Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Worse Than I Think and Better than I Deserve

How would you describe the Christian life? It is commonly called a "walk." The writer of Hebrews calls it a "race." These metaphors describe certain aspects of the Christian walk. There is a path, and endurance is required (and graciously supplied).

Lately, I've been realizing more and more that the Christian life involves a constant renewal and increase of the knowledge of your own sinfulness and God's graciousness. If you aren't still being surprised at how wicked you are, then why not? In the past months, I've been blown away. But I am not destroyed. It is the kind of destruction you welcome -like a laser cutting out cancer. It hurts, sure, but the pain is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to the devastation the cancer has brought, is inflicting, or will bring.

There is a kind of freedom in it, too. Its almost like that line in Ferris Bueller's Day Off... something about how "freeing" it is realizing that you are "completely screwed." That is only half true, really. It is freeing to know that you are completely screwed a) when it is true, and b) when it sets you rightly in your place before God so that you can drop the act, stop pretending you are a "good person," and actually enjoy God and His graciousness, serving others from that.

It isn't like being in that nightmare when you are in your underwear and everyone is looking, but then you find out they are all in their underwear too, so you don't feel so bad. There is some truth to that. The ground is level at the foot of the cross, and forgetting that is dangerous. But what is really all that helpful about comparing yourself to others? Nothing. In fact, that is dangerous, too.

No, its more like realizing that all the facades you put on and all the acts you play and all the small salvation schemes you run in your life... are thin and transparent, and One who loves you has seen right through them the whole time. He has, in some sense, been waiting for you to grow weary of them and come back to His arms.

Two phrases come to mind, lately.

1) "Cheer up, you are worse than you think." Give up on being a religious person who is inwardly afraid, insecure, and exerting himself to live up to others or some nebulous standard. You *are* those things you fear and don't want others to know about. You really are those things. Admit it, and praise God!

2) How am I? As C. J. Mahaney habitually answers, "Better than I deserve." I really am.... and part of it is realized when I gather how shallow my apprehension of my own ill desert is. I don't even know how bad I am. I just know that my dullness to my wickedness is part of my wickedness, so everything I enjoy in my life, every single day, is truly much more than I deserve. Even with trials and struggles, which truly pale compared to what so many have gone through (I'm a total wimp), I have every reason to say, "Wow, this is still so much better than I deserve." To swing the axe one more time, then I realize that these trials, are small as they are, are not punitive. They come from the hand of a loving Father who is shaping me into the image of His Son with them. So not only is my suffering woefully less than I deserve, but even any suffering I endure is a gift for my good!

So, what right do I have being a person who is perenially insecure and pissed off? None, but it is freeing to admit to you, dear reader, that I am such a foolish person... because my Master already knows all of it, and in Him I rest. Oh, how freeing it is to embrace who you are, warts and all, and know that God does as well through Jesus Christ... who is our only ultimate Audience. Amen.