Deep Dark Grace

Perfect love casts out all fear

How can I tell you this story, when I thought I was already living it, thought I knew it through and through?

If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

And then I discovered as if for the first time that God loves me (and you, there on the other side of the screen) So. Much. This is the most constant thing in my life, and yet I have found it fresher and deeper than ever before, like a fish discovering water. It is the most amazing thing, the most precious thing, the most liberating thing.

And I have, mercifully, been granted a new metaphor.

Photo Credit: Michal Zacharzewski, SXC

 

You see, I had this picture in my mind of my soul as a house, and Jesus had bought the house, and the Holy Spirit had moved in to do some renovations, and the metaphor was that I may be a fixer-upper, but I belong to the King of Kings, and one day I will be a masterpiece, Hallelujah!

This is well and good, except I happen to know that angry cracks run through the foundation of my soul-house, and anxieties flit like cockroaches in my cupboards. Things look fine from the outside, but anyone who has lived with me (much less IN me, sweet Jesus) knows I am more or less a basket case and that I most certainly do not have my ish together. I get So. Angry. And often don’t even know why.  I am years into my walk with Jesus, yet I find myself circling back so often to the same struggles, feeling like I make progress and then realizing with a heavy sigh that I have walked by this tree about 100 times before.

I think this is true for many people, and part of a very healing conversation I had just before my big breakthrough was about Paul’s thorn in the flesh, whatever it was, and how deep struggles do not disqualify us from God’s grace. But I had this idea rolling around in my mind, this expression that “God accepts/loves you the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way” and as time after time I realized how little I am changing, the deeper I worried that maybe God doesn’t love me too much to leave me this way, that maybe I’ve been hoping He’ll love me because I keep trying harder and doing better for a little bit, but then when it all comes off the rails I have less and less reason to hope there was any point to this whole charade. My faith in God’s love was conditional on seeing change in my heart, and when I failed to find that change, I faltered.

Don’t get me wrong. God has done SO much in my life and in my heart. He healed me from cancer. He removed and healed a specific “thorn” of guilt that I carried for years. He has fueled me with joy and gratitude, gave me a wonderful family on every level, provided for an education that transformed and matured my faith, I could go on. But no matter where I go to write this laundry list of sincere thank yous, I know that I am living in a house with a cracked foundation (anger) and a pest problem (anxiety), and I really wanted the Holy Spirit to tackle these projects so I’d be ready for God.

The gap I had in my understanding of grace was that I projected God’s unconditional love on a future, idealized version of myself (the me who was “saved by grace” and therefore not angry or anxious). What he finally brought me to see is that Jesus lives in my dumpy soul-house today. He can fix this mess, and I trust he will, but it matters more to have faith that he loves this mess. And now I do.

I wrote in my journal,

Where you are, Lord I am free.
Holiness is Christ in me.

Jesus Christ lives in the dump of my life, of my broken self and sucky attitude and occasional potty mouth. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him and he says that this condemned building will be his palace. Full stop.

Grace, grace, grace! Jesus lives here, so it is holy. This sin pit, this filthy snare has captured the light of the world. Satan’s power is null, his accusations are laughably irrelevant in the fountain of grace that flows from Jesus’ wounds that buy my freedom. I am free, I am free, I am free!

For a few days after this breakthrough I felt invincible. I wondered if this was the big release I’d been waiting for all these years – infinite patience, gentleness, reasonableness. I wondered if God had been waiting all this time for me to realize I don’t need to be good for him to love me, and now that I had realized it, he had gone and made me good.

And then I had an angry day.

It felt the same as before, like stepping in quicksand and suddenly being stuck up to my neck in frustration, sinking deeper the more I struggled, chest tight like I was in concrete. I had good reasons and no reasons, like always, but mercifully absent from the usual mix of voices in my head were condemnation and self-loathing.

And instead of beating myself up, I asked God for help. Tearfully sang that old chorus, I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised. So shall I be saved from my enemies… Sang til I was unstuck, tired but free. And it just showed me all over again the depth of God’s mercy, the dark pit that grace reaches down to again and again.

The second verse to a song I love says,

Where sin runs deep,
Your grace is more.
Where grace is found is where You are,
and where You are, Lord I am free
Holiness is Christ in me.

And after singing it a thousand times it has finally hit home that the deepest sin in me cannot escape the depths of God’s grace, cannot drown the light in its darkness. Where I fail, Jesus steps in. He takes the fall. He bore the death that I stumble into almost every day, and his daily rescue is motivated purely by love, not by my potential as a witness, not by my good intentions and high hopes for another chance.

Just love.

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Comments

Susan 17-02-2015, 20:23

Ya, what is this thing about anger, eh?? You’ve hit the nail on the head though with God’s love – that’s where the miraculous freedom comes from. Praise God!! Great analogy of cockroaches for worry; and I love the line that Satan’s accusations are “laughably irrelevant.” Thanks for sharing your journey. 🙂

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alyssa 18-02-2015, 21:38

I remember when you blogged through your big breakthrough with God including realizing how real his love is and how that just opens all kinds of doors to healing and receiving love from others and… yeah, it’s just too great for words 😀

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Answered Prayer - Moving With God 25-02-2015, 17:35

[…] though I believe this money has come to me in direct response to prayer, it is as free a gift as everything else God has given me, and if I choose to put it on a credit card or save it for a trip, he won’t love me any less. But […]

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