by Heidi Jost
In Part 1, (which you can read here) I left us stuck in a black gloopy rut of failure, wailing “what a mess!” And you raising both eyebrows, ready to commit me to a ward of some kind.
I confessed earlier that I say “Jesus” a lot more now, because it really is all about Him. I am in the rut because, since birth, I have made life all about me. Looking around for some superior ground to stand on and see out, I compare myself with others or with myself-in-my-more-shining-moments. But therein lies the quicksand: This ground is always unstable, a giant maw about to swallow.
Now, we can both keep trying and slipping and sinking using these old habits of making ourselves feel better. “Our plight,” says Michael Reeves in one of the best books ever, “is not merely that we each fail to be good enough and need a little forgiveness… Instead, our very identity is a problem.” (Rejoicing in Christ)
I can think of two unchanging aspects of our identity: we never stop loving ourselves, and we never stop sinning.
But Jesus. His love is always outward and giving, and He has never sinned. He points out, “When you were powerless to save yourself, I did it.” (Rom. 5:6, my paraphrase) He beckons, “If My power could drag your sin down and bury it, how much more can that power raise you up into a new life of freedom!” (Rom. 5:10, my paraphrase)
Okay, so back to those days I failed, snapped at the kids, and left work undone. How does Jesus fit there? How do I get to the point of stopping my wail of failure and instead saying, “So what?” Rather than first trying harder in the next breath to be nicer to the kids, or scrambling to think of some other mom who screwed up worse than I did (a sin in itself), I can face my wrongs. They are bad. I hurt the people I loved most because they didn’t meet my expectations. I idolized the goal of a clean house, and then I got mad because it was still dirty. Double whammy.
Then I can look at Jesus. How does He see my sin? As sin. How does He see me? As a woman He wants to forgive and restore. To whoever is willing, He will give “a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6, Rom. 8:15) Daddy, Daddy! John Piper says, “This is the testimony of the Spirit that we are the children of God.”
We can inherit God. He can, and wants to live within us. His spirit of adoption, the Holy Spirit, yearns to guide us into truth when we are slopping about in the rut of failure. And the truth is: Jesus, who has power over everything, offers us freedom. What we could not do, He did, and then some. He broke chains and shed light into darkness. At every point where we have failed, He has not.
This, the best word ever spread, can be meaningless to you and me. The less we know God, the less we care about our inheritance. It is hard to see God. That’s why Jesus came, to be the “image of the invisible God.” (Col. 1:13) Do you want to know what God looks like? Are you curious or skeptical – or apathetic – that He is described as “altogether lovely”? You want to know what you can, or already have, inherited from Him? Turn your eyes to Jesus, beaten unrecognizable and uglified with our sin on the cross to beautify us. He didn’t have to, you know.
But He wanted to, and He did! He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) The only “burden” I believe He wants us to bear is the one of seeking His face and knowing Him better. And now, if He is our Abba, we can fail and fall repentant at His Father feet, rise again and say, “So what?”
So what? I will sin, but I am no longer defined by it. Jesus is the author and finisher of my faith. Jesus is the gorgeous view above the rut of self-effort and comparing. How can we not love Him more and more when we see what He has done for us miserable souls?
Another woman in another era put it this way, but she put her words to the tune of a Norwegian melody, which is nicer and more memorable.
Enough for me that Jesus saves,
This ends my fear and doubt;
A sinful soul I come to Him,
He’ll never cast me out.
“My Faith Has Found a Resting Place”
Eliza Edmunds Hewitt
Related: Beggared part 1