“Daddy, can we play that game?”
We’d played with barbies, with my plastic guns and superhero outfits, and even with my little playhouse. He would let me paint his nails and sing him songs. Daddy never said no when I asked to play, but this time was different.
This time the game was real.
The two of them had been going at it for hours. In a marital standoff, verbal assaults were flung with intention and doors were slammed for maximum impact. I watched intently, ready to re-enact this riveting game when Mama got tired later on. But it wasn’t a game, and Daddy didn’t want to play.
This wouldn’t be the last time my parents argued with fervor, and their interactions soon became familiar territory to my four year-old self. Healthy families intimidated me (and sometimes still do). I knew how to navigate tension, rage, and betrayal. But kindness and sincerity left me skeptical at best and aggressive at worst. So church was hard for me. All dressed up in our ironed clothes with curled locks, we would sing, “Come just as you are…”
Those words were a lie. I heard how the adults gossiped about the Girl with the Blue Hair, and how Jesus obviously was not pleased with her attire. Our song was not true. You cannot come just as you are.
It was then that I realized something terrible. The Girl with the Blue Hair could change her clothes. She could take out her piercings and dye her hair back to a natural color. She could change the things about herself that didn’t measure up. But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t clean up my family. My past would always be dirty and unacceptable. A foundational belief quickly began to take root in my heart: I am too broken to be loved.
Many women struggle with the belief that they are inadequate, but I have wrestled with the lie that I am too much.
I’m too opinionated. I’m too direct. I’m too emotional. I’m too intense. I care too much. I over-analyze. I’m too controlling. I’m too competitive. I’m too dramatic. I’m too broken.
How could Jesus love me?
I found my answer in one of the most boring parts of the Bible: The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. At first glance this looks like an uneventful list of unimportant people, but with a little research, the passage comes alive. With a simple skim of the chapter, several names start to jump out: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and several other women. Women were not typically included in genealogies, so this caught my attention. But these weren’t just random, insignificant women…
Tamar is the first woman mentioned (v. 3) and her story is found in Genesis 38. Tamar marries this guy named Er, but God ends up killing him because he “was wicked in the sight of the Lord” (v. 7). Because Tamar’s husband died before getting her pregnant, Er’s brother Onan was responsible for doing the deed. But he also turned out to be wicked, so God killed him too. Tamar’s father-in-law, Judah, was getting pretty worried. Every time one of his sons went to be with this woman, they ended up dead! Instead of providing for Tamar in her time of need, he sent her away to live as a widow for the rest of her life. But Tamar, being the resourceful woman that she was, had another plan. She disguised herself as a prostitute, ended up sleeping with her father-in-law, and gets pregnant.
The next woman named in Matthew 1 is Rahab – the prostitute who helped the spies at Jericho. We know her story ends with faithfulness and belief, but her past is dark.
Then Ruth, who we all love. Her love story with Boaz is one for the ages, but have you seen her family tree? Ruth was a Moabite, and Genesis 19 tells us that Moabites have an incestuous origin.
When you think it can’t get any worse, we come to Matthew 1:6 where we find the woman who cannot even be named. Matthew calls her “Uriah’s wife” because he doesn’t want us to forget how she and King David first met.
Finally we come to Mary. The unwed, pregnant teen who birthed our Messiah.
This is our Jesus – whose family history is littered with incest, prostitution, adultery, and paganism. God knew we’d be afraid to come just as we are, and I think that’s why he gave us this background. We needed to know that Jesus came from a screwed up family. We needed to know the skeletons in his closet. Matthew intentionally left in all the sketchy parts of Jesus’ story so we would know: We really can come just as we are.
The Girl with the Blue Hair can come.
The husband addicted to pornography can come.
The hormonal teenager who is skeptical about religion can come.
The single mom, the widow, the victim, the pagan, the homewrecker. They can all come just as they are.
And so can you.