Wednesday, November 6, 2013

My Redeemer Lives (In Mexican Restaurants)

Where have I been? Life has been marching on, yet I've found myself in this place of searching and waiting for the Lord to do something which I can't even define. Each day is filled with chores and routine, hugs and hollering, praying, asking, yet finding little more than silence.

Though life is still filled with ups and downs, funnies and tears, the everyday and the fireworks of special occasions, I just do not have words to put with all those things unless God's wind is moving through me, giving me that deeper perspective on the every day. Sadly, there's been a marked lack of movement. A quiet. A silence that can leave you wondering about the big questions.

Are You there at all?

Will I ever blog again? (Cue dramatic music and tears.)

Yet behind it all, there's an undercurrent of certainty, knowing that, one day, He will speak. And all the pieces will fall into place, if only for a moment.

After much wavering, I had settled, months ago, on this being the Year of Grace. It followed on the Year of Humility (I'm sorry if it's weird that I've decided to label the years of my life. After much searching, I confirmed that God really had decided on the theme of my year here.) but it's been so much different. Last year, humility was staring me in the face everywhere I turned. This year, grace has been alluding me. I mean, His grace is everywhere, but there's been this lack of understanding of what He's trying to show me. It just hasn't been clicking for me.

Ever had those days years?

Last week, I went on a quick weekend beach trip with some ladies from my Bible study. We had some great teaching time where we heard about God's redemption, his amazing power to restore and bring good through our wounds by the power of His grace. Then we were challenged to practice walking in righteousness by asking the Lord to show us the one person He wants us to show love to and then doing it. Well, I've been asking, and while a slide show of people has run through my mind, I just couldn't fix myself on one person. This added to the frustration and fear I've been feeling lately at God's silence.

Maybe He'll never speak to me again. Maybe I've lost the ears to hear.

Then yesterday, I was swirling in the whirlpool of self-loathing and condemnation that is much too familiar to me. My arms and legs grow weary, on more days than not, of trying to stay afloat in the midst of all the guilt that bombards my thoughts. As I was beating myself up, once again, for all the ways I'd failed of late, the Lord finally told me who I was to love.

Me.

My eyes burned with tears, because I knew I'm the hardest person for myself to love, and because there was such freedom and release in that thought.

I knew it wasn't about loving myself in the worldly sense: self-esteem, you're awesome, you deserve a day at the spa. What I really needed to do was to let God love me. To accept His love, which is not dependent on my successes or failures.

Ya'll, I'm slow. I have to be told this over and over again. I have to forgive myself for my failures and release the tight grasp I have on my every thought and action, allowing His grace and love to pour over me and heal all the self-inflicted wounds I've been allowing to fester.

Fast forward to last night. Girls night out. Can I get a "Woo hoo!" My friends and I stuffed ourselves with chips and salsa and sat at the restaurant until they quit refilling our waters, hoping against hope that we'd finally take the hint and leave. But we didn't. Finally, all that water forced the inevitable trip to the little girls' room. When I busted through the door, I was startled to find a waitress sitting in a little nook looking at her phone. And I thought I glimpsed tears.

Awkward.

I scooted to the first stall I could find and locked myself in. And then that uncomfortable voice said, "You should ask if you can help her or pray for her."

Terribly awkward.

Well, I made up my little stubborn mind pretty quickly that that wasn't going to happen. I relieved myself, washed up (while trying to get a glimpse of her in the mirror), grabbed some paper towels, and high-tailed it out of there. I knew I was being disobedient, and I also knew I wasn't changing my mind. None of the opening lines that had run through my mind felt like they'd end in anything other than a weirded-out stare. I felt a little bad, but I refused to go into that deep place of guilt that I'd just been rescued from earlier that day.

This morning, I was sitting reading through my study of Romans, which is all about our sin and God's grace. Adam sinned and ruined it for us all. Christ obeyed and extended grace to us all. As I contemplated my awareness of my sin, the crying waitress came to mind. And that's when it happened. The jumbled pieces all found their place.

I experienced true conviction. Not the guilt that sneakily convinces me that it's really conviction when it's really not. I experienced a true sorrow at my disobedience. I was sad that I'd missed out on the working and blessing of God's Spirit last night. I was sad that I'd chosen poorly and done so very deliberately. But all that sorrow and awareness didn't leave me feeling like I needed to crawl in a hole and die. It left me confessing my sin and then being thankful that God's love for me hadn't changed with my disobedience.

I felt closer to God. And there is the difference. For weeks, months, (and really years), my guilt and condemnation has pushed me further and further from God. In that one moment, I felt closer to Him than I had in a long time.

Then I saw it.

Redemption.

Through my sin and disobedience, God had brought me closer to Him. God had changed my heart a little bit. I had a desire to obey next time and an awareness of His never-changing love. He had used what wasn't good to bring about good.

That's what grace does. It brings redemption. Of big things and small things. He did that. Not me. He answered my prayers and the longings of my heart, despite my actions.

Grace. His working for good in our lives when we're plunging headlong into bad. I love it. I need it. I want to swim in it.

Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth. Ephesians 1:9-10 MSG