I am learning to overcome a natural tendency toward absentmindedness. This tendency is usually triggered by worry, agitation, stress — the cure for these being, of course, the peace of Jesus Christ. Suffice it to say I have not always practiced this peace, and the Lord has bailed me out of more scrapes than I can count. Scrapes that were almost invariably my fault. The truth that continues to astound me is that God doesn’t seem to care if the situation is my fault or not. He has always saved me out of my troubles.
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” — Psalm 34:6
“Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.” — Psalm 107:13
I call this grace.
God has never ignored my prayers or left my needs unmet so I would learn a lesson. According to scripture, God seems to regard His Word as the best teacher. “The school of hard knocks” is not His best for us. Psalm 55:22 (NIV) says that God “will never let the righteous fall.”
Psalm 91:14-16 is one of my favorite scriptures on salvation. It carries such a strong sense of His devotion to us. I believe that until we understand this devotion — this covenant love — we aren’t going to comprehend much of what salvation really means for us who believe in Christ. Because He loves us, it is SAFE to take Him at His word and expect Him to come through for us. A God who is Love is no breaker of promises.
Some time ago, as I thought back and forth along these lines, weighing may own mistakes and inadequacies against what I knew to be true of God’s mercy and grace, I yet found myself losing faith that God’s equanimity would long tolerate my own particular brand of stupidity. I could write a list, if I cared to, of all the things I’ve done and habits I’ve cultivated over the years that I’m sorry for. It would be a mile wide and about ten miles long.
But God doesn’t want any of us to look back. In fact, He doesn’t want us looking any direction except directly at Jesus. So at the culmination of this time of searching for God’s hand in my circumstances, Jesus met me in a way that made every trouble seem so small. It was at a church service of some kind. All of a sudden He was more huge than anything else I could conceive. It was His love that amazed me so much. He communicated to me — as much as I could take in — the measure of His delight in each one of us. In me. In you. In His own Father and His own Holy Spirit. Somehow, in the mind of Love, we are all in there together, wrapped up in a Heart larger than the span of all the galaxies.
Even now it makes me wonder how many of our ambitions (to “make something” of ourselves) are just empty fantasies. No matter how good or selfless you or I could ever become, could we ever live up to a worthiness of this kind of love? The image of myself which has haunted me all my life — a self who is beautiful and flawless, miraculously without all those characteristics I’ve always tried to hide — this self I once imagined to be worthy of Christ’s love — even she is not worthy of His lavish affection. The thought is both awe-inspiring and freeing; and as it came to me I was possessed of a kind of quietness. I knew that if none of my efforts to become more ever succeeded, I could still count on God’s love. His is ever faithful to save.
Jesus, without being there in person, somehow made Himself clearly visible to me in that moment. And I said this to Him: what about self-improvement? What about all I’m trying to accomplish? Your love is so much bigger than all of it. Where does that leave me?
His answer went something like this. “You will improve. But that’s not the point. The point is that you experience my saving love at every stage of your growth.”
So whether I remain a clumsy clown in this business of life, or end up the dignified, seasoned lady-warrior of God I always dreamed I would be — there will never come a time when I do not need to the Lord to save me. What a beautiful thought. We shouldn’t be seeking independence, because that is self-dependence. To bank on self is to set yourself up to fail. Instead, we must depend on God. We must count on His love to save us, even at times when we think we don’t need saving.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 makes it plain that all good works and virtue of character are empty and meaningless without love. God’s love casts all other things into perspective. Without it, we’re lost. With it, we can do, be, and receive anything good, whether great or small.
Top photo by Jason Betz for http://www.unsplash.com
Second photo by NASA on http://www.unsplash.com
Third photo by Liane Metzler for http://www.unsplash.com