Rock of Ages
I have been reading through Brennan Manning's "The Ragamuffin Gospel" with my Community Group girls. It has really struck me how living under God's grace is not a lifestyle of arbitrary choices throughout the day to do the "right thing", or meeting certain expectations that are set up by culture, peers, or even by myself. What it means to truly believe the Gospel and the grace of God is to be confident in the love that I could never earn or deserve on my own. Read this truth from Ephesians:
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." - 2:1-9
The craziness of this passage is that it does not sound logical by any earthly standard. How could it make sense that whatever condition I am in would be acceptable to God? Have you ever loved someone that completely? I have been married now for almost five years and I can tell you that I revert back to selfishness on such a regular basis it is embarrassing. Unconditional love is hardly my first instinct, even with those I am closest to. God, on the other hand, through the lens of Christ loves me so completely that I am a testimony to others not because of the "good" life that I have attained by following certain rules, but in my freedom from ever having to do so!
So what does it look like to take ownership of this truth in my life? Freedom from trying to earn God's love or approval means that I can fail. Again and again and again and I will. Through the process of growing and becoming more like Christ I will be faced with my humanity day in and day out, but letting go of what I wish I could be and leaning into what God has planned for me despite my weaknesses is such a beautiful place to be. Brennan Manning says this:
"The question the gospel of grace puts to us is simply this: Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? What are you afraid of? Are you afraid that your weakness could separate you from the love of Christ? It can't. [...] Mistakes, fears, uncertainties? They can't. The gospel of grace calls out, Nothing can ever separate you from the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord." - The Ragamuffin Gospel
I want so badly to live my life every day like I believe that. Spiritual warfare, insecurities, and guilt can do such a number on my outlook that I would rather fall into an easy routine of trusting myself to just not be a bad person for a while. But I believe that God has more for me than that. To get practical here for a moment (because my personality responds well to that), I think what this means for me at this point in my life is to stop and get honest more often. Being reminded of my weaknesses is not a bad thing because, let's face it, I'm not makin' it on my own. I can't forgive that person or have peace through a stressful time or be joyful in pain without the grace of God. Taking the time to accept the love that covers my faults and straight up dirty condition allows me a surge of confidence in the strength and wisdom through the Holy Spirit that ultimately guides my every step. I hear it described in the wonderful hymn "Rock of Ages". From first to last breath, there is this spirit of "God, I cannot do this without you. Free me from ever letting go of your hand."
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.
Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's commands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.
While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee.