stories about life and God

grace on grace.

today, as i was writing a note to one of my friends, meaning to encourage them, i ended up encouraging myself. more like, God took the words i was writing from my head and shot them into my heart with a bazooka.
i use that description because it really was sort of painful. sudden realizations of great truth usually are.

i was talking about grace. how we don’t have to be good enough because Christ is good enough.
and that’s when God gave me one of the biggest DUH moments i’ve ever had.

to really understand the power of this statement, i need to start this story from the beginning.

my entire life i’ve never really felt “good enough”. at anything, by anyone’s standard.
not good enough for my softball coach to let me pitch.
not good enough for my dance teacher to give me a solo and stop calling me fat.
not good enough to not be fat anymore.
not good enough for my family to be proud of me.
not good enough for guys to notice me.
not good enough to be starting goalie.
not good enough to be an FLT.(for non CIU people, that stands for freshman leadership team. it’s sort of like an RA)
not good enough for God to use me.
not good enough to understand God.
not good enough for God to help me do anything.
not good enough for grace.

i had never really grasped the loving side of God. growing up i always knew he was real, and i knew he wanted me to be good. i knew all about the dos and don’ts. and i was terrified of what might happen if i did something really bad. i went through a phase when i was about ten where i would have panic attacks and not be able to sleep at night because i swore Jesus was coming back that night and i didn’t think he’d take me to heaven with him.

basically, God was an easily angered, far away being who just watched everything i did and waited for me to mess up so he could punish me. i was convinced that he didn’t love me, but i knew that was a terrible thing to think about God, so i was even more scared of him.

i got saved when i was thirteen, and i really did know what i was doing. but i’ve always struggled with doubting my salvation. i’ve never doubted God; i’ve always believed he’s real. i just doubted myself. “do i really understand this? do i really believe this? or do i just think i believe it and i’ve said it so many times that i’ll never know the difference? i’m gonna be one of those people who dies and is totally shocked when God says he never knew me…”

at first it was never a serious hindrance to my life or anything. until a very recent episode(which ended this morning) i never seriously believed that i was going to hell. i just had this tiny lurking worry in the back of mind. what if? am i doing okay? maybe i need to do a little extra for God just in case?

i had a few small spurts of significant growth here and there(most specifically: when i was fourteen and saw ballet magnificat for the first time, when i was sixteen and met beth, and when i was eighteen and met chris wells) those were real; i just thought after each time that i finally had the gospel figured out. i expected life to suddenly make sense and be easy, for me and God to right that minute be like french fries and frostys. and that’s why i would always forget them and go back to being mostly the same within a few weeks, only this time with more shame because i felt like now i should know better. i would fall right back into some old sin that i had thought would never be a problem again, and sooner or later i’d be back to tiptoeing around God, hoping i was legitly saved and agonizing over how to know for sure.

then last february, i took my first slip into the downward spiral that the past year has been.
i had applied and interviewed to be on residence life at ciu. i had good motives, and i totally believe that God wanted me to apply even though he didn’t want me to get it. but the whole situation turned out awful.
when i got the email saying i wasn’t moving on in the interview process, i cried for the rest of the day, didn’t go to class for two days, and was angry at God for two months. i had once again been proven that i wasn’t good enough. and instead of learning from it and moving on, i let it eat me alive.

i slipped down deeper in may.
i had this idea that i would write sort of a “how-to” guide for the new camp staff. i wrote this really long, really helpful note with things they needed to know and important things to remember.
this wasn’t a bad thing in and of itself; it really did help a lot of people. and i wouldn’t regret it at all if i hadn’t let stupid satan get in.
“hey. see alllll these people looking up to you? and now look up. nobody’s there anymore. you don’t have anyone to ask for help from if you don’t have all the answers. they don’t care anymore. you are all by yourself on top of the world. EVERYONE is depending on YOU. and YOU are not at all ready for that. you will NEVER be able to help anyone. but oops, you already made yourself out to be this big deal…i guess you’ll have to pretend you really do know everything. and don’t even think about asking for help. if you let anyone know that you aren’t perfect, they will never like you or trust you or depend on you again. you like people to like you, right? you WILL fail and people WILL think you are a terrible person. have a great summer! i’ll be around.”
now of course he didn’t give me that whole monologue all at once or in those exact words. but that’s basically what he whispered over the course of the weeks before camp, and i believed each one.
i gave him an inch and he took about eighteen miles.

the whole summer was awful. i kept messing up. and every time, i would think “i’ve had enough. i need someone to help me and pray for me.” but i’d hear “you don’t need people. you can do this on your own. and if you can’t, well that makes you a failure.” and i’d listen. keep going it alone. pretend i was still the super staffer everyone thought i was.

at the end of the summer, i decided(for the moment! i changed my mind in december) that i would never go back to camp. how could i? i had let my campers, the staff, cindy, and myself down. i couldn’t do anything right. i was hindering God by being there.(SO much wrong with that!! i really can’t believe how deep i let him get into me. we CAN’T hinder God, he’s GOD. he’s bigger than us! he did just as much work last year as any, i just couldn’t see it)

school started. i spent welcome week in my bed. if i wasn’t good enough to be an FLT then obviously i wasn’t good enough to be that cool upperclassman friend that every freshman needs.
classes started. everything was hard. i couldn’t focus(worse than how my ADD usually makes it). but again, i could NOT ask for help. i was going to be fine.
i wasn’t; i ended the semester with a 1.8 gpa and got back on academic probation.

now through all this time, notice i was never going to God for help, or comfort, or anything. the worse i felt, the more afraid of him i was. you know how when you don’t talk to a friend for a long time, and the longer you go, the harder it is to even know how to start a conversation? that’s how me and God were. i just didn’t know what to say. and i didn’t want to hear what he had to say. i thought he’d just be angry and tell me how much i didn’t deserve him. so i kept hiding from him and kept getting worse.

then i read crazy love over christmas break. i know most people think it’s this super inspiring best book ever deal, and i’m happy for all the people it’s helped, but personally all it did was terrify me. “oh no. i haven’t given all my money to the poor. i get bored in church sometimes. i don’t always look forward to my quiet times. i’ve never shared the gospel with a total stranger. i’m not really a christian i’ve just thought i am and i’m gonna go to hell for getting christmas presents.”
seriously. francis chan convinced me that i was going to hell. i had nightmares for weeks. every time i did the least little thing wrong i’d be reminded that as much as i want to believe, i must not really because i’m not perfect yet.

that is ridiculous.

now we’re up to speed. i’m writing this note. at ridge haven we talked about breaking bad habits, and how we can’t do that without God. i thought of that, and i wrote “YOU don’t have to be perfect because CHRIST is perfect!”

and then i dropped my pen and started crying.

what Jesus did on the cross doesn’t stop affecting us after the first moment when we’re saved.

i always understood that we can’t be saved on our own. we can’t get ourselves to heaven. that was easy to grasp. but what i unconsciously have believed since i was thirteen, is that if i am truly saved, God has made ME good enough to overcome sin and live a godly life. sure i’ll mess up sometimes, but not much. and if i keep falling into the same sins over and over, well i must not really be saved yet.

that is so not how it works!!

we will NEVER be able to beat satan off on our own! God never promised that. THROUGH CHRIST we are “more than conquerors”(romans 8 is even more my favorite now that i get this). not by ourselves; through Christ.
we don’t have to keep fighting the battle with sin because Christ has already won that battle FOR us! we just have to accept it! so if you keep saying “God, i’m sorry but i did it again, i promise i’ll do better next time” we will ALWAYS fail. but if we say “I have no power over this sin. but Jesus has ALL the power, and i am leaning on him today” we can win.
and it’s not a one-time thing, this asking him to be our strength. it’s a constant, everyday deal. we have to make a conscious choice to walk in that grace. because we’re human and we forget things, and sometimes when we’re good for a while we start to feel like we’re doing okay on our own, even though we were never doing anything in the first place.

no matter what, it will never ever be easy. not even billy graham is all “psh what’s sin? i got over that ten crusades ago”. if we expect it to be, then we’ll always be frustrated with ourselves and waste energy feeling unnecessarily guilty.

and no matter how many times we have to keep coming back for it, God never runs out of grace. but we can’t enjoy it unless we keep choosing to ask for it.

that is the piece of the puzzle that i’ve been missing all my life. yes, Jesus has paid my way into heaven, but he’s also already beaten every sin i’ll ever come up against. in him, and ONLY in him, i am enough.


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