Here’s the thing about grace

*As you read this post I highly recommend listening to Hayden Browning’s EP. It’s what I listened to when I wrote this and his words and my thoughts fit together perfectly.

I’ve always been hard on myself. Apparently it runs in the family. Even though everyone around me is telling me I’m doing a great job, there is still a voice inside telling me I could, and should, be doing better. Of course there is always room for improvement and I hope to always be growing and learning and changing. But this voice inside me isn’t telling me to grow and keep improving, it’s telling me to feel ashamed of what I’ve done because it’s not my best.

When I was younger I used to ground myself. If I did something wrong and I didn’t think my parents’ punishment was sufficient, I would ground myself. I would sit in my room on my bed and not let myself play with any toys. Of course this wouldn’t last too long because my self-control isn’t ideal.

As I grew up, this self-punishing manifested itself in my relationship with God. Whenever I committed, in what my mind is, a “big” sin, I would punish myself by not allowing myself to go to God immediately. I convince myself that I am not good enough to go before God, that I don’t deserve forgiveness, and so I have to sit in my filth for a day or two before I can ask for forgiveness.

Even though God says forgiveness is immediate. Even though God says the wages of all sin is death. Even though there are no such thing as “big” sins. Even though I am not the ultimate judge of myself, God is. Even though God wants me to come to Him all the time. Even though all of my sins were nailed to the cross and conquered by Jesus. Even though I know all of this, I still punish myself with time away from God. I am just recently overcoming this.

This morning at church we sang, “En tu gracia, descansare, tal como soy.” (In your grace, I will rest, just as I am.) Tal como soy. Just as I am. Just as I am. Buscando paz (looking for peace) en mal tenaz (in tenacious evil). Tal como soy. Jesus knew before the foundation of the world how I was going to mess up and hurt Him yesterday and He knows how I am going to mess up and hurt Him tomorrow and STILL He died for me. STILL He sought me out. STILL He did for you. STILL He is seeking you out.

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The story of Gomer the prostitute is a short one found in Hosea 1-3. In these three chapters, Hosea represents God and Gomer represents me (and Israel and you and us and everyone). God commands Hosea to marry a prostitute, so he does. The prostitute Gomer, gives up her old evil ways and settles down with Hosea. They even have three kids. Then, one day, Gomer starts remembering how well she had it as a prostitute. How she would get all of these gifts from all of her lovers and how she had no responsibility and everyone flattered her. She remembers it being better then. So she goes back. She gives up her settled down family life and goes back to giving away her body in exchange for money and gifts and fake feelings.

Then, God.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ …And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. – Hosea 2:14-16, 19-20

Then God calls me out into the wilderness of a walk home from church. And God speaks tenderly to me. God reminds me of how Hosea bought his wife for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barely. God reminds me of how He bought me with blood and pain and death.

God has absolutely no illusions of me never sinning again, and He doesn’t ask me to punish myself. He asks me to come to Him, to bow before Him, to submit, to confess, and to accept forgiveness. To allow myself to be bought back again and again as He seeks me out in the midst of my biggest sins.

I still can’t wrap my head around a God so big and so holy and so good coming down to the earth where there is so much pain and dirt and shame and big, big sins. I still can’t wrap my mind around a God so loving that He would want to buy me back even when I’ve turned my back on Him again. But what I can do is wrap my heart and my arms around this God I am getting to know more and more every day, with each new sin and with each, “I’m sorry.”

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

Even though I’ve been a Christian since I was seven, I feel like I know hardly anything about the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge. I am resting in the process of rooting and grounding. Of soaking in the parts I will never understand and trusting that Jesus means what He says. That He does want me. Even after I’ve messed up big time. And not two days after I’ve messed up big time, but in the midst of my sinning He wants me. He wants me so badly He entered into the perversion of this world to buy me back, to set me free, to be my Lord – and not only my Lord, but my Husband. Which sounds strange at first but sounds so wonderful when I think about what kind of relationship the God of the Universe wants with each of us. An intimate one, with no secrets and no shame. A relationship that leaves me stripped bare, standing on a block of wood for everyone to see my sins, for sale, unclaimed and ashamed. A relationship that sends Hosea to that back alley to buy his wife, to cover her with his cloak, and to commit himself to loving her all over again.

I am still getting over years of punishing myself by distancing myself from God, who is my only hope. It’s still so hard for me to present myself to God in what I feel like are my worst moments. But His promises don’t fail and His love never changes. The same love He had for Israel and Gomer is the same love He has for me and I’ll keep telling myself that, reading it and singing it, until I believe it enough to live it.

*This isn’t the first time I’ve written about Gomer and it probably won’t be the last. To read more about Gomer, and specifically the Valley of Achor, click here.

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