Falling into the Reach of Glorious Grace

What a wordy title.

Well, I’ve always had trouble with the concept of falling of love, maybe because I’m such a perfectionist.  There’s a part of me that can’t take that deliberate step off the cliff to trust someone with my heart and let them love me, because then I have no control over what they love about me.  There’s a fear that they might love an imperfect part of me that I’m uncomfortable with anyone seeing.  A part of me that I myself do not love.  If someone loves me for something other than my accomplishments — my proof of value — the ways I have tried to make myself lovable — I’m not really sure why they love me at all.  And it’s uncomfortable not to be able to calculate my value or define what I’m worth to them.  If I don’t know why they love me, I have no control over it.  They could stop tomorrow, and I wouldn’t know why.  My whole life, I’ve tried to prove myself to people who already love me unconditionally, and it robs me of the joy and fulfillment that comes with being loved and loving them in return.

A while back, I let someone hold my hand for the first time in nearly two years.  It alarmed me at first.  There was some subconscious horror rising up in me that desperately wanted to voice the anxiety in my heart: “Why are you holding my hand?! I’ve never done anything for you, you know none of the things about me that I consider even mildly impressive, and you can’t hold my hand because I can’t handle you caring about me more than my accomplishments.”  It was such a ridiculous thought, and fortunately I didn’t voice it.  Instead, I made the deliberate effort to relinquish a little bit of control…and held his hand a bit tighter because I could either hold onto the unknown and hope it would catch me, or I could run away from it.

I think grace is the same way.  The risk of grace is not something we can carefully calculate.  Like love, grace is something we have to fall for.

And for us perfectionists, that can get a bit dicey.  We hold onto our accomplishments like a security blanket.  We like the thought of grace, so long as it supplements our works rather than replaces them.

Except…it doesn’t work that way.

Grace and self-sufficiency cannot coexist in ANY amount.  If you base 1% of your salvation on works, it’s 100% based on works.  If you haven’t taken that step of faith off the edge of the cliff, grace hasn’t caught you at all.  Grace is a gift that only the surrendered can experience in all its beauty.

There are at least two super uncomfortable parables about grace in the Bible.  The first is that really obnoxious story of the man who pays the same wage to the workers who worked 12 hours and the ones who worked 1 hour.  It’s uncomfortable because most of us identify with the offended characters.  Everything in us balks at the seeming injustice because it doesn’t fit into our worldview. Yeah — welcome to Jesus’ parables.  Perhaps this is one of the few that actually retains its rhetorical impact for modern readers.  Kingdom values are upside down and offensive to the proud.  The reason this parable irritates us is because a lot of us think we’re the 12-hour workers.  We’ve gone to church our whole lives, know the books of the Bible by heart, go on mission trips, and pray every day.  And we don’t get any more grace than the hopeless sinner who disgusts us? It’s not fair.

The other parable is that of the prodigal son.  It’s all too easy to see things from the older brother’s point of view: “I worked for you all these years, and you never even gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends! But when this son of yours who has squandered your wealth with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”  And we’re like, “Yeah, where’s the justice in that?”  Because we’ve been working all this time, but it seems an awful lot like drudgery when we see the rescued sinner rejoicing, and we wonder what he has to be so happy about.  If he gets off the hook, what have we been working for all this time?  That question, of course, leads to an uncomfortable conclusion: perhaps, all this time, we have been working for the wrong things.

No matter how hard we work, we will never be worthy of grace.  Paul says that our salvation is by grace, not by works, so that no one can boast.  Dear ones, God is not impressed by your talents; He’s the One that created them.  I can just see Him shaking His head and laughing as we eagerly say, “See what I’ve done!” and hold up empty hands.  For us 12-hour workers and older brothers, it’s time to face the painful reality that we have done nothing to earn His love.

It’s a frightening thing to take a step off the cliff and fall for grace.  But when you do, you’ll find a heavy weight lifted from your shoulders.  If nothing you do can earn you grace, nothing you do can take you beyond its reach.

As inconceivable as it may seem to us, God wants to hold our hand.  He wants us to grasp His tightly and trust Him when we have nothing else to hold onto.  He’s waiting there to catch us…if we’ll only fall.

Planted by the Water

Jeremiah 17:7-8. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.”

Let your roots reach out for the things of God! You can’t find fulfillment in this world — only in the Living Water!

“It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

Faith and fear cannot exist together; you will be full of one, or full of the other. When your roots are drawing from the Stream of Life, there’s no way you can be full of anxiety or fear. God has provided for you, so that you WILL NOT BE SHAKEN. Heat and drought may come, but YOU WILL STAND.

Hold on to that!

He is solid.

Always.

Published in: on November 27, 2012 at 12:02 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

a day at the park with crazy love, part 2: risk

Continued from part 1:

“Do you want to see God more than you desire security?”

Dang, Francis Chan. You have a way of meeting me right where I am…and taking me a step further.

Yes. That is what I want. I want to surrender everything that lures me unknowingly into sin through a false sense of safety, including money.

Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that I just stumbled on Hebrews 13:5 — “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” I believe it; and I only pray I can believe it enough to let go.

“Christians today like to play it safe.” And that’s the real reason the modern American church blends in. Who ever heard of someone changing the world without risking everything to do it? “Playing it safe” lands you permanently in an office behind a desk. And that’s sure as heck not what I want for my life.

To make a difference requires me to take a leap of faith.

So, God…take my hand.

Published in: on January 24, 2012 at 6:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Currently Untitled

Disclaimer: this is NOT one of those “Confessions of a Creature of Habit.” This is not about me. The general frame is the mindset of a young woman deceived by the lies of the world.

I looked in all the wrong places searching for something to make life worthwhile.

I tried to find security in money. But once it was spent, all I had was a house filled with useless things, and still I felt no security.

I tried to find love in sex. But sex without commitment is nothing more than an instinctive human desire, and all it did was leave me empty and devoid of love.

I tried to find beauty in makeup and jewelry and push-up bras. But vanity took over my personality, destroying my beauty from the inside out and leaving me nothing but a made-up shell with a fake smile.

I tried to find acceptance by conforming to everyone’s expectations. But I soon came to find that everyone expected me to be someone different. I became a role-player, accepted for the faces I put on and not for who I really was. I was nothing more than an actor.

I tried to find value in others’ opinions of me.  But by now, everyone saw me as a greedy, vain, two-faced slut. My life had become everything I didn’t want it to be. Everything I had run from had caught up with me, and everything I had been reaching for was just a mirage, untouchable, still shimmering miles away on the distant horizon. I had lost sight of what was important. I had lost myself.

Oh God…this isn’t who I wanted to be. Let me feel security in faith and love in Your salvation. Give me inner beauty and true acceptance based on the personality You gave me and my identity in You. Please don’t judge me the way everyone else has because of what I’ve become, but let my value come from grace. Make me the me You meant me to be.

Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 2:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

A Raw and Unpolished Confession

Most of the “Confessions of a Creature of Habit” notes that I write have been carefully and eloquently worded to make them sound a little more acceptable. Yeah, they give glimpses into the struggles of my spiritual life, but in their revised form they can hardly be considered legit confessions. It’s rare that my pride willingly lets people see the less-than-perfect part of me, but God put this on my heart to post. So here’s a raw and unpolished confession, straight from the pages of my journal, dated November 5, 2010.

“Honestly, God, you’re not all I want. I desperately want that to be true. I want to be in a place where I can say truthfully that you’re all I need. But I’m just not there yet. Could I pray for you to take away [the things I care about] so I could no longer even pretend to have security? No, Lord, I couldn’t. I’m clinging to an imitation because I want so badly to feel the real thing. I know it’s pitiful. Yet here I am, doing it anyway.”

I remember the pain I felt as I penned that entry and the struggle to relinquish what I wanted most. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let go. I was on my knees crying and trying to pray, and all that would come out was, “You’re not enough.”

I wrote that half a year ago to the day. Looking back now, I can hardly believe the changes God has worked in my heart over the past six months. Where before there was stubbornness and rebellion, now there is a quiet surrender and a willingness to wait. The desperate desire to have things my way has been replaced with a desire to see the revealing of His perfect plan.

Do I still become frustrated and get ahead of myself sometimes? Oh yeah. Do I still rely a little too much on finding security in others? Definitely. But I’ve come to a place where I can say that He alone is enough — and mean it.

Published in: on May 5, 2011 at 1:51 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

Lasting Security

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord.”Jeremiah 17:5

Cursed? The first time I read this verse, it immediately jumped out at me. I was all too familiar with the concept of depending on others instead of God, but I was a little taken aback by the word “cursed.” Cursed by whom? God? I don’t think so. Ultimately each of us is condemned by our own sins, but even with all theological implications of condemnation and hell aside, I think the point here is very simple: he who trusts in man curses himself in this life.

He is cursed because he will never find fulfillment; he will always been seeking and never finding. He is cursed because the security he craves is not stable at all but ebbs and flows with every whim of human emotion. He is cursed because true happiness will never be his.

As imperfect humans, our faltering spirits are weak, our bodies weaker still. How then can we depend on one another for strength? We are but instruments in the hands of Almighty God; by ourselves we have no power to hold up our own weight, let alone that of someone else. Yet we search constantly for some tangible sense of safety, knowing it will not satisfy but seeking a solution to our insecurity: a temporary solution that will leave us feeling worse about ourselves in the end than we did in the beginning.

What does God feel, I wonder, each time he watches us return to our old habits each time someone new lets us down? We cry, feeling worthless and alone, our fragile hearts shattered once again. He longs to hold us, but we defiantly wipe our tears, turn our hearts away from Him once more, and seek out the next available source of physical security, living in a cursed state of constant disappointment.

But “blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”Jeremiah 17:7-8.

Of course there will be no fear for those who trust in the Lord, for perfect love casts out fear (1st John 4:18). There will be no embarrassment and no regret, for it will have been replaced with unshakable peace. Lift the curse under which you live; do not put your trust in man or depend on flesh for your strength. Turn your heart back toward God and find your worth in Him.

Published in: on April 15, 2011 at 1:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Confessions #4: Search for Security

Written January 9, 2011.

The line from the Tenth Avenue North song gets me every time: “Why are you looking for love? Why are you still searching as if I’m not enough?” It hits a little too close to home; far too often I look for love and acceptance elsewhere, seeking security, when God is the one who offers safety. The song continues, posing the rhetorical question, “Where will you go, child; tell me where will you run?” I haven’t yet found an answer to that question, because everywhere I go leads to a dead end.

There is no one in my life that has not let me down when I needed them, because no one is perfect. I don’t even want to think of all the people I’ve let down when they depended on me. The reality of life, unpleasant though it may be, is that security cannot be found in flawed people or anywhere else in this imperfect world.

Why then do I continually turn my back on what I know to be authentic and spend my time searching for what seems just beyond my reach, eventually settling for a second-best imitation of the real thing? For a while, I can pretend and even convince myself that I have found security, but there always comes a painful moment when I realize that none of my support, nothing I depended on, was real. My imagined walls of protection come crashing down around me, driving me to my knees to seek security the one place I can find it.

At the point of breakdown, forced to depend on Christ alone, I do begin to feel truly safe, for I know that genuine security cannot be threatened or compromised by the circumstances of this world. But as always, life begins to drag me down. As time passes, my perception becomes cloudy, and again begins the desperate scramble to find a somehow more tangible sense of security.

The great irony is this: if I feel the safest when relying on God rather than on others, why then do I return to the world to find security there? Embarrassingly trite and a pathetic excuse though it may be, the only explanation I can offer is that old habits die hard.

Nothing found in this world is permanent; it can all slip away despite my futile attempts to hold on. The only thing steady in a life of ups and downs, the only thing safe in a world of change, is the unending love of my Savior. So all I can do is to take one day at a time, looking only to Him to provide security. And with each passing day the wait becomes shorter until the very feeling I have been seeking all this time becomes tangible; as the days of my life play themselves out one by one, the time draws nearer that I will fall into the arms of the One who will never let me go…safe at last.

Published in: on April 9, 2011 at 2:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,