I love the morning walks with dog friend Hannah and the iPod devotionals along the way. The most recent song that hit a heart chord was a song called "Just As I Am". I am not talking about the go to song for altar calls that gave you a small sample of eternity at my hometown church. "I know there is someone out there who needs to come forward….we are still waiting....let's sing one more verse..."
My response was to a song of the same name by Andrew Peterson . Peterson is one of my favorite song writers and singers. Regular readers of the humble ramblings know that I have been on a journey of exploring grace and my identity in Christ. It has been such an invigorating and freeing season of my life. I ache for others to experience this joy. But instead I see so much sadness and tiredness in the church. I think that this song gave me some insight into why I finally reached a point where I was ready to quit striving so hard to please God with my own strength and ability and began to learn how to trust His strength and ability. Why is that so hard for my friends and fellow believers? Why was it so hard for me? Why did it take me nearly forty years to reach that point of trust? Andrew Peterson's lyrics gave me some clues.
What's that on the ground?
It's what's left of my heart
Somebody named Jesus broke it to pieces
And planted the shards
What struck me as I meditated on these lyrics is that my grace experience was more like an addict who finally hits bottom and realizes their complete inability to recover by their own strength. I hit spiritual bottom. I was tired and sad and resigned. Resigned to believing that the Gospel is true but perhaps my lot was to simply soldier on until I reached my final reward. When I hit spiritual rock bottom it was not a scene worthy of a Lifetime cable movie. I wasn't in some motel room ready to cash it in when I found a Gideon Bible in the nightstand and it fell open to John 3:16. I simply reached a point where I prayed something like this.
God, I don't want to live the rest of my life like this. Help me to experience your grace. Please love me.
And that prayer was answered by somebody named Jesus. He answered it by the uncomfortable but ultimately wonderful process of breaking my heart of self reliant striving and then planting the pieces in the garden of trust. And all of those shards that He planted are taking root in His grace.
And they're coming in bloom
I can hardly believe this is all coming true
The chorus shares a truth that we too often forget.
Just as I am and just as I was
Just as I will be He loves me, He does
He showed me the day that
He shed His own blood
He loves me, oh He loves me, He does
We get the "just as I am" forgiveness for salvation. But we forget the "just as I was" and "just as I will be" aspects of His grace. Peterson nails part of my stumbling journey with these words.
All of my life I've held on to this fear
These thistles and vines ensnare and entwine
What flowers appeared
It's the fear that I'll fall one too many times
It's the fear that His love is no better than mine
That fear that I would fall one too many times or that my good works would be ensnared by life's thistles revealed my lack of trust and my dependence on my ability. And it revealed a lack of trust in God's character and love. I am learning, haltingly, to not lean on my self effort. I love the imagery that Peterson paints of a life lived in grace.
Well it's time now to harvest what little that grew
This man they call Jesus, who planted the seeds
Has come for the fruit
And the best that I've got isn't nearly enough
He's glad for the crop, but it's me that He loves
When I look at what Christ has done for me my crop will never be enough if judged by my performance standards. But Jesus will be glad for the crop if the harvest comes out of abiding in Him. Paul wrote these words to the church at Ephesus.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2, NLT) The most amazing truth is that it's me that He loves and gave this amazing gift. Just as I am. Just as I was. Just as I will be…forever.