In the book of Romans, Paul urges us to remain wise to what is good and innocent to what is evil. I remember a specific moment in my life where I was so innocent of my father’s abuse. I didn’t know that moment was a divine experience from God that would help me later in life as I walked into my calling and ministry.
Some readers may not know my full testimony, so I will give you a quick backdrop. I was raised in a Christian home as a pastor’s daughter. Because my father was an evangelical pastor, we traveled often. I was always homeschooled and very protected from anything outside of our church family. Being raised this way was such a blessing. My life was saturated daily by the word of God, and I loved everything about it! I was brave, always asking to be the one to sing the solos, raising my hand to read from my KJV bible in Sunday school. I was and absolutely loved everything about being in love with God out loud. By the time I was in 1st grade, I could walk someone through the Romans Road to salvation and pray the sinner’s prayer if needed.
The word innocent originates from two Latin words: in – not, and nocre – to hurt. The word can also be used interchangeably with the words blameless, or pure.
There came a time in my life when I shared with my mother what had been happening to me weekly, if not daily when she and my siblings would go to bed. We were living in Leavenworth, KS, and our home church was a modest southern Baptist church called Elm Grove. They supported our family as traveling evangelist in that church. My father was highly respected, and that was our home. I think about now, as a woman in ministry, how hard it must have been for my mother to tell the church we were leaving, and why. Shame is such an ugly spirit.
Nonetheless, my mother immediately packed us up, and we left for Springfield, MO, to stay with my Granny Sue. The whole family was a mess, just trying to figure out this new life… except for me. I was completely unaware that what was happening to me was so wrong. Innocent, even then, after several years of consistent abuse. My mom started working full time to pay for our tiny apartment, and she enrolled me in school for the first time in my entire life.
One day I was out on the playground. I can remember playing soccer on this seemingly massive soccer field at our school. I remember the grass’s smell and the sound of tetherball being wrapped around the pole as other kids hit the ball back and forth. (That was my favorite game to play.) A young girl was sitting on the picnic table bench up by the school building on this specific day. She was crying. As a pastor’s daughter, I was always caring for people who were hurting or lost, like I had seen everyone around me doing, and I never went anywhere without my bible. So instinctively, I went over to the girl and started talking to her. She shared with me how she didn’t have very many friends and how bullied she was, as tears ran down her face. I was the new girl and didn’t have many friends either. It was a perfect moment.
Immediately, I began to practice the examples I had seen so many times. I shared with her that I wanted to be her friend, but I also wanted to tell her about my best friend that never leaves me and that He would love to be her best friend too! She was really excited to hear about it so I pulled my bible out of my backpack and started sharing with her about my best friend, Jesus. I was so innocent, brave, and confident at that moment. Because of my innocence, together, that little girl and I said the sinner’s prayer, and she gained two new friends that day. That was the first time I was obedient in my calling to ministry and the first soul I led to the kingdom.
Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.Romans 16:19
This verse convicts me so much as a woman now. Back then, I had every reason to be a broken little girl, but God kept me innocent to what was happening. I cherish this memory found in such a dark time, and this verse is one that I hide deep within my heart. How could a little girl in elementary school be so wise and strong? I was so protected by God in that moment, and He is still the same God able to protect me (and you) like that now.
You see, as I grew older, I became more and more aware of what happened to me. Over time the naiveness of my youth dissipated. Anger snuck in and created an unwilling spirit within me. I felt justified in my anger! No father should molest his daughter! Especially not a pastor! Oh, and let me tell you sisters, I was SO sick and tormented by this anger… like poison spewing out of my soul, I left a mark of anger on everyone who tried to get close to me. By the grace of God, I finally recognized the devastation from being a slave to anger, and now I can also recognize how the innocence at that moment on the playground kept me willing. How brave I was before I recognized I had been hurt. Confidently willing to do His good work. That moment is an altar in my life today. A tangible moment of what it feels like to be completely unscathed by situations and circumstances. Fully surrendered and fully obedient. Naïve, Innocent, Fearless…
What about our world today? So many opinions and so many hurts going on. Politics, racism, hate, pride, you name it… stirring up anger and division. Satan’s main goal is to hurt us, he hates us. He is always striving to steal our innocence. Tricking us into harboring “justified” blame, shame, and robbing our purity.
Listen, I know this world has hurt you but I challenge you, sisters (and brothers), to become innocent again. In – not nocre – to hurt ourselves and others. This story is for every woman (and man). We are all called to be that innocent little girl (or boy) who tells hurting people about our best friend, Jesus. Regardless of our current situations and circumstances. This world of hurt desperately needs you. Put your eyes on your Heavenly Father and rebuke the spirit of anger, pride, and self-righteousness. As we continue to strive for innocence about what is evil, others will find a new best friend—one who will never leave them or forsake them. Isn’t that something worth fighting for?
“Heavenly Father, keep us close to memories of our innocence. Let us remember what it felt like and hold it close to our hearts so we can be wise about good things, making us open and willing to do your good work. In Jesus precious name we pray, Amen. “
Create in me a pure (innocent) heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.Psalm 51:10-13
Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil. – Romans 16:19:Tweet
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