Growing up in the church I had enough head knowledge about Christianity to be dangerous. I would say I was a sinner, and confess just enough to feel good about the fact that I confessed. I had always been taught that Jesus loved me. But somehow, somewhere deep down, I believed that I had to be “good enough”. I believed that I had to earn God’s love.
I think the idea came from a devotion I was reading, but I recently wrote this in my journal:
Some people rebel against God’s beautiful law. They rebel against the rules. They run to alcohol, drugs, sex, and any other number of things that they think will make them happy and fulfilled.
But me? I rebelled against God’s beautiful grace. I rebelled against the rescue. I am a recovering perfectionist and a people pleaser and I often think that I can make it on my own.
I believed that Jesus came for other people who are wrecked and completely broken, but not me. I didn’t believe that it was okay for ME to not be okay. I was too prideful. I wanted to be loved because I was good. On the outside, I thought I did a pretty good job of looking like I had things together. But internally, I had a lot of anxiety. I was always fearful that something would go wrong and mess up my perfect world.
And things did go wrong. I was faced with the death of several close family members and friends who died of suicide, freak accidents, and crazy medical conditions. I was faced with broken relationships that I couldn’t hold together. I was faced with my own feelings of inadequacy when it came to sports and school.
I always had a smile on my face, but all these tough circumstances caused me to doubt God's goodness. Like Eve in the garden, I believed the lie that God was withholding good from me. Instead of turning to Him for my rescue, I decided to try doing things my own way.
Doing my "own thing" left me empty and more broken. I was in an unhealthy relationship, had deeply hurt my friends and family, and run away from God. I thought that God was probably surprised by my darkness. There is a lot of pride in that statement. I actually thought that my sin would take Him, the God of the universe, by surprise. But, He knew I could never be "good enough". That is why He sent Jesus.
And it was in that place of brokenness that the Holy Spirit worked in me, and I saw the beauty of what Jesus did on the cross. You guys, He didn't die because it was one of many ways for us to be saved. He died because it was the only way for us to be saved. If I could save myself, then He (an all-powerful God) would have chosen to stay in heaven and skip coming to this messy world to die an excruciating death. This truth changed me.
The secrets that Satan had used as strongholds on my heart, were confessed. I had friends who I thought would reject me tell me that they had been praying for me. My parents welcomed me back with open arms. William (my now husband) pursued me even though I had rejected him and he had seen the depths of my heart and the darkness of the sin that I was capable of.
I was exposed, and yet I was forgiven, and that was a place of deep freedom.
I started eating up God's Word. Guys, there is such rich truth in the Bible.
Truth about death not having the final word. Truth about our identity in Christ and not in the approval of man. Truth about how anxious hearts can become hopeful hearts. And Truth about Jesus taking our brokenness and making it beautiful.
Having a relationship with Jesus is not about our goodness. It’s about Jesus’ deep abiding goodness to us when we are running hard in the opposite direction. That’s something we can rest in. that’s bedrock truth that we can stake our lives on.
So now, I will be the first to say that I am a mess. I lie. I believe lies. I often choose to be fearful and anxious. I am prideful. I am selfish. I am a true mess. And it makes what Jesus has done all the more beautiful. I don’t feel like I need to clean myself up to be loved by God. I am clean because I am claimed. But I am changing. I am becoming a new person. I do long to be more like my Jesus, not because it will earn His love, but because His love has deeply stirred my affections for Him and has set me free.