However, the tears that fall are for a desire to see what God sees, past the testimonies, reputations, and opinions of His people, those who have yet to believe and those who do believe. When I pray for God to break my heart for what breaks His, many times, I do not get past my own mirror. He sees me, knows me, loves me and is just waiting for me to ask for the gate to be removed.
The point of this blog is not to evoke pity or personal affirmation from my many loyal friends. Essentially, honesty is paramount. I am learning how to allow others into my world and to be more authentic with my emotions. The value of this is crucial within the church as we seek those who do not know Jesus. If they do not see our need for Him, then how can they identify their need for a Savior?
Kelli Best and her husband, Bill, have two children; Ashlee and Paige. Bethlehem Chapel in Eastern Washington is their church home where they have pastored since 2009. Kelli and Bill have been married since 1989 and they both agree it feels like just yesterday. Kelli loves to read, drink coffee, cook and bake. Homeschooling is also a passion, which she has enjoyed for 18 years. Kelli and Bill both graduated from Evangel University with their B.A. in Music Education and their home is usually filled with music. Kelli is the team leader for BONDED Women’s Ministry at Bethlehem Chapel and participates on the worship team. She is a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God and plans to become ordained in 2017. — Read more from Kelli at kellibest.blogspot.com.
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