The Saul-to-Paul conversion-type testimonies have always captivated me. God's transforming love gets me every time. Seeing the metamorphosis is a beautiful experience. But that is not my story, folks. No, when I was five, I repented of little girl sins (sins like putting glue in my sister's milk) and committed my life to Jesus. Growing up, my testimony looked less like a prison inmate's dramatic conversion and more like a be-Christian-in-spite-of-Christians-type story. More suffering came at the hands of fellow Bible school classmates and their leadership than from anyone who seemed more obviously parked in the Enemy's camp. At nineteen I found myself in a state of depression and struggling with a crisis of faith. I had experienced countless acts of false accusation within "the body of Christ" and endured "Christians" making an example out of me. Every expectation that I had coming into Bible school, every hope that I had maintained to have been surrounded by mini-Christs who reflected the Kingdom's tangible love had been shattered. Worse than that, I felt like the wounds were my fault for having ever dropped my guard in the first place! In an environment where I was sure that I'd be safe, I came away having never felt more suffocated, more oppressed, more beaten down and more unsure of my want for association with these "believers." For the first time in my life, I wrestled with whether or not I wanted to be a Christian. I mulled, I chewed, I considered, I prayed… I took my time. The outcome was unsure and the conversion would be costly. In reaction to the pain and trials of a very disappointing, legalistic and hurtful Bible school experience, this heart of mine that had once been so knitted to the Lord (that wanted to be a missionary in Africa!) was thoughtfully calculating the cost of wiping her identity clean and unraveling the relationship. God's grace and patience are infinite and perfect. Rather than feeling guilt and conviction in that experience, more than anything I felt His love. Spiritual wisdom and discernment kicked in and - praise be to our Lord - 19-year-old-Suzy came to one final conclusion: I have a problem with these "Christians," but I don't have a problem with Christ; I need to distance myself from this place, but I don't have to reject my faith. Phew! That was a close one! Well, fast forward many years and you have 31-year-old-Suzy who is still recovering. My husband and I joined a church small group that is presently studying and writing out the book of James. Little by little, we work through these verses, sharing our impressions and questions. And while that's all well and good, to be honest, sometimes instead of doing my homework, I'd just rather be cruising Facebook. So one night I did. Surely better use could have been made of my time, but my eyes scanned a thread and noticed a comment from a friend of a friend. (Danger, danger!) One woman who had been particularly influential in my misery at Bible school, who had been in leadership, aired something to this effect: "I'm so glad I'm basically atheist now. It makes life so much easier. Except when people try to convert me -that can be a little problematic." "Oh, no she di'int!", I inwardly exploded. I. Was. Ticked. Had I the maturity of our perfect Christ, perhaps my heart would have ached for her spiritual state. Unfortunately that was not my reality. No, I was angry and it took a lot of rage-fueled house cleaning before my heart could piece together the words to my frustration. Welcome to a snippet of my raw, human shortcomings: If she was going to turn her back on Christ, couldn't she have done that before nearly wrecking me? This could have been avoided! The pain was so pointless! Enter the book of James. I began to write. "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12, ESV). Meh. I wasn't wowed. Trials? Yeah. Steadfast? Check, check. Love him? Of course. Crown… who cares? No guarantee of a crown has ever prompted a reaction from me because I can't imagine a crown mattering here, in my life, right now. I'm not presently under the authority of a physical king or queen, so symbols like that feel irrelevant. And even if I had a crown, my wearing of it wouldn't command respect. More than likely, it'd command the loony bin, or at least an intervention. Then I'm pretty sure I heard the Lord whisper in my ear, "What if it said… tiara?" Umm, well, I AM a girl after all. I WANT that! No, seriously, if the God who created perfect sunrises and sunsets and colorful parrots and deep-sea coral and surprising pineapples and breezy willow trees… if He is in the tiara making business, I MUST have one! And if that "tiara of life" comes through steadfast love and endurance, then that's a price I'd pay more than once! It occurred to me that if God had appeared to me in a vision before Bible school, looked me in the eyes and said, "Listen, the next couple of years will be some of the hardest in your life. You'll feel lowly, just as I once was. Your heart will break. You'll be rejected and accused. But look. See this tiara? It's yours. Yes, I know. It's amazing. Just hold on, remain steadfast and love me, okay?" I'd be on that faster than a toddler on elevator buttons. With nothing but a game face, I'd reply, "Got it. Totally worth it. Let's go." The funny thing about the way a hypothetical pep talk would change my outlook is that God has pretty much already guaranteed my suffering in Scripture. In John 16:33, Christ states, "In this world you will have trouble." So why does grief and oppression shock me so much? Why do I feel so offended when people devalue me and put me beneath them? If I am to put on Christ, and if following Him is like unto "picking up my cross," then I should expect some of the same disappointing relationships and some of the betrayal that I read about in His life. But I should also expect a tiara. No, God doesn't sit me down for a chit-chat and wave a shiny object at me before I encounter every hardship, but that heads up was already given in His inspired word. My responsibility is to take Him at His word and believe that He is making it worth my while and that HE is worth my while. I want to see that tiara. I'd turn 19 all over again just to lay hold of it, bask in it, try it on, spin in the mirror, take a selfie… and then lay my tiara at His feet. He deserves it way more than I do. Hang on, girl. Your tiara is coming.