*TRIGGER WARNING: This content contains personal testimonies of suicidal thoughts and sexual assault. *
a person who has committed a crime.
“these men are dangerous criminals”
synonyms: lawbreaker, offender, villain, delinquent, felon, convict, malefactor, wrongdoer, culprit, miscreant; More
relating to crime.
“they are charged with conspiracy to commit criminal damage”
synonyms: unlawful, illegal, illicit, lawless, felonious, delinquent, fraudulent, actionable, culpable; More
I’ve already lost most of you, and that’s okay. If you’re new here or stopping by, I started a series on the lies I’ve believed that have held me back from walking in confidence, joy, and pursuing my purpose. The feedback from my last post (Sex Will Make Me Lovable) broke my heart. Who knew so many people could relate to my unhealthy obsession with expectations and shame about sex.
If you are a sensitive person, my new few posts may not be for you. If you are a perfect person who doesn’t believe anything outside of a church building can be from God, then my new posts won’t be for you. If you are judgmental to the core and fishing for any way to make yourself feel better about your own life, you may enjoy them, but my they still aren’t for you. They’re mostly for me. For the 10 year old me – all the way up to the yesterday me. They’re for anyone who thinks they’re the furthest from God. They’re for anyone who doesn’t look like the angels on the cover of a children’s bible. They’re for the girl who just added another tally to the number of people she has been intimate with. They’re for the person who just got out of jail. We have more in common then you will ever know. But above all, what we all have in common is a God who sent his son to cover it all. So let’s cover it.
The lie: My mugshot is all I will ever be.
I can lie and say this was before I accepted Christ as my Lord and savior. I could lie and say this was before my husband came to “save me from myself.” I could lie and say it was out of character. It was after becoming a Christian, after dating my husband, after years of unhealthy sexual expectations, after the first times I thought I was unworthy of living, that I got caught.
I was in the seventh grade when I walked home from middle school with two eighth grade girls. We walked into a grocery store where I probably spent a quarter on chocolate donuts. I waited to meet them outside in front of the store. Imagine this: I was overweight and had braces. I wasn’t popular. I was always the new girl that made a few new friends before transferring schools again. I was unhappy. But these girls, they were SO happy. They had relationships and friends. They were cool (or at least to me, in my memory they were rockstars.) They strut out of the grocery store like super models, laughing like super models laugh. Wanting to join in on the fun, I was at their feet in seconds, “What’d you guys get?!” There were no donuts or food. They showed me their new lip glosses as I tried to do the math in my head. “But you guys didn’t have enough money for make up.” They laughed how I imagine Miss America laughs. “Haha. We didn’t pay for them!” This was my first introduction to theft.
Have you ever felt like the world knew of something that you didn’t? It left me feeling dumb and uncool. A crime left me feeling dumb. A crime was what was keeping me from being happy. This whole time I was saving my allowance for things I could just take? This whole time the pretty girls were just stealing their makeup?! What else did they steal? Their UGGs and trendy school binders too? The next day I walked into that grocery store and walked out with a matching lip gloss… But I didn’t feel happy. I felt nervous, sick, dirty, and poor. I saw the Jesus at the end of a Catholic Church aisle and hid the lip gloss behind my back. Maybe he wouldn’t notice.
I was nineteen when I showed up to work, put my purse in my locker, clocked in, was asked to go to my managers office, and was confronted by a man I have never seen before. He walked me through all the ways I had taken from the company. A twenty dollar bill here. A few gift cards here. He told me which pocket I slipped them into, what I was wearing, and what I spent the money on. I nodded. I knew I was getting fired. I knew they would want the money back. I knew what I did was wrong. I knew God could see as I had a panic attack. There was no hiding it. The God of the universe watched as I threw up in my manger’s office. Surely this was enough embarrassment and he was done with me. They asked me to clock out and get my purse. Score.
I had them in my pockets (not literally, because that would be stealing, haha – too soon, sorry.)
I grabbed my purse and as I walked into the break room, two police officers recited my rights… or something like that. I couldn’t tell you what they said because I blacked out. I was pulled back into the office. The handcuffs came out, and one of the cops (who I remember as an angel sent from heaven) said, “She doesn’t need to be handcuff. She’s a child, and she did not steal enough to be taken in.” Y’all. You should have seen my face. I was full on Kim K. ugly crying in a room of two officers and two company employees. The cops eventually walked out, and the two employees stared at me in amazement. They said things like, “That has never happened before.” What I will never forget, for the rest of my life, was one of them prayed over me. Here I was, this little shit (sorry mom) who STOLE from their business, and was prayed over by those I had stolen from. Satan was telling me I belonged behind bars while these victims prayed for grace.
You might be wondering why I am willing to share this. Why would I share a petty theft story when it hasn’t kept me from studying business, managing businesses, starting and running businesses? Because I still got my mug shot taken. I still had police showing up to my best friend’s house looking for me. I still had a million court dates, fines, fees, volunteer hours, and resumes to check of criminal history. I still had Satan using family to say, “you’ll never get a real job now” or “you pretending to be Christian, but you’re the worst.” I still had Satan in my ear telling me to kill myself for YEARS. I still avoided parts of town afraid of who would see me. My mugshot was all people would see when they looked at me.
Someone in your life, right now is struggling with sin. Someone in your life is struggling with staying out of jail. Someone in your life is obsessed with something that takes from others. Someone in your life is obsessed with something that harms others. Someone in your life is obsessed with money, either getting it or afraid to give theirs up. We all struggle with something, but some of us struggle with things that we can’t hide. If that is you, I pray you find it in this story to know what you’re doing is wrong. It isn’t worth it. I have spent years playing catch up from the damage. It isn’t worth being passed up on a job interview. It isn’t worth being the only one not listed on your first apartment with your husband. It isn’t worth having your first attempt at adopting a foster child shot down… I have brought so much hurt into our lives. But Jesus loves me anyways.
Jesus wants the prostitute. He wants the drug addicts. He wants the suicidal. He wants the thieves and tax collectors. He wants the ones who worship a thousand gods. There is nothing you are capable of doing that God can’t see. Sure, He may look down on us and roll his eyes, “There goes Angel stealing again.” But never does He give up a pursuit of us. Never does He say, “Well, she has sex and was stealing, so she has lost her ticket out of heaven.” NO!
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…” Titus 3:5
“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
You are worthy of a shame free life. You are worthy of walking in freedom. You are not your criminal past. You were fearfully and wonderfully made by a God who loves you. We are human and humans do stupid, hurtful, evil things. We are broken people in a fallen world. I am so thankful in the most shameful moment of my life. God left me in a room with someone to pray over me. It wasn’t my boyfriend or my parents. It wasn’t my best friend or church body… The person I stole from PRAYED OVER ME. I cringe when I read headlines of the crimes of others, with their mug shots shared, that was ME. My heart tears apart when I’m around people and all they have to talk about is how other people are making poor decisions, that was ME. And it’s not just because I know God loves me, it’s because I know how much God loves THEM. This next story is not my own, and I will keep it anonymous since it was a personal testimony, but it will forever be a part of my life:
“I often revisit the night I was sexually assaulted. For the longest time I revisit the bed and could hear God telling me, “I love you. I love you. Stop, she’s my daughter. She’s my princess. I love you.”
Last night I asked for God to change my heart. I’m still bitter, I’m still hurt. So we went back. I still heard his voice, but from the other side of the bed, I could finally hear. “I love you. I love you. Stop, you’re my son. You are a prince. I love you.”
What a loving God. This whole time I asked for healing. I didn’t know what I needed was to see my attacker as loved by God as well.”
I cried. We are selfish and hurt. We don’t want to relive our own sins. We don’t want to relive our own pains inflicted by others. I beg of you, when these memories come up, ask for a change of heart. Ask God to reveal his heart for the criminals in your life. Ask him to forgive your own crimes. Ask him for the words to hold your stealer’s hand, and pray over them. You may just launch a broken teen into nations to share His gospel. You may just revive a hurt girl into a relationship that serves your nation. You may give someone hope that they are capable of more then a small town retail store. You may tear down the lies Satan tells them. You are more then your mugshot.