Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Surviving by God's Grace

It was day eight on Survivor China and we were in yet another physical reward challenge.  I was already frustrated because for some reason, the show I finally get selected for turns out to be one of the most physical one-on-one combative seasons to date.  It was like Survivor - Gone Wild!  Most of the challenges I'd seen on the show were a team effort in the past.  Not this season.  We were doing hand to hand combat, one on one and it was the hardest thing I'd ever done.

This challenge on day eight was one of the hardest yet.  We were on a make-shift boat and had to literally wrestle each other and try to fling the other tribe, one by one, off the boat into the nasty lake water.  It was women against women, men against men.  I had been very sick since day two and at this point, I was so weak I knew that I would have to dig deep for strength.

Jeff signaled for the challenge to begin and I almost burst into tears as I saw the three young girls from the opposing tribe coming at me.  We wrestled and fought and as we did, I could feel that some of the girls were pulling on our clothing, trying to distract us so we would try to cover ourselves up instead of fighting.  I couldn't help but tug at my clothes with one hand, trying to keep myself covered while wrestling with the other hand.  My other two tribe mates had already been flung into the water and I was the last one standing for the first round.  Before long, three girls from the other tribe came after me and flung me as hard as they could into the lake.  They won round one.

We had a couple more rounds in this challenge and I was physically and emotionally spent.  One of the members of my tribe was yelling at me to stop fussing with my clothing.  She said it was a distraction from the fight and that I shouldn't worry if they stripped my clothes off.  It was a competition - who cares who sees you at this point?  She was definitely angry with me.  But I couldn't help it.  I was not there to strip naked on national television.  It's easy to forget that 15 million people are going to be watching you at some point when you are out there fighting for your life in the jungle.  But I knew it was not something I wanted to do.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I put high expectations on myself to represent Him well.  And when I would mess up, I was so hard on myself.  That's probably why, after the third round of this combative challenge, as I was being flung into the nasty lake water for the last time, losing the challenge (and almost my clothes), I yelled out an expletive word that I regretted the moment it left my mouth!  I hit the water and swam to the side of the boat where I just wept uncontrollably.  There I was, wrestling with other women and screaming out a word that I should not be screaming, much less on national television.  This was not what I signed up for!

One of my tribe mates and dear friends out there, Courtney, helped me out of the water and asked me what was wrong.  When I explained to her that I had just said a word I wished I hadn't said on national television, she laughed, hugged me and told me to shake it off.  But I couldn't.  I felt just horrible.  I was a mother, a Christian speaker and radio host.  I really felt I had blown my witness.  They would show this on national television and everyone watching would judge me and possibly even judge my God based on my behavior!  What if they fired me at the radio station? I put the weight of the world on my shoulders.

I was so distracted by beating myself up that I didn't even realize my tribe was plotting to vote me out that night.  When we focus on our sin and not our Savior, a lot of things can go unnoticed in our lives, you know.  Once I was voted out, I lost many hours of sleep, re-playing that moment in my head over and over and wishing I hadn't said what I said.  I was tired.  Sick.  Exhausted.  Upset.  Would any of that matter to the millions of people watching?  Would they ever understand?

I asked the Lord for forgiveness and honestly, I felt He forgave me before I even finished asking.  But I couldn't forgive myself.  I continued to re-live the moment for months - until the show aired in October of 2007.

While watching the scene, I braced myself.  I felt nauseous.  I just knew the producers were going to show the "Christian Lady" yelling out an expletive.  It would be the end of my ministry!  It would make God look bad!  He would be so disappointed in me!

And then....


They didn't even show it on the air.  They took it out completely.  I was flabbergasted.  In shock.  All those hours and sleepless nights of worrying about how I was going to damage God's reputation and they didn't even show it.  What was going on?

As I prayed about this with the Lord, I felt that what He was showing me is something He wants us all to know.  We are human.  We will mess up.  We are not perfect (the very reason we need Jesus so much!).  And He showed me something that humbled me and will continue to humble me until the day I die....I am not powerful enough to ruin the God of the Universe's reputation.  He's perfectly capable of protecting His honor.  Even if they had shown me screaming out a word I wouldn't normally use, God would have been just as holy.  My actions proved I was human and I made a mistake, but they did nothing to discredit my God.

I don't know what you're struggling with today, my friend.  But I know that if you are having a hard time forgiving yourself, you need to remember that important truth.  He loves you, He forgives you and He is not depending on you to be perfect in order to show others how amazing He is! Remember....while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us!  He knows we are not perfect.  As Jesus said to the woman who the judgmental Pharisees caught in adultery...go and sin no more. (John 8:1-11)

When you are exhausted, hungry for God's Word, thirsty for His Spirit and you're in a situation that is anything but what you are used to, you will be more vulnerable to do things you normally wouldn't do, too.  It doesn't give us an excuse, but it certainly shows how much we depend on Him for our righteousness.  And if you mess up, fess up.  Learn, grow and move forward.  Remember it, but don't dwell on it.  As a Christian, we are a new creation, but sometimes our old self seeps out when we are in a vulnerable situation.  Protect yourself from those situations whenever possible by staying in His Word, praying and allowing His Spirit to control you. (Galatians 5:16)

When I told my tribe mate, Courtney, what I yelled out, her reaction wasn't one of, "Oh, I see.  You SAY you're a Christian, but look at what you did!"  It was more like this:  "Oh, I see. You're human."

My Christian friend, you are human, too.  You will make mistakes.  Learn from them.  Grow from them.  Allow God to use the sins that you regret so much to teach you and form you into the person He wants you to be.  But do not allow those sins to define you.  Allow them to refine you.  And move forward, in His grace.  God's grace is always way bigger than the grace we show (or don't show) ourselves.


Brenda Porter said...

By far one of the most enjoyable and relatable posts I have ever read here from you!! Leslie I can so relate as I am a worrier too and boy can I relate to this one! I am learning tho that God loves us no matter what unconditionally and He understands us and our failings. A friend of mine Holly Hoffman said it best to me today God doesn't tests us He BESTS us! I can say he did this in your case and I think u did an awesome job in China! Thank u sister for your post! Love ya!!!

Leslie Nease said...

Thank you so much, Miss Brenda! You are so sweet and so encouraging! :) Yes God most definitely used this test to best me - no doubt about it. He taught me so much - this is only a sliver of the incredible riches he taught me in China during this adventure! xxoo

Brooke Lorren said...

Awesome post. I don't really know what the religious views of the Survivor producers are, but God uses both his servants and the ungodly to work out his plan. Sometimes, he also gives us a break by editing out the mistakes of our lives like this (although I think if they had shown it, you would have been the one beating yourself up the most about it; we all make mistakes).

When I was a kid, I was super mean to my brother... above and beyond what is normal. This summer, I told him that I was sorry for being so mean to him when I was younger; I felt so bad. He told me that it wasn't a problem, that he thought that he was worse and deserved it. It is nice that God can forgive and bring our lives back to normal, even if we screw up pretty badly.

Leslie Nease said...

Brooke, Amen girl! Awesome. So glad your brother was forgiving - such a beautiful example of how amazing grace is! :)

Kendra said...

True dat! :) Need this reminder often...was it "Jesus Calling" that said recently 'just because I allow you to be intimate with Me doesn't make us equals'...?? As always, appreciate your transparency for the glory of God!

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