The past couple weeks I've been spending a lot of time in the book of Romans. Not a deep, in depth study (yet). Just reading and soaking in all the GRACE that is overflowing in that book of the Bible. It's been incredible and I've never come this close to beginning to understand what grace and the Christian life really looks like.
Over the past few years and especially the past nine months, God has been chipping away at lies I've been taught; lies about Him, about grace, about a relationship with Him, about me, and about life.
He's been winning me over with His love.
His mercy. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
His patience. (Psalm 145:8)
His forgiveness. (There is no condemnation!)
HIS LOVE. HIS LOVE. HIS LOVE. (Romans 8:37-39)
"When we try to earn His love or be worthy of it, we actually push ourselves away from it. Because His love arises from who He is, it must always be a gift, always freely bestowed upon us, always unconditional. Why does the sun shine on the lake? ... The sun shines on the lake because the lake is there! The lake is warm and radiant, shining like the sun because the sun first shone in it." (Malcolm Smith, Let God Love You, quoted on page 137 of Grace for the Good Girl)
He's teaching me it's more about trust than obedience. That obedience will be a result of trust. (Grace for the Good Girl, chapter 10)
That I don't have to worry about living by a set of lists, and rules, and standards.
That as I spend time with Him and allow Him to completely fill me, obedience and the fruit of the Spirit will follow.
That HE is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE. (John 14:6)
That my walk with Him is about FAITH, not works of the Law. (Romans 4:13-22)
"Do you remember when you got into the Word and it wasn't because you had a sermon to prepare or you needed to learn some things or there were some doctrinal problems or you knew that to progress as a useful servant you had to continue on in the things of the Word of God? But you just got into the Word because you wanted to hear something from God? You wanted to know something about Him? Do you remember when you just prayed because of Him? Your heart was burning for Him, you wanted to know Him?" (Paul Washer)
I love the above quote and the questions that are asked in it. And I'm so, so grateful to be able to answer YES.
God is taking me through pain and suffering and sleeplessness to show me HIMSELF. To answer my prayers and give me a desire to know Him and to know His Word: just for Him. Not for a list of how to live. Not to back up a belief I'm clarifying or defending.
He showed me Himself and now I can't get enough of Him. He showed me He comes down when I hit rock bottom and my face is stuck in the scum to pick me up, wipe the dirt off my face, wrap His arms around my hurting heart, and love me.
For years I've been saying, "it's about relationship, not religion/rules." And I truly, truly believe that.
But I didn't know how to live it out. I was still unsure of a close relationship with God because I still felt that I somehow had to earn His blessing, favor, acceptance, and closeness with Him.
That I had to live by some list of rules.
Dress "right", listen to the "right" music, not watch the "wrong" movies, hang out with the "right" friends, etc.
That if I wasn't spending tons of time in Scripture reading and prayer I was somehow completely failing at this thing called the Christian life.
That if I didn't correct the sinful patterns and habits in my life, I was not worthy to come before Him.
It was so overwhelming and my attempts to live up to it all felt so inadequate. The shame, guilt, and regret I lived with suffocated the life part of Christianity.
Just earlier this year I was telling my cousin and best friend that I was scared that if I dove in deep, I'd find out that all these rules and standards that people have taught me were the way - the ones suffocating me and stealing my joy - were really what God required.
Deep down I knew it wasn't. But it's amazing how hard it is to be set free from lies. While He's been doing it slowly over the past few years, God really obviously started this work in my heart last February at a conference with Paul Washer and Norm Wakefield and then again last May when He flooded me with truth through one of my second moms, Amy. She shared a Scripture and a song with me that I lived off of for weeks, maybe months. Throughout the past year since then, He has brought friends, Scriptures, books, songs, blogs, and circumstances into my life that have revealed more and more of Who He is. And He is so much more than I ever thought possible.
By His grace, I am His daughter, completely and totally loved, forgiven, clean, and rejoiced over. There is nothing I could do (or not do) to change that. He meets me exactly where I am. Whether it's in a hospital room in more physical pain than I can handle, in my own bedroom working through more emotional and relational pain than I know what to do with, or in my car driving, thinking, and praying and the perfect song comes on the radio, He meets me. He loves me. He doesn't see the ugly. He sees the beautiful.
And to close this off, I'll just quote my incredible friend, Lydia. I emailed her asking for her thoughts on this blog post and here's my favorite thing from her two-in-the-morning reply: "God is not some snotty popular teenage girl who's going to kick you out of the group because you did something He didn't like." It made me smile; a) because it's just ridiculously funny worded that way and b) because it's so true.
God gives His grace freely; not just saving grace at salvation but continual, free grace throughout our whole walk with Him. No matter what. End of story.