Thursday, March 23, 2006

Toward a Cross-Centered Life: Part 7

In February, I finally began reading the book that's the heart of it all: The Cross Centered Life, which is basically (as I understand it) the life message of C.J. Mahaney, founder of Sovereign Grace Ministries. A quote on page 25 put a huge piece of the puzzle in place.

That sounds incredibly cliched, unless I back up and explain. A brief tangent: In the summer of 2003, before all this began, I was interning at Kingdom Building Ministries. During a seminar that summer, all the interns brainstormed as many "life" metaphors as possible (life is a bowl of cherries, life is a journey, life is a roller coaster, life is a game...you get the idea). Then we each had to draw our "life picture" using one of the metaphors. Here's what I came up with (excuse the glare):

After I drew it and explained it to others, it took on more and more meanings that I hadn't even thought of at first. The colored pieces represented different areas of my life that didn't seem to go together--passions, interests, talents, ways God has created me. For example, one corner has shades of blues and greens; another has shades of oranges and yellows--but it doesn't seem like they're going to connect. The gray pieces represented the "unknowns" of my life--so much uncertainty--and the black pieces represented struggles, bad choices, hard times, etc. The black piece attached to the bottom left corner was a gift from my mentor, who reminded me that "this, too, fits"--that God was using even the black pieces to make my life picture beautiful.

Anyway, all that to say, as I read The Cross Centered Life, I felt like a section of the puzzle suddenly came into clear focus. It reminds me of working on a jigsaw puzzle, when you've assembled one area, and separately assembled another group of pieces, and then suddenly you see how they go together and snap the connecting pieces in. The picture comes into focus. Now you can actually begin to see the picture, not just random colors. You feel like you're really making progress! That's what this was like for me.

So, tangent aside, here's the first quote that arrested me (emphasis mine):

Thomas Schreiner writes that "legalism has its origin in self-worship. If people are justified through their obedience to the law, then they merit praise, honor, and glory. Legalism, in other words, means the glory goes to people rather than God."

I was stunned. It was so clear. Until that point, I'm not sure I had ever fully understood how pride and legalism were so intertwined in my heart. As I said last week, the two had seemed to me like completely separate struggles: pride, on the one hand, and grace, on the other.

It may sound obvious to you--maybe you're wondering how I could be so dense as to not see it. But I hadn't seen it. I was amazed at how God was putting pieces of the puzzle into place and bringing such clarity. My pride and my struggle to understand/accept grace were not two unrelated problems. They are two sides of the same coin.

It is pride that feeds my legalism and blinds me to grace. It is legalism that keeps the focus on me and my pride, obscuring grace. I could never understand or fully embrace grace because to do so would mean to remove all pride, all reasons for boasting, all credit and glory. To do so would mean admitting I was helpless and hopeless on my own before a holy God.

Next: Part 8 - staggering pride

1 comment:

K said...

I am glad I jsut read your blog. It reminded me of a time when my family spent like over a month working on this one puzzle. It was 2 sided. On one side was a picture, and on the back was the same picture turned sideways. So not only did you have to find out which side of the puzzle piece to use, you had to then find where it went. I remember my emotions doing that puzzle and that has always stayed with me. Until I read your post though, I never saw my own life in that puzzle the way I do right now. How awesome!!