Unashamed: Take Me As I Am

Unashamed: Take Me As I Am

LecraeBy Lecrae10 Minutes

Excerpt from “Chapter 5: Take Me As I Am” of Unashamed by Lecrae


The final night of the conference was New Year’s Eve. All the attendees were gathering in the hotel ballroom for a message and a concert before the countdown to midnight. I was typically late, so I had to sit in the overflow room where Pastor James White’s sermon was live streaming from the main room. Something about this guy was different from other preachers I’d heard. He was talking to us, not at us. He spoke our language, using terminology that was popular at the time so we could all understand. The ancient Christian message seemed relevant to my life for the first time.

Pastor White’s description of Jesus’ death on the cross was almost cinematic. It was like watching The Passion of the Christ for the first time. Sure, I knew that Jesus had been crucified, but I was oblivious to the details. I’d never heard that Jesus was beaten into a swollen lump of flesh. I’d never heard that he was whipped with a cat o’ nine tails with sharpened pieces of bone and glass that ripped the skin off his back. I’d never heard that he had to carry his own splintering cross up a hill to the place of execution. I’d never heard that the Roman soldiers drove nails the size of railroad spikes through his wrist.

I always thought of Jesus as this fluffy lamb of a man who walked around saying, “I love you, my children. Bless you.” But the man Pastor White spoke about was more complex than that.

“Sure, Jesus was sensitive, but He was also like a lot of you tough guys in the crowd,” he said. “You roughnecks out there—how dare you call my Jesus a punk!”

I began stirring in my chair. The Jesus I had pictured in my mind was frail and weak and bashful. He was the kind of person who would’ve been eaten alive on the streets of Southeast San Diego. But the man that Pastor White was describing was both gentle and strong. He was someone I could respect and trust at the same time.

But it all came to a head when Pastor White looked down at the pages of his Bible and read 1 Corinthians 6:20: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (NKJV)

The words hit me like hurricane winds.

Wait. I was bought at a price. The price that Jesus paid was for me? The beating and whipping and nails and dying were all done for me? For me?

Scenes from my life were flashing before my eyes. The young girls I’d messed around with in secret as a child. The pain and insignificance resulting from my father’s absence. The apathy I felt as a child about Big Momma’s missions work. The fistfuls of paper I’d ripped from the Bible. The way I’d flippantly used God’s name as a curse word. Everything I’d stolen, everything I’d smoked, everyone I’d slept with. I saw all my rebellion in a flash.

Even though He knew all my mistakes, God still died for me. I don’t even like God, and God loves me. Despite everything, God bought me at a price.

My inhibitions disintegrated, and I collapsed to my knees. I’m not a crier, but tears were running down my cheeks. I didn’t care anymore.

“Please forgive me, God. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I’m so sorry.”

Pastor White led us in a prayer, and I prayed like I had never prayed before. I admitted everything (as if God didn’t already know the details), and I begged forgiveness for it all. When he said “Amen,” I rose to my feet as if for the first time. It was like the weight I’d been carrying my whole life had been lifted. All of the baggage and all of the depression and all of the pent-up anger had been released. It felt like someone had cleaned the filthiest and ugliest parts of me—parts that even I was too ashamed to deal with.

Before that night, I wasn’t sure what I believed, but now I knew. God created this world. God was working through history. God sent Jesus to earth. Jesus died for me. The Bible was true, this Jesus thing was true, it was all true. Maybe this was the rescue I’d been hoping for. Maybe God was the father I’d been wanting. He had chosen me, and I had been bought at a price.

* * *

The sermon was followed by a Cross Movement concert, but I heard their music with new ears. All the lyrics that sounded strange before now made sense. It was like these songs were written for me, like they were the soundtrack for my new life. I let myself go, partying and jumping with everybody else. After the concert, we all counted down to midnight.

3-2-1 . . . “Happy New Year!”

But this moment marked more than the start of a new year for me. It was a new era—the first day of the rest of my life.

I didn’t need to smoke weed anymore; this moment felt better than being high.

I didn’t need to sleep with random women anymore; I knew God had something more fulfilling for me.

I didn’t need to impress people with stupid behavior anymore; I was now part of a community that valued humility over ego.

I didn’t need to keep trying to fill the hole left by my absent dad; I had gained a heavenly Father.

For the first time in my life, I felt a sense of purpose and identity.

When the cheers died down, I needed to spend some time processing the significant spiritual experience I’d just had. Since I wasn’t very close to anyone at the conference, I decided to find a quiet place where I could be alone with God. I walked through the hotel lobby, jumped on the elevator, and hit the button for the top floor. If I was going to talk to God, I figured I should get as high up as possible so we could hear each other clearly.

The elevator opened to a rooftop pavilion, and I stepped into the night. The city of Atlanta stretched out in front of me. Lights shone through skyscraper windows, and cars sped down the streets below. Beyond the city was an expanse of trees that faded into the darkness.

So you made all of this, huh, God? I thought.

I couldn’t believe the peace I felt. Prayers just started coming out of me. I was trying to express joy and gratitude and all kinds of emotion. It didn’t make much sense, but I figured God could sort it all out. I asked God all kinds of questions and then waited for an answer.

Above me was nothing but silence, but a noise began to rise from down below. A crowd of college students was chanting: “Jeeeee-sus! Jeeeee-sus! Jeeeee-sus!”

Over and over, they shouted Jesus’ name. The words rose from the street and echoed on the rooftop where I stood. I can’t say for sure, but it seemed to be more than a coincidence. I took it as a response from God, a welcome to the family, a sign that everything I had just experienced had been real.

It was like the God of the universe had looked down on that dark rooftop in Atlanta and spoke to His son, Lecrae, saying, “You have the answer to all of your questions . . . The answer is Jesus.”

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