During this quarantine, I have searched for new books - adult books - woman books. I stumbled across Barbara O'Neal. Her books are poignant, yet forgiving. I have read two so far that were about the human in all of us. The disaster we can be and the good within.
I have cried reading both When We Believed in Mermaids and The Art of Inheriting Secrets. They were both so good. They made me, for some reason, look inside and realize the battle I keep fighting over and over is pretty much the same for every person. I am drawn to broken people. Always have been.
Even with that in mine, my problem - with both myself and other people, is that I want to deposit them in the good box or the bad box. Interestingly enough I have done both with myself. I pull myself out of the good box and beat the hell out of me in the bad box. Then I am like, "Why am I over there? Look at all of the good I do, how I suffer over loving well (which is poo) and just love on me over in the good box.
It's not like I am different from anyone else. I think we all think we are inherently good people. Unless we know ourselves really well. The we know we are a lot of both. Sometimes mostly good. Sometimes mostly bad.
I used to be pretty trusting. People are good. People are lovely. And one time by people who I trusted because they loved Jesus hurt me pretty badly. I was crushed when this happened. Crushed. Broken. Fragile. Resisted Repair. I threw away those relationships -tossed them. Had no use for them anymore. The person I am within Christ - which is all the time, realizes now, that I am capable of the same hurtful and crushing thing to others. I have done those same things. But I have not extended grace to the ones that have hurt me.
It's a protection. It's my way of protecting who I think I am, and it is my way of not getting hurt to that extent again.
This last week - I have had so much think time. The quarantine for COVID 19 has given me plenty of time away from my busy-ness to plunder the inside of my head and it is a little unhappy with it's findings.
I am not as good as I think I am- actually I am so much worse than I think I am. But here is the thing. I am not the only one. That is how we all are. I am absolutely capable of crushing, breaking and rendering fragile the people I come in contact with, and have done so. I have spent years bemoaning how to fix these things. I want to make those hurts I have caused go away. But - I have cut myself off from those people. I have run away and don't know if I can ever fix them.
But God can.
He can heal them for me as well. The distrust I have in the children of God, "Church" people especially, is a sin I must quit lugging around. I have been hurt, but I have also hurt. And I did so with a vengeance, wanting to punish and cause pain. I don't think it worked nearly as well as I wanted it to - which hurt even more. I felt it meant they didn't care as much as I did.
So God -
I am reading Genesis right now. It is full of people that do bad things...just like me. People that are told distinctly not to, and they do anyway. The election of God's people is a mysteriously confusing thing.
But this last week I had an epiphany.
I was thinking of David and how he was a man after God's own heart. And David did some HORRIBLE things - just so wrong. How do we reconcile the David that God loved from the David that was just so bad at life choices sometimes?
I have to. Because David is me. And whether I like it or not, God has somehow chosen me and loves me like he loved David. This is controversial to the extreme but knowing the evil in me, and thinking I can choose God on my own is ludicrous. And I know that readers will fight this tooth and nail. Because I have done so for many years. I belong to a PCA church that believes in election. I have had this conversation over and over and over again. I am a Baptist going to a Presbyterian church and my sweet pastor of 20 years has let me just wave away the idea of election telling me it is not necessary to be saved. Knowing I am a sinner, knowing that I cannot save myself, knowing that I need forgiveness and a Savior is. God provided that for me. He sacrificed his son for those sins, in my place. I know I am a sinner. I know I need forgiveness and I know my Savior came willingly and allowed himself to be sacrificed for my sins and then he rose again proving he had the power to heal my wrongdoing over and over again. And at one point I felt that this was my choice. That I chose God. And I reveled in my goodness for that amazing choice. And that is also why it made me angry when I initially heard this premise. I wanted to be the one to do it. Once again the toddler stomping my foot and demanding to do it by myself.
But this week, something hit me. I really am totally incapable of good. Any good that is in me is because God placed it there. I cannot even choose God without his nudging. The only reason I keep slogging it out and returning to God in the midst of all my bad choices is because God continues to draw me to himself again and again. He did not allow me to choose. He formed a relationship within me to desire God, to desire the mercy his son offered me when he died for my repeated bad choices - my sin.
But there is a freedom and a gratitude that this has given me. I now understand WHY there is nothing that can tear me out of the hand of God. And it is SO undeserving. It breaks my heart and it crushes me and my fragility is so evident - I am humbled. The Gospel becomes clear in its express desire to realize that without God, without the sacrifice of his son - and without his election, I would be lost. There is nothing in me that deserves this and I realize suddenly that I cannot choose good. And I have said this before - but somehow have always reserved a part that revels in my own ability to see that this is my choice. Because without that my independence suffers. I did not do it on my own.
So why did those books lead me to this? The heroines in this book had such good things about them - but also very broken things. I saw myself in them. Because I see that there is yuck even in the best, most beautiful and engaging person, the ones who preach Jesus fervently and point to him and the gospel - even they can commit heinous sins and they can rationalize it - JUST LIKE ME. Each and every person is a mix of broken, nasty and amazing kindness that we just don't always get to see. So our response to this should always be grace.
Grace - unmerited favor - because honestly without having it given to me - there is no way I can extend it to others, and without realizing that it has been freely given to me, I will withhold it from others thinking they should deserve it first - because I did. Wrong. Such wrong thinking. And even though I know what grace means - there is a part of me that I have carved out that says I deserve forgiveness because - and there is a laundry list of things I can pull out that totally and completely ignores the even longer laundry list of disgusting and embarrassing things I have done.
Life has happened to me. And much of it is amazing and beautiful and undeserved. And life has happened to me in things that I did not deserve necessarily - that I had no control over. Evils that have repercussions and have changed who I am and maybe even who I would be -
but God -
He allowed the hard unlovely things, sin being what it is, but he also allowed the most wondrous things in spite of me. He has chosen me in spite of my density (I am so dense) and it has produced a lightness and joy that I cannot explain. After years of trying to relegate the good and evil, I get it...at least at this moment. Never discount that density (smile).
I may have to have this epiphany over and over again. And so I cling to grace and I am praying that I extend it more readily. Now that I know that I had absolutely no part in saving myself. And I will struggle again and again with that - until he comes to take us home. Even so Lord - quickly come.