Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Grace and Tulips

I'm in the middle of learning a really tough lesson about grace these days. I say "in the middle" because a) I haven't learned it yet, and b) I'm hoping there is indeed an "end." I won't lie, it's not fun. For a long time now I've been feeling very broken and empty. I have had some guidance from my incredible, God-sent mentor Diane, and that's helping, cause she's amazing. So is my incredibly patient and compassionate fiance. But I'm at a point where I'm wondering, what do I have to do to "get it"?

You'd think after growing up in the church my whole life, and actually walking with the Lord for almost eight years now, I'd understand grace. Not so. How do I reconcile the concept of God's unconditional love with His holiness? How do I rest in knowing that my status as His beloved daughter doesn't depend on how I perform? Questions I'm wrestling with these days. Diane says one of these days I am going to have an aha moment--a grace awakening. I hope so.

Tonight at Bible study we were talking about kind of a related concept (at least in my head), living in victory over sin--and how we believe the lie that we can't overcome sins in our lives. I know I feel that way sometimes. As my pastor talked about a few weeks ago, I see this gap--more like an enormous chasm--between where I am and where I want to be. So I grunt and push with all my might, believing that if I just try hard enough, it'll narrow.

It doesn't. Must be because I'm not trying hard enough. So I work harder. I buck up and throw all my weight against that gap. Still nothing--now I'm exhausted, defeated, and convinced the gap will never close.

What I'm trying to understand is that I'm right--I CAN'T. That's the point. Only when I realize that I'm powerless to close the gap can it be closed on my behalf. Exercising strong will and "choosing" to change won't do it. Accountability from others won't do it either. The only victory will come when I learn what it means to give up, to utterly submit to the Spirit and let Christ do it through me, in me.

Sounds straightforward and simple enough. But I'm still wrestling.

Two side notes, thoughts from others, that I found insightful tonight: First, we are to walk in the Spirit. Notice it's not sitting in the Spirit (being passive). But it's also not running in the Spirit--we aren't going to get there immediately. Second, did you ever stop to think about the fact that plants grow in the valleys? There's no growth on the mountain peaks; it's barren up there. Growth happens in the low places.

Right now I'm hoping to make it to the summit, so that I can actually look back and see the living, breathing plants. It's like planting tulip bulbs in October, and having to wait until spring to enjoy them. Are they really growing under that cold, hard earth? Sometimes I wonder. But I wait, and a small part of me dares to hope.

No comments: