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The Eyes of Tammy Faye

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."

–Jeremiah 31:3

“God loves you, he really does!”

Jim Bakker, the 1980s televangelist, would end his broadcasts on the PTL Network with those words each day, as millions of viewers around the world tuned in and sent in their pledges to his television empire. Of course, very soon he and wife Tammy Faye would be late-night punchlines, as scandal sent the ministry into bankruptcy and Jim to prison for fraud.

But, as it turns out, Tammy Faye was no punchline. Despite the caricature of the televangelist, and the scandal that took down her husband, despite the jokes about her makeup or eyebrows or relentless cheeriness, Tammy Faye never gave up believing those words that Jim would speak to conclude their broadcasts. She really believed that God loved everybody, without any exceptions. “We’re all made out of the same old dirt,” she would say, “and God doesn’t make any junk.”

I recently watched the new movie about her life, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” and was reminded once again of the power of persistence in the face of life’s challenges—and the power of holding on to that faith that God loves you, no matter what. Actress Jessica Chastain, who plays Tammy in the film, was inspired to make it after seeing an old clip of an interview she had done in 1985 on the PTL show with Steve Pieters, an openly gay pastor who had AIDS. At that time, there were still many unknowns surrounding the disease, and fear was rampant—especially among evangelical Christians, who often saw God’s judgement in the disease. Having someone like Steve on the show was a risk, to say the least. But Tammy was unwavering. She cried with him as she listened to his story, and told him that of all people, Christians should be the ones who loved everybody, no matter what. And then she said that if he were in the room with her, she would put her arms around him and tell him that she loved him. That moment was transformative for Steve, but also for the millions who were watching, and for Tammy’s children, who saw a different vision of God for the first time.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes to change a life. Simply being willing to stand up and say that God loves you, and so do I. Tammy went on to have a ministry and a connection to the LGBTQ community for the rest of her life. As the film shows, she knew what it was to be an outsider, having been told she was worthless as a child and ridiculed as an adult. Yet she never lost faith that God loved her.

I hope that you know today, no matter where you are in your journey, that you are loved. Fiercely, extravagantly, with a depth that can never be fathomed. Hold on to that when life brings challenges, and tell someone else that when they need the reminder. Look through the eyes of love, and see yourself and everyone as deeply cherished for all time.

God loves you, he really does.


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