Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
I learned at a very early age that in order to be accepted, I needed to conform to what others thought was acceptable. I needed to be more like my sister, more like the popular girls in school, more like just about anyone other than myself. I was ridiculed by many of my peers, but what hurt the most was being ridiculed by my family. I wasn’t like my older sister. She was more feminine; while I was a tomboy from the word go. I didn’t like playing with the other girls nearly as much as I liked playing with the neighborhood boys. I preferred sports over dolls and running around outside to indoor anything.
There were times when I tried to fit in, hoping to be accepted and loved. I tried the girly thing and acted more like my sister, but to no avail. Not only was I uncomfortable trying to be someone I wasn’t, but it didn’t work anyway. No matter how hard I tried, I still wasn’t favored in the eyes of so many. I was just Toni. I was quiet, shy, and boyish; sadly, not the apple of mom or dad’s eye.
Though many of my childhood memories are fraught with negativity and pain, I can honestly say I am grateful for many of the lessons learned along the way. I am a different person today because of those negative experiences.
Having felt the sting of being considered unacceptable has made me a much more tolerant and compassionate person. Though bigotry sees it as a flaw, I am colorblind. Not colorblind visually, but colorblind intellectually and emotionally. We all bleed red and look the same on the inside. We all feel pain the same way and have a need to be accepted and loved. A physically blind person, who’s never seen different colored skin, will never be marred by racism or bigotry, a gift many will tell you they cherish as much as the sighted cherish our gift of vision.
The church I will always consider home uses the phrase “come as you are” as a mantra of sorts. Those who’ve yet to enter the building will see the sign on the outside and think it means to come dressed as you are; no fancy clothes required. Though that is part of the intent, there is a deeper meaning. Once you enter and begin to get to know those who worship and serve, the meaning becomes clear. It is simply to arrive and let God clean up what ever mess you’ve found yourself in; whether filthy rich or poor, clean shaven or bearded, tattooed and pierced, damaged, bruised and broken, or simply one seeking to find purpose in life; come as you are and let God heal and renew your spirit. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10
Though I had a rough start in life, I am ever so thankful for where that rough start has led me. The family of God has taken this scrawny, tomboy of a girl and taught me what true love and acceptance is all about. I am loved and accepted by the Creator of the world Himself. There are no special qualifications for this type of love and acceptance. Just show up and let God do what God does best: take a willing heart and turn that heart into a useful tool to further the Kingdom of God. The only changing I need to do, to receive the acceptance from God the Father, is the willingness for Him to help me be the best me I can be. And that goes for you too!
Though I’m still a work in progress and have much yet to learn, I am humbled by the cross, the place where Jesus gave His life for mine, love so freely given. God loves us just as we are, but wants better for and of us.
Come as you are to the foot of the cross, where life begins anew and love abounds.
Father God, oh how You blow me away with Your acceptance and love. Thank You for loving each and every one of us, regardless of how we look or where we come from. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Thank You, thank You, thank You! May we be worthy of such love. In the matchless name of Jesus, amen.
May the Lord bless you and keep you in His tender care.
In His embrace,