It wasn't so much the things she said as it was the look on her face. As I said the words her face crumpled and her eyes shown with desperation. I knew that face or at least I recognized the emotions behind it. I have felt them so many times myself. You know that moment when you almost have enough hope to believe that you are redeemable but the weight of your sin seems insurmountable? You feel unworthy of unmerited favor, you feel like it's probably available for others but not for you, it couldn't possibly be true for you. You're too far gone, your sin is somehow greater than everyone else's, if they only knew all that you had done they wouldn't be speaking such ill-fitted words of fantasy to you, words of...hope.
Why is hope so daunting? Perhaps it's easier to stay in our sin than to face the possibility that we'll fail again. Because if I receive grace and then slap it in the face I prove to be more unworthy than at the start and I cannot bear to feel more unworthy.
And can there really be a God so full of love that He can forgive me over and over again? That he can overlook my failings? Images of a bride dressed in white, clothed by her maker, in His righteousness, swirl in my head and I can't help but see the stains all over her and...what if others can see them too? What if they know how weak I am? What if they see my rebellious heart that has chosen the stains over the pure white gown time and time again? At the very least THEY will know that I am unworthy.
If I knew what the answer was to overcome this, to never have to make that face again or see it on another, I'd put it into practice today, this moment. But... I don't. What I do know is that every time I feel that way, God meets me there. He doesn't meet me with a shaking fist and a scowling face but He meets me with warmth, with open arms, with grace that covers me like a cloak. Grace that covers me. Covers my sin, covers my doubts, covers my fears, covers my shame. Again and again and again... He whispers words of promise over me, "those who know my name will put their trust in me, for I, the Lord, have not forsaken those who seek me" (psalm 9:10). He reminds of a beautiful truth penned by C.S. Lewis, "...the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him." He takes the burden and places it on Himself, wrapping me in a beautiful garment of His righteousness where grace and justice wildly intersect making the unclean clean and the desperate filled...with hope.
"I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness..." Isaiah 61:10a
The Burden of Hope, Part 2
This woman's face was a reflection of my own. In her I saw that though I know Jesus I often times don't identify with Him. What He has made clear from His word is that I am his daughter, I am beloved, I am chosen. I am all of those things not because of what I've done but because of what Jesus has done for me. He loved me before the foundations of the world. He knew what my failings and shortcomings would be and chose then to love me and then to give his life for mine. I so often give in to the temptation of believing that my identity is based on what I do rather than on who God says I am. So then when I fail, I somehow feel less than, not quite as righteous or accepted. But Jesus' righteousness covers me and He is never "less righteous" or "less accepted". So I can move forward in joy and freedom, knowing that God is transforming me into His image but not so that He can somehow love me more. He made the greatest demonstration of love that can be made by giving up his life for mine.
I know all this seems simple and basic but it's a place where my heart struggles and needs constant reminders. I pray that as I gain my footing in these truths, others will see that they are true as well.
"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:13