Thursday, February 25, 2010

guilt... shame... grace.

My week in Ephesians was of course a learning experience, and as it so often ends up with God, led to unexpected places. Over the last couple of weeks I've really struggled with the guilt of my sin... dumb things I've done, darkness in my past... it's been tormenting me. To the point where I wasn't sleeping at night, and as the true definition of sin states, I really FELT separation from God. My journey towards truly accepting God's grace began in Ephesians chapter 2, beginning in verse 8, where it talks about being "saved by grace." But that verse is so overstated in Christian culture... and as vain as it sounds, it wasn't enough for me to grasp it. I needed more. I've been wrestling with the idea that there is a fine line between accepting grace and abusing it--and I was feeling like I didn't know where I stood on that spectrum. Do I know I'm forgiven for my sins? Yes. Have I forgiven myself? Not quite--I sometimes feel so unworthy. I feel guilty of abusing the grace I'm given. My guilt and shame got to the point where being a leader, something that comes so naturally to me normally, was hard. I all of a sudden had this insecurity that's never been there before, this voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me, "you're not good enough." I've started to have this doubt in my mind that the Lord wants to use me to bring others to Him. It's been a daily struggle for the last few weeks--every day I've had to wake up, feeling crappy, and try with all that's within me to cast my burdens on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7) and allow him to show me the way. It hasn't been easy.

As I continued to search and wrestle with these insecurities I found encouragement from two women in the Bible who were seen as "unworthy"--but Jesus healed them, and saved them, and they were used for the Kingdom. Mary Magdalene was the first one I read about (Luke ch. 7). She was the "neighborhood whore"... everyone looked down on her. She was a sinner. And when she fell at the feet of Jesus in tears, kissing his feet and anointing him with oil, Jesus said, "she's forgiven--for she loves much." Even when Simon said, "if this guy was a prophet he would know what kind of woman she is--surely he wouldn't let her touch him." But Jesus saw the brokenness in this woman, he saw that she knew he could save her, and he said to her, "your faith has saved you."

Then I read the story of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. This woman who was seen as unclean by everyone... who felt so unworthy of even showing her face in public. But she heard that Jesus was coming, and she knew that if she could do so little as touch him, she would be healed. As Jesus is walking down the street he stops and says, "who touched me? I felt power go out from me." And this woman, ashamed, falls to her knees in front of him and tells him of her troubles and that she just knew that if she could only touch the hem of his garment, she would be healed. In the same way that Jesus spoke to Mary, he said to this woman, "daughter, your faith has made you well. go in peace."

After reading these two stories, something that I hadn't ever given much thought to in reading them before caught my attention. The way they end. Jesus says to both of them, "your faith has made you well." We're given this grace, and we know that, but do we have a FAITH that heals us? As much as I read it, and "think it", do I really BELIEVE that my faith is a healing faith? That if I would just believe that my God is so much bigger than me or my issues, I can be delivered from them.

My friends, this is the beautiful thing about our struggles and our sin. It humbles us and brings us to the feet of our sweet Jesus, who can heal us with a single touch. Because if we were perfect, we would be God. I will continue to struggle with my sin, feeling unworthy of serving such a powerful God. I'll continue to search for a faith that heals me... because I don't know if I'm there yet. But I know that daily I will fall to my knees before the God that saves me, despite my flaws, because he loves me that much. What a humbling thought.

Nicole C. Mullen goes to my home church in Franklin, TN, and I remember her singing this song one Sunday morning, and it left me in tears. It's such a powerful testament of Jesus' healing power and love for us. It's been one that I've clung to over these last few weeks, trying to remind myself that I am forgiven.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ephesians in a week.

I have a Bible that my grandparents gave me for my 19th birthday, and it's my favorite gift I've ever gotten. When I got it in the mail on the 28th of October, 2008, I found a sweet letter inside that made me cry. My grandparents had spent the previous year reading through the entire thing, carrying it around with them, praying for me and writing notes to me in it as they read. For a year, they dedicated special times of prayer to me, carrying with them everywhere they went a Bible with my name inscribed on the front.

Today I was flipping through the New Testament trying to find a particular verse, and on the last page of the book of Ephesians, a note from my grandpa stood out to me. This is what it said:

The book of Ephesians is probably the most quoted book of the New Testament. It is short, but full of great lessons for your life--How to live as a Christian, to be a wife (if your choice!), ways to keep your faith strong and alive. We pray that this book of Ephesians will be one that you read often as it is the shield of faith.

Feeling convicted that not only do I not read it often, I don't think I've ever read through the entire book, I decided to read through Ephesians this week. One chapter a day, and see what God has to tell me. I'm excited about it! I can't wait to read Grandma and Papa's notes either. :)

More notes to come...