Being raised in the church, the story of the gospel is one that I am no stranger to. I know and believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and rose victorious over death in three days. I know that through His death, I am free from sin and am given grace.
Being a Young Life leader, I say to my high school friends these truths. I say, “Jesus died so that you don’t have to live in guilt.” I say, “your sin does not define you, you are covered by grace.” I believe these truths for them, because with all of my heart I know that Jesus thought of each and every one of them when He was on the cross.
Being in community, I believe the gospel for my friends. When they can’t see their worth, I remind them that it is unshakable. When they are heart broken, I cry with them and speak the truth that our Savior’s heart is broken for them too. I believe heavenly truths for them, I fight for them, I believe for them. I am convinced that nothing could separate them from their heavenly Father.
On most ordinary days, I believe the gospel for myself as well. I know that I don’t deserve grace, but that it is given to me. It feels almost like my sin and the grace that is given to me is balanced. I didn’t do anything too wrong, therefore I used an appropriate amount of grace. My day was regularly sinful, nothing was out of the norm. On these days, my brokenness seems under control, normal even. I feel almost as if I am deserving of the grace that I was rationed for the day, because I didn’t wade too deeply into sin. Nothing bad can happen when you’re only ankle deep.
Then, more often than I’d like to admit, I run head long into the water.
These are days when I go too far. These are days when I look in the mirror and become unsure of who I am. These are days when I sit in church and think “I shouldn’t be here.” When I sit with communion bread and wine in my hand, and think “I’m sorry that I’m not better.” I feel out of control; I feel hijacked by darkness, and I don’t care enough to fight it.
It’s days like these that I find myself wrestling with the gospel. I think “I know grace covers a lot, but it can’t cover this.” I think “it can’t be true after this, He can’t love me after this.” Hearing that I’m forgiven hurts, and hearing that I’m loved hurts even worse. I told myself that I was farther along than this. It doesn’t make sense that I should get to go free. The contrast is too stark. It’s not what’s fair. I swore that I would be better.
But the truth is that grace that picks and chooses isn’t grace at all, but rather an imitation. When I choose to believe that unconditional love and unending grace are true for my Young Life girls, my friends, and my “not too sinful” self, but not for my deeply broken self (my true self), I cheapen grace.
I can chase hard after the self I ought to be, but that causes me to get stuck in a cycle of gracelessness for myself. And nothing detroys the heart quite like the inability to be gracious towards oneself.
Even when I’m submerged in the dark depths of sin, grace goes deeper still. I want to believe this, but my heart isn’t there yet. Yet, I am wanted as I am, not as I should be.
I say “I’m sorry that I’m not better.” He says, “My grace does not waver, I love you still.”
No song I have ever heard captures this state better than Undress by Penny and Sparrow. Give it a listen, they say words a hell of a lot better than I do.