Just thought I’d make sure I’m clear on a few things before we start this last part…
I really do believe obedience is good. It’s the goal. Holiness should be our goal and our heart’s truest prayer. I also don’t want to discount that Christians have everything we need for life and godliness. Neither am I forgetting the Holy Spirit and His Power that lives in us from the moment of salvation, but I’m being real. Holiness is HARD! I want to be able to conjure up more faith and goodness and be more godly, but I fail. Even on my best days, I’m still breaking down somewhere. What’s more, as I walk on further with God, I see more and more sin and those best days can feel so few and far between. So, where do you go with all that? For years I wandered around in those pits of guilt, shame, and fear that I told you about, while I busied myself to try and be better or to all together just forget. But, I feel like I’ve experienced a better way in the last few years and so this entire three part post is simply my attempt to share my new experience with living loved in spite of all my mess.
Now, back to abiding and resting in Jesus…
The mere suggestion that we should only work to abide and rest in Jesus’ finished work for us, could sound like I am exploiting Gods’ Grace. But, I don’t believe that’s the case. See, I am not saying anything like, “I just am who I am and I was made me this way and it’s really okay because God loves me all the same.”
That’s not the Gospel of Grace.
What I’m saying is, “I am who I am and I am a sinner.” You are, also. I’m sorry if that offends you, but it’s actually the reality for us all. (And, anyway, keep your chin up. I promise you’ll feel better about yourself by the end of the this post!)
But, an even greater reality is this: God loves us too much to leave us that way! That’s the true picture of God’s Grace. God’s Grace says… I could not be any more of a sinner than I currently am, but when I place my faith in Jesus as my Savior and the only way to God, I could never be any more forgiven and loved.* Regardless of my behavior at this moment and in all moments past and future. See, when we have the covering of Jesus, God’s Love is a constant, and He is no more pleased with us on our best days, than He is on bad ones, because He only sees Jesus when He looks at us. And remember, Christ became sin and died on that cross knowing every sin ever committed. Nothing is a surprise to Him. Taking it a step further, Jesus hung on that cross knowing the sin that is in my heart at this very moment, yet remained up there. This is breathtaking news! And, it’s also basically what this whole long, drawn out thing is about… receiving something we do not deserve and did not earn…
Like eyes and ears that are blessed to see and hear, and hearts that understand, we can now live the once-for-all forgiven, forever healed, lives found at Jesus’ Feet and eternally secured by the blood of His Hands.
And that, my sweetest friends, is God’s Grace. A most beautiful, soul satisfying, and spirit edifying gift.
It’s also the very Grace that will make it possible to abide with Jesus daily, like Mary, and what will gently pulls us back when we wander, like Martha (because we will!). It’s the Grace that will allow us to turn back to Him, like David, over and over, seeking His forgiveness and healing. It’s the Grace that will enable us to remain in that kind of relationship with Him, because it’s also the Grace that will take our shame and replace it with His Radiance.
It’s just all HIS GRACE, plain and simple… every ounce of knowledge, love, service, work, worship, giving, gifting, and goodness!
Even the heart that seeks to know Him more, can only desire this, by His Grace. (Ha!) So we must ask for that heart… then get busy “working” to simply live in relationship with God completely loved, healed, and forgiven — because, isn’t that really how most living things flourish and grow to become what they were created to be from the beginning?
And, since our God is faithful to complete what He began, we can also get to “work” on believing that by abiding on The Vine, the fruit of His Spirit will eventually take root and produce a good crop in our lives simply because… His Most Gracious blessing towards us, is also His Most Gracious Work upon us.
Now… during all the months spent pondering, praying, and processing this post (turned posts), trying to figure out exactly how I could ever explain living loved, healed, and forgiven by God, free from guilt, fear, or shame, I began to feel a slight nudge to include some context from my own experience… which just basically translated to, “Share some of your messy junk with whomever will read this, Kacy.”
So, I’ve decided to close my eyes and grasp tight and brave to The One Who holds my life, while we dive in and share a bit of my own abiding life lived on The Vine… (By the way, this might be the true reason this thing has taken a year to complete and it’s is also the part that will make you feel much better about yourselves, so there’s that.)
“…and turn and I will heal them.”
Hi. My name is Kacy and I am angry. Yep, I can lose my temper with the best of them. That seems to surprise many people, so I guess I’m also real good at pretending I’m something I’m not. Anyway, my anger is mostly motivated by fear, but it’s still far from acceptable. I can spout out complete evil and have spewed hateful venom on those I love most. I have screamed at my husband until my voice choked and yelled at my kids until my mind broke. And, I have seen those same people look at me with wounded eyes and hearts that I have no ability to ever repair. I can also be judgmental, preachy, impatient, rude, lazy, hateful, and unbelievably selfish! I’m really a mess, honestly, and have made even bigger messes of my fair share of relationships. Fear and worry can often immobilize me and I’ve suffered long seasons of depression and anxiety, shopping and smoking compulsively, massively obsessing over germs and food and health and politics, depending (like lived or died!) on the approval of others, and hating myself with such severity, harming myself seemed an acceptable alternative. (And all this was AFTER I became a Christian. Can you imagine the before?)
What’s more, it really makes me angry (surprise!) that I often feel so alone in these struggles. Especially among other Christians. But, if you’re still reading after all this realness, then please know that for a lot of years, I felt bound up by all these things… imprisoned and powerless to change one bit of any of it. I tried really hard, too, and in all kinds of ways, but never could seem to gain any victory, which was why I lived in those pits of guilt, shame, and fear, often camouflaged by loads of excuses. I was simply too bound up and deeply covered to ever dream of living healed and forgiven.
Until recently, that is. Now, remember me saying in the last post that I hit a dead end while doing my faith my way? Well, during that time, out of sheer desperation… or more honestly, to simply keep from drowning in fear, I began turning to God a lot. And, clinging even more! Even through pain, doubt, fear, tears, and trembling, I just kept turning and clinging and surrendering more of my heart, and He kept meeting me there and healing me. And, the longer it went on, the more I began to understand Who God really was… understand His Character and His Grace, until turning towards Him in acknowledgement of any sinful act and every broken place, began to be something I simply longed for… a sweetly received gift of His Never Ending Grace. Then, one day I just realized… this must be what resting in Jesus’ Finished Work and abiding in relationship with Him actually looks like.
And, I began to notice something else even more amazing. Many of those strongholds and places of bondage I mentioned earlier, were either starting to disappear or lessen their grip. It was like God was becoming the lens through which I viewed all things and I began to only see Him everywhere and in everything, so the space in my mind for much else simply started shrinking. And, He continued pointing me towards Himself, while shining His Light on the stuff that really mattered, including more areas He wanted to heal, so with eyes locked on Jesus and a tight grip on His Grace, I began to understand that…
I no longer need the cover of anger when He is my covering. That I don’t really need to make my point when He’s the One pointing me and others towards His better purpose. That I don’t need to argue or be right, really ever, because His Way is always right and He has the last say in every way, anyway. That, because His Love covers all, I can love all others freely. And, that I really never need to fear a thing, because I no longer have anything at all to fear. (Though, truthfully, this one’s still a big work in progress!)
His Grace also helps me see, hear, and understand that the fullness of that fluffy new throw pillow, gorgeous leather purse, or perfect pair of jeans… or that habit, approving word, activity, person, place, experience, or any other special something which seeks to keep me busy or distracted, will never fill up in me, what simply turning toward and resting at His Feet will fill for all eternity.
And, it’s also His Grace that is helping me finally love the person He’s creating me to be and the life He’s planned just for me, because my identity is wholly and totally wrapped up in everything He already accomplished on that tree.
Which brings us to the last thing… and really the best thing. (Finally!) You see, something else was happening while I was pondering and piecing all this together. Our family was simultaneously smack dab in the center of bad circumstances that lingered, causing me extreme fear, anger, rage, and doubt… and, guess what? For the majority of about six months, I failed miserably at living out anything I was writing about. Yep. Over and over, I fell into my old patterns of reaction, distraction, and running instead of turning and repentance and rest. Oh, I tried to surrender my life and my will to God’s Perfect Will, but I wasn’t successful and, more often than not, stewed in my own mess or the mess I kept making. I couldn’t hear His voice. I didn’t seek His face and instead, sought the comfort of my own guilt, shame, and fear. Oh, and rage. (Was I ever angry!)
But, do you know what? God was still faithful to meet and love me through it all, because, well…
That’s. Just. Who. Our. God. Is.
“The One who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
And today — maybe to your shocking dismay — I’m not filled with any shame because I failed to do what I’d been writing all about and, instead, acted like the (saved) sinner I am. Though, for a while, I admit the shame successfully silenced my voice and keep me from this keyboard, that was not to be the end of the matter, simply because…
This life I get to live through Jesus is not at all about me, so I don’t ever get to have the last word on anything.
And, if He wants me living this life blessed, healed, and forgiven, who on earth am I to stand in His Way?
(And, truth be told, this whole failure only gave me more reason to believe what I’d been writing and, better yet, the motivation to share it with you!)
So, if you need me, I’ll be over here abiding and living loved… then wandering and making messes (and, likely writing about them), then turning and repenting, then living loved again, until I wander around and mess up. Again. But, all the while knowing, that in my life and only by His Grace, I live blessed, healed, and forgiven — just as He said — because, for the sake of His Own Name, He is faithfully completing the good work He began.
But, what about you? If you haven’t yet, could you bravely take Jesus at His Word and believe He, alone, will be The One to heal you once you turn and give Him your whole heart? See, that wonderful step-by-step plan that’s come along, or that life-changing book someone swears by, or your next awesome Bible study, or that much needed area of service, or even that good and godly habit you are determined to acquire, will never do in you — long term — what only abiding in Jesus and His Completed Work will do for you now and for all eternity…
“Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
Sweet Friend, may our ever faithful God meet you wherever you happen to find yourself in The Now and The Not Yet… and secure in you the knowledge of His Grace and His Heart, both know and forevermore ❤
“He [Jesus] said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’ ” (Mark 5:32-34)
“Then he [Jesus] said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’ ” (Luke 17:11-19)
“…and all who touched it [His garment] were healed.” (Matthew 14:36)
*This is my paraphrase of a Tim Keller quote.