The struggle of our lives never ends. The ache will not go away. And to know that is ok is brilliant. Because life is hard. And sometimes just being able to express that darkness makes things seem more bearable- see previous post on Johnny Cash, I’m still obsessed. But obsessed with a life of grace. A life that messed up time and time again and yet God still persevered in keeping him until the end. The whole Bible in fact is littered with people like that. And yet I’m surprised that God still holds onto me. That’s the way he works. He uses the complaining, the scared, the timid, the rebellious, the blatant deniers of his mercy, the foolish, the sinful. That is all I am. That is all any of us are. Yet we don’t seem to talk about it much. But I need others to talk about it with, to admit that I am wrong, to admit that I have failed.
I told a friend about the rubbish day I had yesterday and she very nicely wanted to make allowances for me, to tell me it was ok, and to be honest I’d have done the same in her shoes. But I don’t need that, I need to know that I have sinned, that yes I have messed up. That I could have chosen a better way yesterday and didn’t. That I willfully rebelled against what I know to be true. That I did not act on reality or relationship but chose the unfaithfulness of sin. I need to know that because then there is HOPE. Because if all this is just personality flaws or just a small mistake that doesn’t matter then I can gloss over it and go on, but the guilt and shame remain. I can’t be a better person. I don’t have it in me. But I do have a cross. A story of redemption. A hope that this mess has been dealt with. Repentance is needed. And I don’t hear it enough. In church we confess in our mumbling general way, and we are told we are forgiven. But I need the gritty reality of repentance. Because repentance is the only thing that frees me. The cross is ALL I have.
Repentance means I can get up and keep on walking, repentance means I can fall, repentance means that someone else is taking care of my salvation. Repentance gives me hope that I can change because it recognizes that someone else’s strength is at work here. It means I am kept. And it is the means of grace of my keeping. God keeps me. And I keep myself in God by praying in the Spirit the prayers of repentance which come to me by grace. I can’t get away from God or his grace. Which weirdly leaves me in irritation at God and his hemming in of me. Jonah is someone I identify with right now.
It’s like my Dad, when I was growing up he was always right. I mean ALWAYS (well as a flawed sinner can be) So irritating, he knew me better than I knew myself. I would do everything else, but what he said, to try and avoid facing up to accepting that he knew best. Now I find myself in that place with God. He blatantly knows best but I try every other option. I find myself in the no-mans land between failing to live in obedience and failing to completely rebel. I cannot leave, but unless repentance is real I cannot walk on.
My illustration is as follows.
I’m in the house, living with God, but sometimes I want to escape, want to get out of the reach of my parent, want to make it on my own, so we have an argument and I end up running out of the front door and slamming it behind me. The trouble is the moment I step outside I suddenly realize that the house is on a cliff, that I’m teetering over the edge and gazing down at nothing. There is no other way to live. And so I hang around outside on the cliff top for a bit, but then I have to sheepishly turn around, knock on the door, creep in and feel a bit foolish. Almost embarrassed at how I’ve forgotten that the 560 other times I’ve done it the same thing has happened. Weirdly the door always opens.
Flawed as the illustration is, that’s how grace feels most of the time. Amazing but weird. I’ve given up thinking that this life is going to get easier, that the road will somehow straighten out and that I’ll be a faithful part of this relationship. That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying- the Spirit within me has a habit of producing fruit, of helping me encourage people, of equipping me to serve, resurrection power is poured into me and I can fly.
But there is something that remains, the groaning doesn’t stop, I sin, stumbling over mountains is the reality of the Christian life. But one day… One day. I will soar. Broken, bruised and battered I’ll stumble over the line, I’ll finish the race, because He will keep me, because he finishes the work he started. And because his ability and desire to keep me outstrips my desire to keep running. For that I am profoundly grateful. I don’t get it. But I love him. Because he first loved me. Because his words stand firm throughout history, and because he called me by name long ago. I cannot escape. Perhaps this is grace.