Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Song

Standing high for all to see,
Sure of the woman I would be,
Sure I could love and live my dream,
So sure that he was meant for me.

A distant doubt whirled swift around,
A fearful heart now pushed it down.
I pushed my way through a tunnel of weeds,
Dark and moist surrounding me.

I tried to stay while days went by,
Safer there, afraid to see.
Hoping there my doubts would hide,
The light that shed it's truth on me.

The Lover came there calling me,
I hid still waiting hopefully,
That those I loved would come and give,
The joy I craved, the love I hid.

He didn't come, he didn't see,
The heart there breaking hopelessly.
The Lover called again to me,
Waiting for me patiently.
He waited there,
He waited there,
He waited always there for me.

Made for Him and for Him alone,
His touch could mend my broken soul,
His love could give me perfect peace,
For He alone could comfort me.

But still I hid there stubbornly...
And as I did, the weeds grew deep,
The roots around my heart took hold,
With bitterness my heart turned cold.

I could not see,
I could not hear,
The gentle song sung over me.
I could not trust,
But only fear,
The pain, that slowly covered me.

In darkness there I did not move,
Imprisoned by the weeds I knew,
Too weak to try to break away,
Afraid of love so strong betrayed.

But still His song played over me,
When silence fell,
And hope fled way,
I heard His love sing over me.
I heard His voice sing over me.

I listened there, so silently,
Afraid to trust His love for me.
What if He too would leave me there,
Alone and cold, unloved and bare?

Closer still He sang to me,
I dared to peak, to see Him there,
And in His face a love sincere,
I saw amidst a smile and tears.

"My love, I have been waiting here,
I know your pain, I know your tears,
And though his love I cannot give,
I give myself, that you may live."

"I've loved you before time began,
And still when days and nights will end.
I gave you life, I made your soul,
Your purpose in my heart to hold."

And as He sang the weeds pulled 'way,
With each new note His song they sang,
They lifted me to where He lay,
So still I looked upon His face.

The bitter root with poison bare,
Still held my heart with rage and tears,
His hand he pressed upon my heart,
And sang and sang till day grew dark.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Extravagant Grace for Extravagant Need

For those of us who have grown up in the Protestant tradition, grace is an utterly common word. Salvation by grace through faith is our motto. Growing up, I understood that grace was "unmeritted favor." It is when God gives us a gift, something undeserved, free and unearned. I remember that illustration, "I have a gift for someone here today. You, in the red shirt, come up here. I have a gift for you. See it? Do you believe I have a gift for you? Do you believe I will give it to you? [Holds out the gift to the volunteer] I am giving it to you. What do you have to do in order to have it? That's right. Just accept it. [Person takes the gift and leaves.] It is the same with salvation. Salvation is a gift from God. He is offering it to you, and you do not need to do anything to earn it. All you have to do is accept it." That is the grace I grew up with.

Somehow though, I think I missed something along the way. While this gift metaphor encompasses a very important aspect of grace, it does not show the breadth of God's grace and the love that motivates it. I understood God's grace for salvation, but I did not understand God's grace in every aspect of my life. The result is believing that I did not earn or deserve salvation, but that I earn and deserve everything else in my life.  In Galatians 3 Paul says,

"2 Tell me this one thing: How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Did you receive the Spirit by following the law? No, you received the Spirit because you heard the Good News and believed it.3 You began your life in Christ by the Spirit. Now are you trying to make it complete by your own power? That is foolish.4 Were all your experiences wasted? I hope not!5 Does God give you the Spirit and work miracles among you because you follow the law? No, he does these things because you heard the Good News and believed it."

"You began your life in Christ by the Spirit. Now are you trying to make it complete by your own power?" Somehow I have believed that my salvation is a gift of grace, but that I must work to earn God's continued approval, presence and power in my life. I say that the Spirit is the one who changes hearts, but really I believe that any growth and accomplishments in my life have been a result of my own hard work and perseverance. Because of these two things I have believed that I must work really hard and be nearly perfect in order for God to love and delight in me.  I am saved but not loved.  Grace was divorced from love. The result was that I believed in a grudgingly gracious God, who is gracious more out of duty than out of love.  The law is what earned love and my own power is what created change. I therefore also show grace to others out of duty rather than love, and I judge others when they struggle to change. Yikes... Not a pretty picture.

What changed?  I experienced my utter need for God, not only for salvation, but for continued faith, for survival, for growth, for love, for everything and anything that really matters. It was when ALL of my own power was stripped away and my faith was revealed to be weak and unstable that I realized three things:

1.God loves and delights in me, even though I was at the worst place spiritually I had ever been.
2.I still believe only because of God's grace to continue to reach out to me when I rejected Him.
3.If anything were to change, it would have to be by the work of His Spirit in me, not by my own power because I had none left.

God's grace was no longer a signature on a contract, but a continual act of love drawing me back to Himself  every single moment, when I have nothing to give, nothing to earn, and nothing to lose. He has given Himself, and that is enough. That is grace.