Wednesday, April 8

{ invalidating grace }

In the last couple of months I've repeatedly found myself wedged in the spokes of a very dangerous wheel involving sin, guilt and grace.

I’ve heard it said that Jews invented guilt, and Catholics perfected it. And wouldn’t you know it…my mother’s side of the family stems from a long line of Jewish believers. Growing up I never connected my heritage with guilt. But post-college, and after a good amount of counseling, it all started to mesh together in my brain. I can remember being four years old, walking to visit my grandparents. At the time our houses almost backed up to each other, making it so that I was just a short trail away from the garden paradise Papa had created in his backyard.

To this day I always think of one phrase in connection with Papa:
“Why you wear no shoes?!”
He’d say it gruffly in his broken English, and I would have been petrified of him, if my mom hadn’t always been there to intercede on my behalf. I was four years old…in the middle of a green lawn…in the heat of a southern California July. And I was being guilt-tripped for having bare feet. That alone says so much.

Lately I've been looking back on different phases of my life, and have found myself focusing predominantly on the negative. Whether it be an unhealthy relationship that lasted far longer than it should have, or a time of spiritual complacency (granted those two often overlap), there is a lot in my past of which I'm not proud. Coming to terms with the realization of such sin, while remembering the grace we've been given, has left me with a lot to well as a lot of guilt to sift through.

I'm dating someone else now. Being in any type of relationship with another human always drags the heart of you out. Or at least it should. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all revealed. Pieces of your past are forced to reconcile with the other person's present. It's terrifying, but it can turn into something beautiful when you give it a truly honest chance to just...unfold.

Well that would be nice if I could just relax for five seconds and stop over-analyzing every dark deed I've ever committed in the last 23 years of my life. But no...the second I start to draw close to someone whose character and integrity I actually respect...I start to panic. What if he figures out that I'm a fake? He's too good for me...Does he know what I'm capable of? I don't deserve this.
I immediately assume that the other person is flawless and that I'm the one whose going to singlehandedly destroy the innocence of our relationship even before it starts.
Sounds silly, I know. But it was eating me alive a few weeks ago.

Over lunch, Angela and I talked about such insecurities. We both admitted to having felt like we are lacking, and will always be lacking, and that no one will ever truly want us because we are lacking. And then we started talking about grace...and where it came from...and why.

We found ourselves smirking at the common declaration that "Jesus would have died for you if you were the only human left on earth."
A) While it may be conceptually sound, those words aren't directly found in Scripture.
B) I have semi-secret doubts that Christ would have actually become the perfect atoning sacrifice JUST FOR ME.
Think about it. The Crucifixion was gruesome, passionate, world-shattering and revolutionary. Is the redemption of my life alone really worth Christ's death?
As Christians, we're so used to hearing "yes" in response to that question. YES, you're worth it. YES, he died just for you. YES, he would do it again in a heartbeat.

And maybe he would.

But in the meantime, Angela just laughed a little and said, "No, we're totally not worth it."
I believe she's right. He didn't plan out our salvation and ultimate redemption because he looked us over from head to toe and heart to soul and deemed us as "worthy."
He did it out of sheer love. But nothing we have done or could ever do can make us worthy of that love.

So what do we do with this knowledge of undeserved and unearned grace?
If you were me, you'd emotionally reject it and disregard its sanctity, ultimately nullifying its validity in your life. For the past few months, I haven't understood such grace, so I've ignored it, thus forcing myself to fend off my demons with no divine help or coverage whatsoever. I can tell you right now, that was a dumb idea.

In church this Sunday, right before communion, I turned to a passage in Galatians that I often read before coming to the Lord's table. In chapter 2 verse 21, it says, "I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
That's exactly what I had been doing. I was setting aside the grace of God because I couldn't wrap my sinful little human brain around it without being broken. In doing so, I was essentially invalidating the entire Crucifixion and refusing the most blessed and precious gift there is.

I always have to figure out an analogy for these types of conundrums. Imagine someone you love a great deal in life ends up loving you way more. So much more, that they spend their life's savings to build you a custom-made home from the ground up. Top-of-the-line everything. Couldn't have fit your tastes more perfectly. And then they surprise you with the key to the front door.

And you refuse it. You have an internal panic attack, and you flat out tell them that you don't deserve it. And you mean it. Nothing they say convinces you to take the key. Or even look inside the house. You can't get over the gigantic gesture of this gift. But more than that, you can't get over how much you know you could never do anything for this person that would make you even remotely worth such a selfless gift. Even still, the house remains yours. Your friend isn't going to do anything with it. It just sits. And you can't get over yourself enough to simply accept it.

I think God wants us to be the kind of people who look at a ridiculous gift and say, "Oh you shouldn't have..." ...but then hastily tear the wrapping paper off anyway.

Our society is so wrapped up in fairness and getting what you can earn for yourself...what you deserve. But I'm glad there is nothing fair about grace, and thank God we're not getting what we deserve. And to think that you need this grace more than someone else isn't even worth joking about. We're all staring down our own demons...


Allie said...

I do follow Joanna! I do! And one time she commented on my blog! I was so starstruck.

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