23: Who Jesus Says We Are: Redeemed

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAt least twenty of my twenty-three years have been spent going to church. I knew about Jesus from the time I was a toddler, and gave him my heart at the tender age of five. Unlike so many millennials, I never looked back or considered taking a different path. And I was good. I never got in trouble at school, was part of lots of extracurricular activities, sang solos at church, watched the babies in the nursery, didn't go to parties, didn't have sex, and didn't take part in anything that was illegal. In 2009, I graduated from high school and immediately went to a small liberal arts Bible college an hour away from my hometown. I was so good. I don't tell you those pieces of my story to puff myself up in any way, but just to let you know that on the outside, I'm a champion at looking like I've got it all together. I've even managed to convince myself a time or two by actively ignoring the upheaval and mess behind the scenes.

Yeah, I said it. I am a mess. If you need proof, see here, here, and here.

What I failed to mention in that tiny paragraph is that even though I might look good on the outside, I miss the mark of righteousness on a daily basis.

I have lied, cheated, stolen, abused, gossiped, taken for granted, and wasted.

I have chosen anxiety when offered peace, and I have chosen depression, self-loathing, and self-pity when offered joy.

In my haste to be loved by you, I have said thank you, but no thank you to the Lover of my soul.

If you've spent your life as a good girl, I know that you get this. But maybe you haven't spent your life as a good girl. Maybe you've spent your time living in what might be seen as rebellion. Maybe you've made some bad choices, and even though those things seemed to be fun at the time, you're wondering now if someone could ever love you or see you as a whole person. Maybe you bear the weight of those decisions, and you wonder how you can keep carrying it alone. Maybe it was back in high school and college, or maybe it was last week.

Regardless of what sort of circumstances you've come from or are facing today, we all bend under the heaviness of this life. We are, each of us, prone to wander.

We search for quick solutions, hasty cover-ups in lieu of turning towards the patiently wooing Savior. We've been doing it since the dawn of time.

What I find so amazing about the Garden narrative is God's response to Adam and Eve's sin. When the Almighty enters the Garden, He knows exactly what has taken place even before man and woman admit their wrongdoing. He knows exactly where they are, and instead of storming in to shout, He quietly asks a question: where are you? 

Where are you? I love you. I want to be with you. 

See, He knew when He created us that we would fall short. And yet, He infinitely loves and relentlessly pursues our hearts.

He knew when He created us that He would send Christ to hit the mark in our stead.

He lived a perfect life and died so I wouldn't have to. He made a way for me to return to the Father.

Redemption has always been at work.

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And when we ask, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us.

That heaviness we carry? We are free to exchange it for His grace.

I got to help lead a girl to Christ in our church's youth group last night. Our pastor had given the salvation message and read about taking up our crosses daily to follow Christ. I told her that sometimes daily is an understatement. In fact, most days I have to take up my cross at least hourly.

I told her how much this good girl who has been reared inside the walls of a church needs Jesus every minute of every day, and how Jesus is so faithful to meet me -- even in my pain. Even in the middle of the messes I make when I make the wrong decisions. Even in the messes that other people make that may very well alter the course of my life.

I told her that He is the Redeemer, and that even though those painful parts of the story are always going to be there, they have been made new. They have been healed. And even though we don't know or understand it at the time, He is always preparing us for something beautiful.

 

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The Conversation Starts Here: 

How have you seen Jesus redeem the broken pieces of your testimony?

How can I pray for you today?

{Leave your questions + answers + thoughts in the comments below.}

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Some Fine Print:

This is the twenty-third of thirty-one installments to be posted throughout the month of October. To view the entire table of contents as it is made available, click here. You can receive the entire series in your inbox for free by subscribing via email (no spam, just my heart by way of weblog). Please feel free to pass these words along to a friend. Sharing is caring!

meditations on the symmetry of grace.

Jeff Goins says that social networking is much more than a conversation -- it is an opportunity to build something new. I'm trying hard to learn. But last week, another ugly headline shows up in my feed, which more often than not serves as a constant reminder of depravity rather than inspiration. A little boy bullied, no more an hour from my hometown; told that he is no good because he favors this cartoon over that one. And my heart gets heavy, because I've seen how those stories play out. I marvel when someone comments and grossly chalks it up to survival of the fittest, as if to say that the world would be better off without this boy and his perceived weakness. They say that at the end of the day, we're fallen and we can't change it. They say to try to blaze a new trail will inevitably lead to more hurt. I quietly tried to ease my acid stomach, fire and frustration rising in my gut. And I tried to shake off the feelings of responsibility, knowing that I contribute to and reinforce this kind of thinking every time the weird kid talks to me at Bible study.

Maybe I'm writing this because I'm tired of being fallen. Maybe I'm writing this to own up to all the excuses I've made.

As we traversed through the foggy darkness towards the comfort and warmth of home, my husband and I speak of redemption and light versus dark. Sunday morning, words of redemption and identity fill up a screen and flood through speakers. The soul inside whispered amen again and again.

Redemption: the act of purchasing something with the intention of setting it free. 

Frequently, I hearken back to the day when Professor Wanner shifted the cosmos of my life in fifty short minutes with his talk on redemption, and how, really, grace is symmetrical. 

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The whole of creation was redeemed through Christ's death and resurrection. Scripture says that we were purchased at a high cost. But the freedom song does not end there. True freedom is to fully live out our purpose. 

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When God said "let us make man in our image," He lovingly bestowed on humanity the ability and responsibility to take part in creation. It gave Him pleasure to allow us to share in the shaping of culture by expanding the kingdom-garden. Sometimes we look at culture as an ugly green monster that we must fight to overcome, rather than what it truly is: the overflow of our own hearts. We spend all of our time talking about how dark it is instead of assuming our true identity and purpose, which is to say let there be light. 

Maybe I'm writing this because I'm tired of a life spent basking in the darkness. Maybe I miss life with Him in the garden.

Let there be light in my thinking, let there be light in the words that I speak and the words that leap across this page. Let there be light in the way that I treat my husband and our families and friends. Let there be light in the way that I treat the girl at Starbucks who makes my coffee in the morning. Let there be light in the way I prepare for and raise my someday babies, who will, in turn, go forth and shape culture. Let there be light.

I am responsible for changing culture, and I have to start with myself. And knowing who I am begins with knowing who He is. There is no mystery or trickery to it. Knowing Him is never a game of hide and seek. The torn veil gave me access. The plan is outlined in His Word: to draw us to Himself, for His glory to be unleashed upon the earth in and through our lives.

It begins with believing what He says about me: that I am redeemed and restored. No longer am I a slave to the darkness. I am the vessel that God, in His infinite grace and mercy, chooses to use to make His appeal -- a minister of reconciliation.

It begins with remembering that the head of the snake has been crushed. The source of all my doubt, he slyly concocted a sweet recipe for my anxiety: can I really trust what God says? How great the lengths Christ went to in order to redeem that which had been lost. How unimaginable the depth of despair as He turned His face away so that one day we might see Him for who He is.

We cannot possibly understand who we are until we begin to grasp who He is.

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He could have just as easily done without me and my weakness. But in His grace, He chose me. He ran after me, relentlessly declaring love. Never ceasing for a moment to say remember, my love, who I created you to be.

 

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