Lately, my “I’ve got this!” mask is slipping a little bit exposing the fact that I don’t, in fact, have it together. Yep, not even a little bit. When the people that I love hurt, I hurt and I carry it.
It’s one thing for me to hear about the freedom that comes in surrender, in lifting up open hands to a Father who loves me and in knowing that He is good, that He is sovereign. It is another thing entirely for me to live this way day in and day out.
See, I’m what people call “a fixer”. I was formed with a natural magnetism to the hurting, to injustice and the like. I’m a fixer who feels things deeply; we’re talking right down to the core. This is all well and good when I lay these burdens down at the feet of the One who is able to carry, hold, and heal.
All too often though, I misuse this God-given gift of compassion by looking inward for the strength to deal. This ultimately leads to a burnout too uncomfortable for words. Because a loving Father doesn’t let his children keep on carrying things too heavy for them. He gets them to set them down one way or the other. I’m learning that my “can do!” attitude of self-reliance is truly just a dressed up, American version of old school self-righteousness. It is sin.
This hit me hard, but in the hour of my conviction grace rings truest. (Isn’t that just like music to your ears? Let me just say it again…GRACE!). But, my being hardwired toward having a good performance makes grace really hard to swallow. In fact, the receiving of this grace can scare me. I didn’t earn it, I can’t ever deserve it and it’s always more than I need. It is defies my conditionality, my boundaries, and my limits. And yet it abounds, limitless, bringing radical freedom.
In his book, “Defiant Grace” Dane Ortlund says …
For the grace that comes to us in Jesus Christ is not measured. This grace refuses to allow itself to be tethered to our innate sense of fairness, reciprocity, and balancing of the scales. It is defiant…However much we may laud grace with our lips, our hearts are so thoroughly law-marinated that the Christian life must be, at core, one of continually bathing our hearts and minds in gospel grace. We are addicted to law. Conforming our lives to a moral framework, playing by the rules, meeting a standard—this feels normal. And it is how we naturally medicate that deep sense of inadequacy within. The real question is not how to avoid becoming a Pharisee; the question is how to recover from being the Pharisee we already, from the womb, are.
Law feels safe. Grace feels risky. Rule-keeping breeds a sense of manageability; grace feels like moral vertigo. After all, if all that we are is by grace, there is no limit to what God can ask of us. But if some corner of our virtue is due to personal contribution, there is a ceiling on what God can ask of us. He can bring us only so far.
Such is not the call of Christ. The Gospels defies our domesticated, play-by-the-rules morality. It was the most extravagant sinners of Jesus’ day who received his most compassionate welcome; it was the most scrupulous law-abiders who received his most searing denunciation. The point is not that we should therefore take up sin. The point is that we should lay down the silly insistence on leveraging our sense of self-worth with an ongoing moral record.
It is time to enjoy grace anew. Not the decaffeinated grace that pats us on the hand, ignores our deepest rebellions, and doesn’t change us, but the high-octane grace that takes our conscience by the scruff of the neck and breathes new life into us with a pardon so scandalous that we cannot help but be changed. It’s time to blow aside the hazy cloud of condemnation that hangs over us throughout the day with the strong wind of gospel grace. “You are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14).
So, I can live out this truth, in love and extend grace and mercy with faith knowing that He is always going to be strong enough. He remains unoverwhelmable.