Over the past few weeks, I have seen an old foe rise from the troubled waters and beckon me back to an ancient struggle.
The fear of inadequacy.
For as long as I can remember, I have felt the ache to be enough, to measure up to some impossible standard, to gain some infinite approval. I grew up sandwiched in the middle of an unbelievably remarkable family, and, as a result, I have often tasted the lie that I must do an endless number of things to meet the wave of expectations that, like a tide, arrive just as quickly as the former one falls. I felt that to be something, I must do everything.
So, I conditioned myself to chase excellence at all costs, to show my father, mother, sister, brothers, teachers, friends, and God that I mattered. And I exhausted myself in the process. So consumed was I by this pattern of thought that, were I whisked away to heaven, the first words to tumble out of my mouth upon seeing the Father face to face would be:
“Are you proud of me? Did I do well?”
Well, all this to say, I would like to introduce my guest writer for this post. Julie Blanton is a previous student of mine; she is a brilliant writer and a passionate follower of Jesus. I asked her some weeks ago if she’d be willing to write something for Eden.Babel, and I was floored by what she sent me. May you be as blessed and encouraged by this post as I was as we all seek to experience the full mercy and grace of our loving, welcoming, kissing, embracing, dancing, rejoicing Father.
I was raised in a Christian home. I went to a Christian school from the ages of five to eighteen. Church on Sundays was very familiar to me and was never something to be missed. I am so blessed to have been raised in such a loving, Christ-centered family.
But, at 15, while I was going to youth group, while I was going to a great church every Sunday and while I had the freedom to pray to God any hour of the day, I was still missing something.
On the outside, I was living a typical Christian American life. I fit into the mold. Yet, although I went to church on Sundays, tried my best to be a “good person”, followed all of the rules, etc., I still felt distant from God. I believed that God was a God of mercy and grace and I believed that He loved us. I believed all of these things, but I never believed them for myself.
I was caught up in rules. If I was struggling with something, I never remembered the truth of grace for myself. I would immediately tear myself down and realize that I needed to work to “make it up to God.” I was so deceived. I told myself that God was grace and love, and yet, in my mind, I couldn’t accept the grace and love God was pouring out to me until I was maybe slightly “worthy.” I couldn’t accept what Christ gave His LIFE for until I had worked to earn it.
Looking back, it still haunts me how deceived I was. I was a 15-year-old girl who was working to follow a set of “rules”. I was a 15-year-old girl who was trying to work toward the impossible. Some days I felt like a “good person”. A “good Christian”. I felt put together. Other days, I felt so alone. So undeserving. I felt as though I was in the middle of a constant, uphill battle that would never cease.
One day, at 16, it all changed.
I had the most real encounter with my Savior and I can say with complete certainty that it changed my life forever.
I truly saw Jesus for the first time.
I quickly learned that once you truly see Jesus, you cannot help but fall in love. I finally was able to break free from the chains holding me back from a pure joy that made me feel whole. Once I really saw Jesus, I felt His love for me. I was no longer a slave to the rules and I was no longer a slave to all of the expectations I put on myself. Most importantly, I was no longer a slave to the lies that had kept me captive for so long.
Judah Smith, a pastor at The City Church in Seattle, WA, (and one of my all time favorite pastors and authors) said something that truly impacted me:
“I think if Jesus had one shot at fixing us, He’d tell us how much He loves us. Jesus loves us right now, just as we are. He isn’t standing aloof, yelling at us to climb out of our pits and clean ourselves up so we can be worthy of Him. He is wading waist-deep into the muck of life, weeping with the broken, rescuing the lost, and healing the sick.”
Jesus didn’t sacrifice His life for you and me just so that we could feel hindered and alone in our attempts to work to become “right with God.” Jesus wasn’t tortured and hung on the cross so that I would feel as though I would finally be truly loved, forgiven, and cherished once I had my life together.
That’s just not how it works.
Once I truly entered the presence of Jesus, one thing became clear: I am loved as I am.
I had the order all wrong. We don’t somehow earn our salvation by living a sin-free life full of good works and then get to experience Jesus and all that He has to offer.
Jesus was reaching out to me in my darkest times, loving me in the midst of the pit I was in. He meets us exactly where we are. Instead of scorning us and looking down on us, He wants to pick us up off of our feet, scrape off the dirt, and carry us in His loving arms. He wants us to walk with Him out of the deep pit that we found ourselves in.
And that’s not the end of it.
He wants us to continue walking straight out of the darkness, and He wants us to grow closer to Him.
Judah Smith says it perfectly in his book “Jesus Is __”:
“Get to know Him yourself, and let the goodness of God change you from the inside out.”
We don’t transform ourselves so that we may experience the love of God. We experience the love of God first and that same love transforms us.
The day I saw Jesus, I fell in love. The lies that had held me down shattered like glass, and I started a true relationship with Jesus and saw quickly how He was transforming my heart.
Every day I get to walk with God, and I know that He will never forsake me. Every day I am reminded of the truth and the lies of working for salvation will never have power over me again.
The day I saw Jesus, I experienced a love like no other.
To read more from Julie, you can follow her blog here.