The people that I'm drawn to are usually those who challenge me. Bri Stensrud is one of those people because she challenges my heart with the words she posts on Facebook. I met Bri when she worked with the Professional Bull Riders and we've kept in touch through social media. Bri exudes the love of Jesus when you meet her and her Facebook posts line up exactly with the heart of our Father. So many times when my flesh wants to get the best of me, I'll read one of Bri's posts in my timeline and I remember how much God loves and how He chooses love over everything else and how He wants us to choose the same.
Bri now works for Focus on the Family as their Director of Sanctity of Life and Community Outreach. Her and her husband get to raise their sweet four year old daughter, Josie, in beautiful Colorado Springs where they get to hike and ride horses in the mountains.
I pray that you let Bri's words soak in and ask yourself the hard questions that she lays out here. Don't close off your heart to God because of past mistakes or feelings of shame or guilt. God wants to restore you and let you into his overwhelming love.
I was a drunk 23 year old, throwing up on the side of the street at 2am in the morning when a group of former Bible study friends passed by me in their car and then screeched to a halt.
I’m sure they did a double take.
“Was that Bri?!”
It was a low point for me, as I immediately tried to stand up straight, stretch my halter-top down to cover my stomach, and walk straight in my heels to greet them.
But there was no passing this off, I was a mess. A drunk, hot, mess.
I was immediately embarrassed. I knew how this looked. I knew there was no hiding how far off the path I had gone. Not this night, not at this hour, and certainly not in this outfit. And so without hesitation, when they asked to take me home, I quieted my nearby (drunk) friends and told them I’d be fine, and to continue the night without me, as I needed to go home.
As I sat in the back of the car, directing my Bible study friends to my apartment, the mood was silent. It was really the only sober moment of my night thus far. Nothing needed to be said. No questions were asked. The community of believers in the car- their presence - was palatable enough for me to inherently know the questions they were silently begging to ask. But no one asked anything. We just drove.
No one asked me if I was okay. It was obvious that I wasn’t.
The question that I was asking myself… “How did I get here? Drunk in front of a group of girls I used to lead in Bible study.”
Have you ever felt like that? In a place where it’s pretty obvious you’re in the wrong scene? Your scene might not be you stumbling on bar row, wearing a halter-top, but maybe it still looks like a bit of a hot mess. Maybe you don’t think people notice.
When people pass you by are you struggling to stand up and walk straight? You’re probably doing a good job hiding it, or maybe justifying it. Women are experts at this…but only for a limited season.
Maybe it’s your marriage.
Maybe it’s your relationship with your kids.
Maybe it’s your job.
You could be in an affair (emotional or physical).
You could be struggling with addiction.
Picture your scene. Everyone’s scene is different and varied, but –trust me- everyone has a hot mess somewhere in their life that they’re trying to mask.
Every woman has a place in their heart, or in their life, where they’ve determined to go off track, and I don’t mean in a good way.
You know what I’m talking about… you’ve decided to make your own happiness (apart from God), and the green grass you thought was on the other side of the fence was really a pile of….(you get it).
How do you think you got there?
Here’s the bigger question…when did you buy into the lie that God is holding out on you?
Curve ball, I know. Let’s try that again.
When did you start believing that God wasn’t concerned with meeting your need(s)?
When did you start believing that the solution to your aching heart was_____?
We’ll come back to this.
From the beginning of creation, the Bible tells us that God uniquely fashioned us.
But there was no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, he took one the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. -Gen 2:20.
But we also know this woman, who was made in God’s image and had the world at her finger-tips (literally), was vulnerable. And while God had given her everything she needed, a seed of doubt was planted in her mind.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, “You must not eat from any tree in the garden?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’
“You will certainly not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
I always wonder what Eve was thinking in this scene. What was she lacking that made her entertain this conversation with the serpent? Scripture doesn’t tell us how the woman felt, but we do see her forgetting God’s initial instructions to her and Adam.
Notice in Gen 2:17, God says not to eat from this particular tree, because you will die. But he doesn’t mention anything about touching the fruit. In Gen 3:2, the woman says that God told them not to eat or touch the fruit, and either one of those options would lead to death. Notice the little add on here. It’s important to notice, because the serpent used that small addition to trip her up.
Let’s also look at verse 3:5, the serpent implies that God is holding out on her. He tells her that God knows she could be like him, and God doesn’t want that; so much so, that God promises she would die if she didn’t listen him.
Do you see what the serpent is doing here? He’s accusing God of playing games. He’s implying that God is using fear tactics to prevent Eve from becoming all that she could be- all the things she wants to be in her life.
Pretty shrewd, right?
When she took the fruit from the tree, nothing happened.
Okay then, eating it must be fine too, right? And so she did.
And in Gen 3:13 we see the woman’s scene start to unravel. The woman isn’t exactly pulling down a halter-top, but she is finding some fig leaves.
The Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The serpent gets punished, there are consequences for the woman, and then for Adam. And these break up the provision and the goodness God had intended for the woman (and her family). When God allows the consequences of our sin to unfold in our lives, it can sometimes feel cruel. As if we didn’t feel enough shame or guilt internally, the whole world’s gotta know too? The good news is, the grace of God is never far behind the wreckage. Psalm 30:5 says, For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. Sometimes God’s biggest and best provisions come out of the mess.
Let’s look back into the hot mess of Genesis 3:
(Verse 16) To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very servere; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.”
(Verse 20) Adam names his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The Lord made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.
(Verse 22) And the Lord God said, The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand take also from the tree of life and live forever. So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.
Sound cruel to you?
Let me tell you why it’s not, and why this passage draws me closer to the heart of God.
Her desire was to only be for her husband, and he was to rule over her. Why is this good? The word rule was not enslavement set by God. It was a security for her. A safeguard, not a punishment. Adam was charged with protecting her so she would not be taken advantage of again. In her disobedience, Adam was charged with more responsibility and authority to protect her- to lead her better than he had been before.
The woman was given a name, Eve. Ever notice that the woman doesn’t have a name until after this whole scene? Here’s why this is important. When names are given throughout the Bible they are done so with great distinction and purpose. Names gave individuals their identity. A name was not only what you were called, it was essentially who you were (they were almost one in the same). How good is God, and how gracious was Adam, to give the woman – who literally brought sin and death into the entire world- the name that means “to breathe, to live, or to give life."
Adam and Even were driven out of the garden forever. How is this possibly an awesome provision? Since Adam and Eve had eaten the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, the punishment for that sin was death. And for the rest of their lives they would find it hard to work the ground, painful to bear children, and be at constant odds between what is right and what is wrong. This wasn’t what God wanted for Adam and Eve. He had something planned for them- something good- from the very beginning. And God knew, that if he left those two in the garden, there was one thing that would prevent their suffering from ending. Gen 3:22 – “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” If Adam and Eve, in their new sinful state, were to eat from the tree of life they would live forever. Which is more cruel: To be in constant struggle and pain – forever (never dying), or have temporary struggle and pain- and dying one day only to then be raised up with Christ and live again (restored) in heaven- forever? God wanted their suffering to end one day, and in his graciousness he prevented their suffering from lasting forever.
We get in messes, and then we think, why is God punishing me? Haven’t I been through enough? When the truth is, God has always been for us. He’s always had something good intended for our lives. But sometimes we lose sight of his goodness in the waiting periods. We start to think he’s holding out on us. We think, there’s more to life out there and God’s holding us back. He’s holding us in a less than ideal marriage, a crappy job, a dysfunctional family…name your hot mess. And then the mess eventually becomes a scene and we hang our heads in shame. We scramble to make the best of it, walking as straight as we can in those heals.
The truth is, God isn’t holding out on you. He sees you. And he’s got something great for you!
I think one of the bravest things you can do as a woman is trust God with your whole life. Trust that he is who he says he is. And that he can do what he says he can do.
I was 23 and drunk on bar row at 2am in the morning because I was sick and tired of God holding out on me. And my doubt about God’s goodness led me down a path of empty and exhausting disappointments, some which still scar me today.
Trusting God isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s scary. He asks you dig in, work hard, and be patient. It takes courage to deny what the world says you’re entitled to; what the world says God can’t give you.
Be honest with God. Tell him what you need, what you struggle with, where you need him to enter in. I don’t care what you’ve done, thought, said or feel – God is still for you. He is never against you. He wants good things for your life and he is not holding out on you. In his sovereignty and grace he might be putting up some boundaries for you. To your disappointment, he might be asking you to pull the reigns back. But you can trust him.
I love just about anything John Wayne says, but this one has always stuck with me. I’m sure you know it.
“Having courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
Be brave ladies, saddle up. Let him enter into the hot messes of your life.
Trust that God sees you.
Trust that God knows your dreams, your hurts, your fears.
Trust that he forgives you.
Trust that God wants the best for you.
Trust that God has not forgotten you.
Trust that God loves you.