“aren’t you tired yet?”
i didn’t ever hear those words from God, like, literally. but He might as well have been screaming them at me with all that was happening around me in the year or so before my diagnosis. everything was falling apart. i was confused by the horrible choices i saw leadership making in my church. i was confused by the suffering i saw others going through. and i was so confused by the fact that i was doing all the right things, at least, trying really hard to, and yet i was still such a miserable failure at being a Christian. i worked really hard to put up the facade of having it all together, because it looked like everyone else around me had it all together and what if they found out what a screw up i was then they’d know i was a failure and that i wasn’t good enough, was in sin, was backslidden…was fallen from grace.
what i didn’t know then, what it would take me years of suffering and incapacity and total helplessness to even begin to learn, was that i HAD fallen from grace. paul might as well have written these words to me!
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
Galatians 3:1-3 (NKJV)
when i say i’d “fallen from grace” i don’t mean that i’d lost my salvation. i mean that i’d fallen from the safe, perfect, free place that Christ put me in when He saved me. when i came to Christ, or rather, when He came to me, i specifically remember praying “my way does not work, Lord. no matter what i do, it doesn’t work. i want Your way from here on out. have Your way.” in that moment of salvation, i recognized that i was helpless to do well, to do right, to please God on my own. i knew it. and i ran to Him for help. (isn’t that really what salvation is? agreeing with God that i can’t be good enough and falling on His mercy and grace?)
but somehow over time, even though i KNEW Christ had saved me by grace, and not by anything i had done, i’d begun to believe (however subconsciously) that i was going to be sanctified, be better, do better, be perfected by my own efforts. i had completely forgotten why i had come to Christ in the first place.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1 (NIV)
the yoke of slavery that i was struggling under, that i still fight to NOT take up every day, was the yoke of legalism, of living as if i had to check of all the “do’s” on my list of what a “good Christian” does in order to earn the right to rest in God or to grow as a Christian.
when my whole world fell apart in 2004, when i was cut in two at church, and my thyroid died, and consequently my mental health completely disintegrated (though i wouldn’t know or understand that until years later), i was really in trouble. not just because all these things had happened, but because i was literally flat on my back and could not do anything on my list.
it was then that i had the privilege of learning, long, slow, painful learning, that giving up on my own efforts, on my list, was the only way forward. the only way to freedom. the only way to start on the path to experiencing salvation in this life, not just after it.
i could write more about that, but someone else wrote it better than i probably ever could. i encourage you to read her words. they will bless you. you can find them on ann voskamp’s wonderful blog, in a guest post by sarah mae.
ann wrote a great book called one thousand gifts. i’m only two chapters in, and it’s amazing. i highly recommend it.
I’ve missed your writing Rachel. ” i worked really hard to put up the facade of having it all together,” I think you’re a bit harsh with yourself but I relate 100%. Sadly, some in the church create the illusion that we need to have it all together. This does much harm to the poor souls who are suffering emotionally. They get the ‘message’ mental illness is a moral failure and as a result don’t seek help they desperately need. Thank you for an excellent article. God bless you Rachel.
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We, as Christians, must have a healthy understanding of what grace is, so we can reciprocate it to those around us. Christ paid the price of the broken covenant between us and God, a price that Christ did not owe. We deserved the wrath, punishment, and the condemnation; the curse was lifted, but not by anything we had or could ever accomplish ourselves. Then, we are filled with the promise and blessing of Abraham, so that all the world may know.
Rachel, I just finished reading One Thousand GIfts and I believe you’ll be in for more of a surprise than you could have imagined. God is so faithful to present his Body with graces in written form, and in testimonies such as yours and Ann’s. Thanks you for your lovely blog. I too have realized that I tried too hard over the years (I thought I was supposed to!) because I really did not comprehend grace at all. Amazing…