As Christmas approaches, I've been thinking of what to put down in this space. There is the Ugly Sweater Family Picture (which my husband would never allow), the practical guide to having "The Best Christmas Ever!!" (which I would never allow).
One of the biggest reasons I avoided blogging was the fear that whatever you put on the internet would stay there forever. Just because you delete a picture or an article does not mean it is gone. People have their ways!
Confession: I am not as bold or brave as I would like to be.
As you read this post, many of you will feel a sense of solidarity with what I write. Then there are others that may shut their ears to what I have to say. Many of you have been hurt by people who proclaim to be from the same group as I am. You shake your head in disgust at what you've read in the news about those people. It is a risk to throw my name in so publicly with such a group and I know there could be fallout from it.
As a public speaker and author, I communicate a message that is not always popular or mainstream. But I seek to know my audience that I might better communicate the truth, to be relatable without compromising.
Yet I fear that what I am compelled to share about myself will cause many to cease listening to what I say, to view me as no longer credible or be lumped in with "those" people. Silly, I know. But we have reached a point in our culture where dialogue across different positions rarely exists. We only read that which we agree with, only listen to news that fits our political perspective (that news is clearly so politically biased is another loss) and avoid engaging with the other.
We label with any manner of stereotypes even while we decry discrimination. We demand tolerance and yet become angry when anyone dares to live a lifestyle or hold beliefs that differ from ours. Some of our hurt and anger comes from seeing extremes and assuming they are the norm, from personal wounds inflicted by people that themselves are hurting and scared.
But to keep quiet is to risk a far greater fallout, the fallout of denying my devotion to my Savior, Son of the Living God, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Is Joanna Hyatt a Christian? Yes. I AM.
I do not follow a church, or a man in robes. They can help inform me how to follow Jesus but they are not the ones from which I take my life cues. I follow the one who 2000+ years ago gave up His glory and power, making himself into the most helpless of all, a baby. He became nothing so that one day, He might give everything in order that I could have hope in this life and eternity in the next.
I follow the one who scandalously chose to become like His Creation, so that they would know how much He loves them.
That is the most important message you should hear this Christmas: God Loves You.
It is a thing too great to understand when you consider that so many others teach a God who cannot be known, a God who is terrifying or vindictive or so removed that to seek Him is to spend a lifetime (or more) grasping at the unattainable.
Not Jesus. Jesus knows me and He desires to know you (actually He loves you, even if you don't know Him or even hate Him. That's the kind of love He has for us). He wants to bind the broken places in your life, bring healing where there is only pain, and hope where you see only despair.
When I say I am a Christian:
It does not mean that I have all the answers, only that I know The Answer.
It does not mean that I love perfectly, but that I know the source of Love.
It does not mean that I am better than others, but rather that I know the depth of my flaws and brokenness.
When I say I am a Christian:
It means I have found the One who can offer me the extravagant grace which I desperately need.
It means that I live my days trying to walk as closely behind Jesus as I can, that I might model Him and reflect Him.
It means having hope in the midst of struggle, joy in the valleys, and peace when my world is in chaos.
And it means that sometimes, I am lumped in with people who do not act and represent the Jesus I know.
The harder truth is that many times, neither do I.
The longer I live, the less certain I am about most things. I want to see the world as black and white but I am learning that much of life is lived in the gray.
The only thing I am becoming more certain of is Jesus.
This Christmas, as you buy presents and get together with family, I pray that you will take the time to listen to the still quiet voice of a baby in a manger who calls all of us to new life, renewed hope, and offers true peace on Earth.
Is there a time for you when the risk of keeping silent outweighed the risk of speaking out?