“….where I am made complete.” Have you ever heard that song? I love it. It really pulls so many sentiments about the cross together. Today, I am so grateful for God’s unending patience with me and my thick head. Why can’t I get it? Why doesn’t understanding and learning and repentance come naturally to me?
I think it is because I, like so many others, have been looking at the cross in a way never intended by Christ or God. To me, my sin is a huge brick wall, something I need to crawl up, work at, and overcome. And, in a way, that is true. God does say that my iniquity, my failings, my sin, created a barrier between me and Him, and that because of those things I was separated from Him. Though I have been baptized and I am a disciple, I still consider my sin to be a huge brick wall. This has led to many struggles in overcoming my sin throughout my spiritual life. Whenever I stumble (or, quite frankly, fall hard on my tush), I find it hard to get back up again. I find it hard because when I fall, that means I have to rescale the wall and try to overcome it, but it’s a little higher than it was the last time because I have now built sin upon sin.
Sound familiar? (Honestly, I hope not. It would be super awesome if I was the only one in the world who felt like this, because that means everyone has got it on straight)
Well this morning I was introduced to a new school of thought. I was reading Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis for my quiet time this morning, and, as usual when I listen to/read Rob Bell’s stuff, my mind was blown. I started reading the chapter “New.” I was really looking forward to this chapter as I have been battling some sin that seems insurmountable to me lately. I read for maybe forty-five minutes, and walked away so completely encouraged; I felt as if I could just shout it out! “Have you heard? Do you know about this amazing concept??? Everyone needs to know about this!!” I’m a little ashamed, because I know that I need to have that attitude about Christ every day; however, I am phenomenally grateful that God reminded me today! I’m so glad He is patient and understanding of my human-ness and foolish, forgetful mind.
Anyways, so I was reading “New.” Now, I’m an English major, and as such have been programmed to annotate everything I read. This includes highlighting, underlining, writing thoughts and comments in the margins, etc. So, as any prepared student would do, I got out my highlighter and pen. I literally did not put either of them down the entire time I was reading. Everything he wrote struck a major cord in my soul!!! And so, I am now sharing my thoughts, comments, and highlights with you.
(the majority of this is paraphrased, so just assume that it comes from the book. I don’t feel like properly citing)
- My system is perfectly designed to achieve the results I’ve been getting. What I mean by this: I’m convinced I’m a sinner, I’m convinced I’m going to sin, I have no hope against sin…and then I wonder why I keep sinning. Ha!
- Bell talks about hearing this guy preach, and the preacher was saying that if people would just do more–read their Bibles more and pray more and be more spiritual–God would be happy with them. This makes me think: what’s the point of even trying? But that’s not what Jesus had in mind. How should people feel about themselves? Well a lot of Christians describe themselves as sinners. Which is true. However, Bell says, “I can’t find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners.” WOAH. That blew my mind. It’s one of those things where I think I knew that, but I never really knew that. If I am constantly identifying myself as a sinner rather than as one of God’s daughters, holy and beloved, then what else am I going to do? I need to see myself not as “Meagan: The Sinner;” rather, I need to see myself as “Meagan: The Forgiven,” or, “Meagan: The Holy,” or, maybe, “Saint Meagan.” All these names come not from pride, self-righteousness, or vain conceit, but from a place of understanding that God sees me as what I can be–I am that person to Him.
- Bell quoted a scripture that hit me differently today. “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” The word “hidden” jumped out at me. Hidden… you can’t tell one from the other. When God sees me, He sees His son. Woah. “And no matter how many times that old nature raises its ugly head and pretends to be alive, it is dead.” When I read this I realized that I sin, I am not being myself, I am not being the woman God sees. I love the way Bell put that, too: that the old nature “pretends to be alive.” That sin is not me, it is my old self trying to regain control. But how can a dead person be in control? …they’re dead. They can’t. But when I sin and don’t repent, that is what I am doing: I’m letting a person who no longer exists pull me away from God and away from the woman God knows and believes me to be. I am not truly being myself.
- This doesn’t mean that I will never struggle; it means that “this new way of life involves a constant, conscious decision to keep dying to the old so that we can live in the new.”
- “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved…” Paul says that I am holy. Not “going to be holy someday.” Not “wouldn’t it be nice if you were holy, but instead you’re a mess.” I am already holy. There is this life that I’m meant to be living, and going against that is living a lie!
- The issue isn’t beating myself up over all of the things I am not doing or the things I am doing poorly; the issue is my learning who this person is who God keeps insisting I already am. Philippians 3:16 “Let us live up to what we have already attained.” <–AH! So encouraging! There is a person who I already am in God’s eyes. And I am learning to live like it is true.
- God is not interested in shaming people; God wants people to see who they really are.
- This has huge implications for when I do stumble, when I sin and the old person comes back from the dead for a few moments. I admit it. I confess it. I thank God I am forgiven. And then I move on. The point isn’t my failure; it is God’s success in remaking me into the person he originally intended me to be.
- “I thank God I am forgiven.” How many times do I, after confessing to God and people, go back and thank God for already forgiving me? So many times I can confess, apologize and move on. But I forget that the reason I can confess and apologize is because I am already forgiven. I was forgiven before I even sinned. Whew. Crazy.
- Jesus said, “T’shuva, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” The Hebrew word t’shuva means “to return”. Jesus called us to return to our true selves. The pure, whole people God originally intended us to be, before we veered off course. Jesus called us to return to the people we were created to be–the people God is remaking us into.
- This all revolves around trust. Trust that through dying to the old, the new can give birth. Trust that Jesus can repair the scarred and broken image of God inside each one of us. Trust that I am loved. That I always have been. That I always will be. Trust that something is already true about me, something has already been done, something has been there all along. And letting this new awareness change my life.
Please please PLEASE go read Velvet Elvis. It will literally change your life through a new view of God and your relationship with him.