Friday, June 04, 2010

A Long Time Coming, Part Four

The process of sharing all that has been going on in our lives with our friends has been tough and wonderful.  It’s just blown me away to see the beauty of the body of Christ.  The people we know have been vessels of God’s grace and love to us in ways we never could have imagined.

I was having an email conversation with one of my college roommates and she told me how refreshing and encouraging authenticity is, the willingness to be real with your stuff.   She shared about something she had been struggling with for a long time and finally started telling people.  She noticed that not only was it was freeing to not have a secret, but it was encouraging to get support. 

What a huge revelation that is.  Fear and shame keep us from opening up about what is going on in our lives. Somewhere along the way, I decided that I had to just do it all right and be perfect then God would bless me.  But once we put it out there it doesn’t have a hold over us.  We don’t have to keep it hidden.  And there is great freedom and healing in that.

When I keep my struggles to myself I am underestimating the power of the Holy Spirit to work in my life.  He can change me.  He is with me.  Through some of the tough times I have faced over the past few months, I have had some of the sweetest times of fellowship with the Lord.  I’ve never needed Him like I do now.  I’ve never clung to His word like I have.  Again, I don’t want to paint a totally rosy picture, but I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

If I try to keep my struggles under wraps, I am also underestimating God’s people.  It’s scary putting my struggles out there because of the possibility of people judging me.   And honestly, some people have.  But by far, most of our Christian friends and family have done nothing but shower God’s love and grace on us.  What a shame to suffer alone when God has given us a network of support full of love, grace and prayers. 

God no doubt uses tough times to make us like Him.  He has shown me so much over these past months.  I finally finished a book on Paul and came upon this gem,

“The celebrated Scottish preacher, James Stewart, made a statement that is also challenging:

‘It is always upon human weakness and humiliation, not human strength and confidence, that God chooses to build His Kingdom; and that He can use us not merely in spite of our ordinariness and helplessness and disqualifying infirmities, but precisely because of them.’

That’s a thrilling discovery to make.  It transforms our mental attitude toward our circumstances.  Let’s pause long enough here to consider this principle in all seriousness.  Your humiliations, your struggles, your battles, your weaknesses, even your so-called “disqualifying” infirmities are precisely what make you effective.  I would go further and say they represent the stuff of greatness.  Once you are convinced of your own weakness and no longer trying to hide it, you embrace the power of Christ.” 

Paul, Charles Swindoll page 241

Is there a better picture of the gospel than coming forward expecting what you deserve; punishment and judgment and instead receiving love and grace?  That is the heart of the gospel.  It’s what Jesus did for us on the cross.  It’s what the church preaches and should practice to those around us.  It’s how we need to live as husbands, wives, parents, and friends.  Think of the impact of all Christians living that way. 

I know the impact in my own life.  Our church and the mission organization we work for whole heartedly exemplified the gospel to us.  They loved and cared for us in difficult times. When we expected judgment, they offered grace.  I have never experienced that kind of gospel.  It’s totally amazing.  Now it’s my job to give it.  I don’t want to expect perfection from people (husband, kids, church people) and punish them when they mess up,  I want to offer grace and forgiveness.   I want everyone to see and experience the beauty of Christ and His church the way He meant it to be.  That’s the gospel.

Here’s a word you can take to heart and depend on:  Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.  I’m proof -  Public Sinner Number One – of someone who could never have made it apart from sheer mercy.  And now he shows me off – evidence of his endless patience – to those who are right on the edge of trusting him forever.  Deep honor and bright Glory to the King of All Time – one God, Immortal, Invisible, ever and always.   Oh, yes!  1 Timothy 1:15-17, The Message


mamabear said...

Beautiful job again, Michelle. I will use some of the quotes to help my husband, who is discouraged by job loss and the economy.

Thank you!

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