Isn't it phenomenal how God's mercy extends beyond what we'd even give ourselves? The all-perfect Lord of all sees fit to love us beyond ourselves. But of course, we don't deserve any of his love.
Pretty much as far back as I can summon my memories, I've struggled with a guilt complex. Call it a first-born trait, call it outside demands, call it type-A--I have it all in my favor--but whatever the motivation, I am starting to see more and more how much my overly-responsible tendencies are rooted in pride. "I've got this, God. Don't bother yourself."
And perhaps like never before, He is reminding me how little I have to do with anything. Nothing good comes apart from Him.
English Standard Version (ESV)
5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is thatbears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Per my pastor's recommendation, I am reading One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World by Tullian Tchividjian. I could overwhelm you with one quoted insert after the other, but you just need to read it for yourself.
"What qualifies us for service is God's devotion to us--not our devotion to Him (115). There are no ifs, ands, or buts. We no longer need to live under the burden of trying to appease the judgment we feel, full stop (117). Jesus met all of God's holy conditions so that our relationship with God could be wholly unconditional" (93).
But we forget that. We let our societal expectations tame the true Gospel into something that takes a little more of us than Jesus said we had to give. We have nothing to offer Him, but "it is [a] natural instinct of people everywhere who are addicted to their own sense of control, religious or not. It is what we desperately want to be true about God--the He is beholden to our hard work and moral effort. Under the spell of a sense of entitlement, we turn the Gospel into just another self-help program" (131).
So what is this grace... really?
Tchividjian says there are three things that point to the "essence of grace." The first qualifier has to do with who is receiving and who is giving. "[...] one-way love has nothing to do with the beloved--in that case, me. It has to do with the one doing the loving--in that case, my father" (103).
A friend and fellow writer sent this to me last night, via prompting from the Holy Spirit.
We don't throw the law out, we just realize it was already lived for us by Christ, because He knew we can't live it perfectly.Learning to live under grace is so hard for all of us because we do not experience pure unconditional love from anyone, even in the best relationships. And we are so accustomed to a "you can't get something for nothing," "there's got to be a catch," "better read the fine print" mentality. Really believing the Gospel--the good news--is a lifelong adventure (Proske Brazeal).
And I can't go the other direction and then beat myself up for "not getting it" up to this point. Really, as Jana said, "it's a lifelong adventure" and I'm going to continuing learning and applying God's grace. I just hope that this time, the truth of it sinks a little deeper still. Tchividjian goes on to say that we know we are really starting to get it when we feel the freedom to be completely honest with ourselves and others.
The Collects of Thomas Cranmer (Zahl and Barbee) put it this way, "We are convinced that a cardinal task of living is the recovery of 'Type-A' personalities from stress. The answer to the Type-A dilemma is not to pull up stakes and move over to the country of the Type-Bs. They have their own problems, the other side of the coin to the ferocious Type-As. But to be able to move out from judgment and unremitting demand as the motivating engine of life: what a glorious hope." Thanks, Jana!
My apologies for the length of this blog post; if you've made it to the end, you have more forbearance than I do. Although countless other ideas could be explored, I should stop here.
Ephesians 2:4-9 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.