If you ask Mike Foster, it is high time to throw a party or two for anyone living under the crippling power of shame and failure, because God our Father never intended for us to live there.
As God's beloved, we cannot stop being loved by Him; "beloved" is our truest identity in Him.
Foster, the founder of People of the Second Chance, a nonprofit organization that's guided by the lofty ideal that every person deserves a second chance, said in an interview with The Christian Post that he wants his new book, People of the Second Chance: A Guide to Bringing Life-Saving Love to the World, "to be almost like a $15 therapy session."
Judging by the response Foster has received from readers thus far, that is a very small price to pay for the transformation God is bringing.
Though People of the Second Chance has just been released, already Foster has been receiving messages from people telling him how the Holy Spirit is touching them through it, some are weeping while reading it.
Foster believes that it is because God is unlocking the secret chambers of their hearts that they have never dealt with honestly, things they were too afraid to access. He is unburdening their souls as they turn each page.
Coupled with a dose of good humor and immensely practical advice, the core message of People of the Second Chance is one Foster himself has lived: You were never, ever destined to live in shame.
When Foster was 19 he almost killed a man in a horrible boating accident on the Colorado River. He was behind the wheel of a power ski boat and hit another skier on the water, literally running him over. The skier suffered brain damage and his body was permanently disfigured, and the feelings that beset Foster were crushing.
"It was this horrific, traumatic moment of my life," Foster recounts. "I was dealing with the shame of that, the guilt of that, I would do anything to take it back but I couldn't ... so I set up these new rules for my life."
Among those new rules — he now calls them "condemn-ments"— was: 'The water is forever off limits to me, I can no longer draw joy from that.' But as he journeyed, God showed him how those restrictions were sapping the very life out of him.
Written with the wisdom that can only be gained from experience, Foster is unafraid to speak the truth in love while exhibiting a congenial, self-effacing humility. In the Kingdom of God, He often emphasizes your most profane sin and worst moments are not the end; they are but a dress rehearsal for glory. Indeed, the pits and pains of life are actually the places where God wants to show up if we will let Him.
"We tend to think of our heartbreaks as setbacks. As mistakes and failures. We look back on the foolishness, sinfulness, and pride of our past and think it was all a waste of time," Foster writes in Chapter 12, titled "Move from Bad Story to Backstory."
"But God doesn't just redeem our future; He redeems our whole lives. He bends every experience we've had, the dark and the light, toward the good things His is bringing about in our lives and in the world."
Such is the dominant current that runs through the entirety of People of the Second Chance. Once people connect with the love of God, for only His love can truly set people free, self-imposed rules crumble and self-love becomes a glorious byproduct.
Religious attitudes are a particularly pernicious hurdle to connecting with God, Foster notes, and it is not enough to say that you love yourself, you have to like yourself too. That's because God likes us, and saying as much ought not to seem scandalous.
"We live in a society where I believe that the forces of darkness are fully funded, the judgment machine is fully functional and fully operational," Foster said. "And so in order for society, whether it has been said to us through other people, or through the church, there is this sense that we are inadequate and our lives are worthless, and that we are not enough."
Foster told CP that he once saw a reputable survey that showed that many people believe the primary emotion God feels toward them is disappointment. If that is true, the natural result is a paralyzed mindset and a defeated life.
"If we don't transform our pain, we are going to transfer it," Foster explained. "When we understand we are God's beloved, then love is a natural outflow of our life. And I think that's why there is so much division and hatred and judgmental rules, because we feel like judged people."
People who know they are loved, by contrast, do not operate from defeat. And, when people connect God's love, sin loses its appeal entirely.
"When I stand before God," Foster said, "I want Him to say that I helped people be less afraid. And this sense of my story, afraid of what God is birthing in my life, afraid of my secrets, there is this sense of release for people."
Foster's book is an extension of much of his ministry; he regularly equips other leaders to help hurting people to know how to steward their hearts well. On a daily basis he ministers to deeply confused individuals who do not know who they are.
He patterns one of his approaches straight from the pages of the Gospels.
"One of the things that we do at Second Chances is throw what we call 'Prodigal Parties' to remind people that they are loved, accepted, that they have value. We've thrown parties for inmates who are being released from jail, people who are starting their second chance," Foster said.
And anyone can do this, he added. On Foster's website, an entire section is devoted to helping coordinate such festivities, complete with party guides and kits. In the third week of October, he is inviting fellow 'second chancers to throw over 100 parties all over the country for prodigals who need to be reminded of how God sees them.
"Our society wants to say 'Shame on you, shame on you, for what you've done.' And what we're doing through these Prodigal Parties is saying 'Shame off of you,' and we do it through celebrating them and reminding them that they're loved," Foster said.
"Part of the problem with pain is that it creates this cloud of confusion in our lives. It turns us upside down and tweaks us and puts us on a road that God never intended. So I just want to take them back to the most simple sense of who they are as God's beloved, whether they believe that or not is not even the point. They are that. You can't stop being the beloved. You can't stop being loved by God. "
"When we get that, everything falls into alignment," he concluded.