My name is Chelsea.
I heard about The Grace Mask from Aurelia.
Being the oldest of five children set me up to be my mom’s right hand. My dad traveled as a claims adjuster for an insurance company during most of my childhood. While he was away working hard to provide for his family, my mom and I were wrangling kids and cleaning the house. There was never, and I mean never, a dull moment in our home. I think we were a pretty entertaining bunch to any visitors who came over. My siblings and I played, fought, laughed with, and annoyed each other. We had love and appreciation for one another, and for our parents who raised us in a loving and selfless way. As in any family we’ve had our tiffs and quarrels, but overall my upbringing was safe and happy.
Both of my parents are devoted Christ followers, so my siblings and I have grown up going to church. From Kindergarten until middle school I was in a program called Missionettes. It was essentially the Christian version of Girl Scouts. By the time I was a fifth grader in the program I had memorized many passages from the Bible.
One day when I was nine years old my mom was herding us into our van to go shopping. Before I got in, I took a walk down our driveway trying to remember if I’d ever had an official moment where I told Jesus I really did believe in him and wanted him to be Lord of my life. I had believed in Him for a while, but I couldn’t remember a specific time that I had told Him so. I kept thinking about something my children’s pastor said the Sunday before. He had shared his own story about the time he first gave his heart to Jesus.
As I stood there in my driveway, I told Jesus I believed He died on the cross for me and I wanted him to be my Lord and Savior. I remember that moment being cut short by my mom telling me to get in the van for the hundredth time, but my nine-year-old self wanted an exact moment to look back on just like my children’s pastor in his story.
Through high school I wrestled with understanding what it meant to be “saved.” I believed it was important to follow Jesus’ commands and examples in the Bible, but I struggled to comprehend how faith and deeds worked together. I constantly doubted my salvation. All I wanted was to earn Jesus’ approval back because I thought He lost interest in me every time I messed up. My motivation was all backward. Good choices I made were motivated by fear, doubt, and insecurity instead of flowing from a heart changed by Jesus through faith in Him. Consciously making good choices wasn’t bad. However when I messed up I counted on those good choices to earn back what I thought I had lost instead of simply acknowledging my sin and remembering that Jesus already died for it. There was literally nothing left to be done about those sins except for me to believe in Jesus, and allow His love to motivate me to do better next time. It was an issue of my heart, and I soon grew tired of my inability to earn my salvation. This doubt about my worth would lead to me to rely on human reasoning instead. I really did love Jesus, but I started to believe the lie that He just wasn’t quite as infatuated with me as I was with him. I couldn’t grasp the many ways Jesus loved me. My walk with Him became more focused on technicalities instead of faith.
Soon I began to question everything I had been taught about God. It started to make more sense to not believe anything I had been taught in church. I started wondering if it was really just a hoax. “So many people in the world don’t believe in Jesus,” I thought, “so they must be on to something that these other church people don’t see yet.” More thoughts like this would come into my mind on a regular basis. I found myself afraid that everything I believed was a huge lie. It felt as if I had believed in another Santa Claus and this was my moment where I discovered all the magic was faked. I didn’t want to believe in something that wasn’t real and logical. I stopped talking to Jesus and reading my Bible. I felt empty, lonely, confused, worried, angry, and depressed. On one hand I didn’t want to be fooled, but on the other hand everything felt so pointless without Him.
I confided in my parents who approached the issue with love and grace. I’m thankful for how my parents responded to me in that time in my life. They told me there’s nothing new they could say about Jesus that I haven’t already heard. They knew this was something I would have to decide for myself. They encouraged me to talk to Jesus, even when I felt stupid for doing it. They told me to tell Him everything and to read the Bible, even on days where it seemed like nonsense. In my search for truth, I did what my parents wisely suggested. They had faith that Jesus could handle my questions Himself and they trusted Him with my heart. It’ was a brave move for parents of a teenager. I trusted my parents and I started telling Jesus everything. I also asked Him every hard question about the Bible and the universe that came to my mind. The more time I spent with Him, the more my heart changed. Everything about Jesus and His Word began to resonate so deeply with me, and I don’t have the words to describe it. What happened in my heart was so much more than a feeling; I just knew He was real. At the beginning of my junior year of high school I rededicated my life to following and serving Jesus. I still don’t know all the answers to the hard “how” and “why” questions I have, but His mysteries are beautiful and He is worth living for.
After I graduated high school, the transition of leaving home and going to college was a huge adjustment for me and my family. It was a new season in my life when I was developing my relationship with God outside of the comfort zone of my home, and I was also learning more about myself as an individual. It was a season of figuring out what I liked, who I was, and where I fit in. There were many times during that season I felt misunderstood. I was very involved in the church I attended during college. At times in my college career I didn’t rely on God to show me the unique value of my personality and gifts. Like so many girls often do, I relied on my leaders and peers to affirm truths about my identity that Jesus already secured when I gave Him my heart. I felt that I was not as valuable as others who served alongside me in ministry. There were also several difficult transitions that occurred in my church family during that time. I dealt with a lot of insecurity and anxiety. I knew I was where God wanted me to be, but I allowed that insecurity and anxiety to determine my worth and as a result I felt insignificant. I worried that if I didn’t measure up in the eyes of certain Christians, then I might be insignificant in the eyes of Jesus too.
But God was with me through all of it. Jesus didn’t see me the way others did at that time. He doesn’t see me as others do now. I can’t even begin to understand how Jesus sees me as beautiful, pure, spotless, and blameless, but He did and He still does. Realizing that truth changed everything. When I came to Jesus with all of my thoughts and hurts from the recent past, He reminded me how much bigger He was than the circumstances that influenced my negative thoughts about myself. I was trying to work through my emotions on my own, but Jesus never asked me to do that. During those tough college years Jesus also brought me and my husband Ryan together. Through my relationship with Ryan I’ve come to understand the love that Jesus has towards me to an even greater extent. Ryan is a blessing to me. He gives Christ-like love and understanding to me on a daily basis and loves me for who I am. Being Ryan’s bride has helped teach me what it means to be Jesus’ Bride. What a gift to have a husband who can be the hands and feet of Christ to help remind his bride, and HIS Bride of who I am in Christ. Through Ryan’s example, and through turning to Jesus with my hurts, I’ve learned that Jesus’ love is bigger and deeper than I can ever fathom. Jesus saw the hurtful situations unfold in my life and has an entirely different perspective than I can even begin to comprehend. When I put keep my eyes on Jesus, He is faithful to remind me — He wants me and approves of me, and that puts peace back into my heart. Being the Bride of Christ to me is being wanted – it’s being known better than I know myself. It means that when I feel misunderstood, there is Someone else right beside me who sees the whole picture and understands me completely. When I feel rejected, Jesus sees past the situations fostering those feelings and accepts me in my entirety. I mean so much to Him. I am beautiful, I am wanted, and I am loved by my creator.
My anchor verses…
Micah 6:8 The Lord has shown you O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid
Psalm 73:26My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever
Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.