The church has taught us that people who have faith should not stumble. Some stumbles are okay, perhaps. Other stumbles are off limits. We know that sin is a part of life, and it is the reason we need grace. We know that we cannot earn or merit grace. And yet, we try. We trick ourselves into believing that perfection is attainable. Sure those "little" sins happen every day, but at least we're not doing those "big" sins. I hope this sounds ridiculous to you. And I hope it also resonates, because though we know it doesn't work this way, we act like it works this way. And then we must live up to the pressure. As Mark McMinn says about a man he counseled, "He could not afford to speak a language of sin because there were no arms of grace to catch him if he fell." Part of my job is to offer a place to fall and receive grace. But here's the thing. I also need a place to fall. Because I do fall. And sometimes I am not aware of the arms of grace waiting to catch me. I need to be reminded. And I'm so thankful for the people in my life who have been and continue to be those beautiful, strong arms for me. I hope my arms are grace for them too.
Even though I've known my whole life that grace cannot be earned, I must admit that I have continued to act like I could earn it. And therefore, I have acted in pride, as if I don't really need it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I need it, I don't believe I deserve it, and it's hard for me to receive it. It's a discipline for me to open my heart to receive what God longs to give me. I am not humble, as he would have me be. Instead, I am humiliated by my sin and shame, and I turn my face away from his grace because it exposes my sin. So I sit here, peeling off these layers in front of your reading eyes, exposing myself in ways that feel amazingly uncomfortable. I had no idea what truly waited for me when I began this Lent's journey. I'm stretching, practicing, trying to get better at being not only aware of my need for grace, but able to receive it when it is offered to me instead of feeling that I must resist it somehow. Some believe, after all, that it's irresistable. :-) (That's a joke for you people who love to talk about the five points of Calvinism. If you didn't get it, just chalk it up to nerdiness and continue on.)
My worship leader and dear friend sent me a song to learn today. It discloses my heart more fully than any words I could write. Sorry to spoil it for you if you like to be surprised by our Sunday set lists. Bryan, I hope this wasn't a secret. I just couldn't not share it. It was too perfect.