Wednesday, March 04, 2009

[Learning the Meaning of Grace]

You know quite well by now that I generally don't write the big revelation-style entries, with the possible exception of when I'm going through some kind of spiritual transformation (i.e. changing my prayer life, reading C.S. Lewis, etc.).  The simple reason for this is not that my faith is unimportant to me (quite the opposite, really) or that I'm afraid to offend (if my faith offends you, you're only viewing me two-dimensionally), but because I don't want to say things that have been said over and over and over and over... I'm well aware that, as the author of Ecclesiastes moans, "There is nothing new under the sun!" At least, as far as humanity and its relationship with its Creator. 

But I do want to share some discoveries I've made lately about myself and their resulting revelations about what it means to, in the words of Jars of Clay, "Look beyond the empty cross, forgetting what my life has cost" (Worlds Apart).

As far as you know, I'm the good girl.  I went through the usual teenage emotional muck, but I rarely, if ever, acted on my frustrations or impulses.  I fought with Mom and Dad, I sulked that "no one loves me", I occasionally crushed on a "bad boy"... but I stayed the golden girl.  Now, I don't say any of this to boast--if I'm really honest, probably the main reason I didn't act rebelliously had a lot to do with the fact that I didn't have the opportunities.  Let's face it--I had very little social life, and I rarely got asked out.  What kind of trouble could I have gotten into, really?  All this situational purity merely served to build up this self-image and surface-level piety.  Of course it was easy to believe in Christ.  I'd grown up in church, and I'd been taught early on that "we" were "right" and everyone else was wrong. 

Even in college, I didn't have many opportunities to be "bad."  I hung out with CCF, a group of people who believed as I believed, and the idea of partying did not (and still rarely does) appeal to me.  I actually have something of a phobia of crowds, so it was easy to say no to my neighbors who wanted me to join them at some frat party. 

The past two years, though, have been a real struggle.  I won't say that I ever doubted my faith... I think perhaps I might have doubted some of the basic tenets, but I've experienced too much in my spiritual life to doubt that He did what He said He did.  (Incidentally, asking questions and confessing doubt is healthy... blindly accepting what you've been told can be dangerous.  Make your faith your own and it'll become more real than ever before) What I did come to do is to doubt whether or not it was worth the struggle do the right things.  In the interest of complete honesty, I was weary of purity.  When I went to Hawaii and went to a club with an old classmate and received attention from some of the guys there, I sincerely wanted to chuck it all and do the things I knew I would regret.  Had my parents not been waiting for me at the hotel and had I not had this friend who has known me since eighth grade, I might have acted on that impulse.  I was ashamed, but well, hormones can be pretty powerful--let's face it. 

Since then, I've made a lot of compromises.  You don't have to date or anything like that to surrender your purity (yes, I realize what an overused word that is, but its meaning hasn't changed); purity is a state of the heart and mind.  I won't share details for the simple reason that I'm just not comfortable with it, but suffice it to say that addictions have vastly controlled my life for a good amount of time. 

Today, I've not overcome these addictions--not completely, anyway--but I'm moving in the right direction.  While I wish very much not to have these sins and temptations plaguing my day-to-day life, I don't think I really regret the fact that they have shaken my world.  I know that could be taken the wrong way--I'm definitely not saying that it's good to sin or that everyone should go out and destroy their entire moral compasses.  Definitely not.  I hate that I struggle with these things.  I regret allowing this sin to take hold of my heart and life.  But the flip side of this is that I now understand, to a much greater degree anyway, the necessity of grace. 

Humanity is really screwed up.  The very best of us has the potential to, with one choice, become the worst of us (and vice versa, I might add).  We're seriously screwed up.  I know I am.  Having this sin in my life has really shoved a wedge between me and God in a way that has never happened in my life.  I justified my actions.  I reasoned away the conviction of the Spirit.  I stopped praying--which is a first in my life.  The guilt plagued me so much that I couldn't bear to come to that holy place.  For the first time, I understood the hopeless condition of humanity.  We're sinners.  Outside of grace, we're consumed.  Sometimes it's subtle--judging the broken, holding on to a grudge--while other times it's overt--promiscuity, violence, etc.  Big or small, we're all on the same level: seriously messed up. 

I've recently renewed my walk with Christ and have discovered the real freedom that comes in being completely broken and honest before Him.  It hurts, badly, but it's freeing.  I think, for me, it was necessary to go through this period of wretchedness in order to truly grasp the weight of His grace.  My life is not my own because He gave His all on my behalf when I really don't deserve it.  That's the key, and I don't believe I understood it before.  Yes, I got it intellectually, but now I get it. 

I really understand in a new way that nothing I do is sufficient--it really is by His grace and mercy that I have any hope whatsoever.  That, my friends, is simulaneously the most freeing and most binding truth I know. 

"Worlds Apart" by Jars of Clay:

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

To turn away and not become
Another nail to pierce the skin of one who loves
more deeply than the oceans,
more abundant than the tears
Of a world embracing every heartache

Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow

To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees

All said and done I stand alone
Amongst remains of a life I should not own
It takes all I am to believe
In the mercy that covers me

Did you really have to die for me?
All I am for all you are
Because what I need and what I believe are worlds apart

I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
the sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that I despise
speak the words I can't deny
watch the world I used to love
fall to dust and thrown away
I look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what my life has cost
so wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
so steal my heart and take the pain
take the selfish, take the weak
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
take my world apart, take my world apart
I pray, I pray, I pray
take my world apart

1 comment:

PeriodSpaces said...

Extra ordinary! Most appreciable and touching...