By Liza Kittle
If I had a nickel for every time Steve Dodson, my friend and former pastor, said those words, I would probably have at least a thousand dollars. It was truly one of his mantras and has become one of my own as well. I was reminded of this truth at a women’s event I attended this past weekend. The speaker was Liz Curtis Higgs, a prolific writer who has published Christian historical fiction, children’s books, and women’s study books. Her most famous titles are Bad Girls of the Bible, Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, and Really Bad Girls of the Bible.
A former “bad girl” herself, Liz brought a message of hope and redemptive grace to the crowd of over 500 women, presenting biblical truth amidst hilarious stories that had the crowd laughing and crying at the same time.
A former radio personality, Liz shared glimpses of her early adulthood when drugs and sexual promiscuity took control of her life. One day a work colleague, none other than “shock-jock” Howard Stern, told her she needed to “clean up her act.” Liz related, “when Howard Stern tells you your life is out of control, you know things are pretty bad!” But she finally did just that when she met a Christian couple who just loved and accepted her the way she was, and tenderly guided her into the arms of Jesus. (Read more at www.lizcurtishiggs.com.)
Her story resonated with me on so many levels. As a former “really bad girl” myself, I spent two decades of my life not only wandering down every dark road imaginable, but also running away from every hint of Jesus I encountered.
Even after accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life, I still carried around the guilt and shame from all those years living in the pit of despair. The freedom from that would come much later.
Just like the Samaritan woman at the well, the “really bad girl” in John 4, when Jesus met her face to face, he already knew everything about her—every sin, every disappointment, every wound, and every guilty thought. He knows the same about us, and despite any ugliness in our past, Jesus comes to offer us a beautiful future if we allow him into our heart and life. In Messy Spirituality, the late Mike Yaconelli wrote, “As far as Jesus is concerned, the woman with no future has a future. Jesus sees her present desire, which makes her past irrelevant.” Jesus can redeem any past, no matter what kind of past we bring with us: failure, mistakes, bad decisions, immaturity, and even a past that was done to us.
Jesus meets all of us at different places and in so many different ways. And although walking with him takes daily commitment and action, He’s done the work for us. It’s like the chorus in one of my favorite songs by Casting Crowns, “Who Am I,” “Not because of who I am, but because of what You’ve done; Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who You are.”
There are women all across our churches, communities, and world that are presently living in a pit of despair, struggling with past sin, wounded from present circumstances, and looking at the future with little hope. Renew has a calling, a vision, and a passion for reaching these women. I know that many congregations in the United Methodist Church have vibrant women’s ministries, but sadly, most do not. We want to change that.
Transformed women can be the vehicle God uses to transform marriages, families, workplaces, congregations, communities, denominations, and nations. The church of Jesus Christ is about the transformation of sinners for the redemption of the world. We should never lose sight of that.
Many women and pastors have called the Renew office asking how their church can “join” Renew and partner with us in ministry. In response to these requests, we are launching a new membership/partnership program. You can read all about this on our website at www.renewnetwork.org. This program replaces our current affiliate membership program. We believe this new partnering program will enable us to better serve the women of your group and congregation. We look forward to what God has in store for the future of this growing ministry.
We also are introducing a very special giving society in honor of the founder and past president of Renew, Mrs. L. Faye Short. The Faye Short Society will be a giving society that will enable us to fulfill the vision God has given Renew for its second phase of ministry. Monies raised through this society will go towards publishing resources that nurture women, such as a comprehensive women’s ministry handbook and topical Bible studies. Funds will also be used in the planning of regional and national leadership events for women in the UM Church. What a wonderful way to honor this faithful disciple of Christ who has given so much to uphold the scriptural integrity of our denomination and minister to the hearts and souls of its women.
Jesus desires the transformation of every living soul, every woman, and every church. Help us minister and share the Gospel as we are mandated. You won’t be able to argue with a changed life!
Liza Kittle is the President of the Renew Women’s Network