Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Grace is the Theme

Sometimes I recognize that God is weaving together a theme in my life. Through Bible studies, Bible readings, articles, devotionals, conversations, books and such that I come into contact with, everything seems to be coordinated with a central theme. There is no question that God is trying to speak. Early this year it became quite obvious that the theme I would claim as mine for 2011 is "Grace."

In preparation to share my testimony in January, I kept peeling away layers and layers of what God had done in my life and the reason for the hope that is in me. I began a Bible study around that same time called Walking in Grace. As I was working through that book and writing out my testimony I came to this conclusion: the reason for the hope that is in me can be summed up in one word-- Grace.

I happened upon this as I prepared my testimony and I know it wasn't by chance:

Truth #1:
The spiritual life which I have is not my own. I did not induce it, and I cannot maintain it. It is only and solely the work of Christ. It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me. My whole life is His alone." John Owen

Well, there you have it folks. I didn't create it, I don't sustain it and I certainly don't deserve it--my relationship with The Father is purely his doing and upkeeping. Any efforts or desire that comes from me toward the cultivation of this relationship is not because I am "so good," it's because He makes it happen.

The next thing this theme of grace presented to me is that I am a works-happy Christian. Funny, because I've almost prided (sick) myself in the fact that I know I can't earn my way into heaven. I grew up being taught that. I grew up being taught who did think they could earn their way there. Silly people...

Well, turns out I have been one of them. Constantly searching for the "that thing" I am supposed to be doing that will please God and make him love me more. When the one thing I am doing doesn't feel like enough or isn't going the way I thought it should, I tend to start something else and hope that it will bring make me feel significant. Many times I have created a sort-of checklist of things that I need to do to keep in good standing with God. To make him "smile down on me." Which leads to...

Truth #2
There is nothing I can do to make God love me more. Or less.

He is not happier with me when I am doing really special stuff and being dedicated to my study than he was when I went a year without praying and lived in complete and deliberate sinfulness.

Amazing grace? That concept is starting to make a little more sense to me now. It seems weird to me that I have been taught about grace my enitre life but yet I am just now beginning to grasp it a teeny tiny bit. I mean, I have heard everything that I am typing before. I heard it, but I just didn't get it.

My mom has been reading a book called Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel and just hearing her recount some of the stuff in that book it makes me realize that from a very early age we are teaching our kids that the love we recieve is in direct proportion to our obedience. That is not perhaps the intention, I know I certainly didn't purposely impose this way of thinking on my son. The way we live just seeps into their hearts. Last night I asked him if he thought God loved Jonah or the Ninevites more, or did He love them the same. Without pause, "Loves Jonah more. Becuause he isn't evil."

Whoops. Sorry,little guy.

Truth #3
I'm evil and my son is, too.

We really are inherently evil and actually there is nothing we can do without at least a tiny smidgen of pride welling up in us. Ever since I watched a Friends episode nearly a decade ago that posed the question "Is there such thing as a self-less good deed?" I have been tormented by the thought that I might never actually be able to do something "good" without having some self-centeredness mixed in. I have come to the conclusion that I won't. Ever. It's just who I am. It's who we all are. Sometimes the "self" will be larger than other times, but it will always be there, lurking around.

Truth #4
As far away as I run, God can run infinetely farther. He can also have me swallowed up by a big fish.

Here is a dialogue from one of my favorite movies...

George: Michael's chasing Kimmy?
Julianne: Yes!
George: You're chasing Michael?
Julianne: YES!
George: Who's chasing you... nobody! Get it?

If you've seen the movie, My Best Friend's Wedding, you know that Julianne had just kissed her best friend, unknowingly in front of his bride-to-be. The bride of course was upset, ran off and the chase ensued. But as Julianne's friend pointed out to her afterward, no one had been chasing her.

I know I have felt like this in my life. I have felt like no one is chasing after me but I am forever chasing. Chasing after stuff, material things. Chasing after relationships that I thought could give more meaning to my life. Chasing after roles and responsibilities that could provide significance in my life. Sadly, I have never been able to reach anything that I am chasing. It's almost like chasing the wind...

Ecclesiates 2: 4-11
4I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

Meaningless. Life is a meaningless chase. At least it was for me, until I realized that absolutely, 100% there is somebody chasing after me. His name is Jesus Christ. He pursues the wicked, the evil, the mean, the nasty, the self-centered and he chases them down because he LOVES them. He loves me. He loves a loser. But he will let the loser fall on her face. Only then will she stop long enough to look away from what she's been chasing to see realize there is someone chasing her. Someone who can provide meaning. Significance. Affection.

Truth #5
Grace is not the theme of my year. It is the theme of my life.

I guess the reason I never paid much attention to grace, is because I thought that it happened in the moment of my salvation and then that was pretty much it. Wow, that was a huge mistake. I need God's grace just as much today as I did that day, if not more so. We all do. Just to make it through one day--one hour--without being totally consumed, grace has to be there.

I highly recommend Tullian Tchividjian's book, Surprised by Grace. It was a huge help to me in understanding what grace has to do with me today and every day. It provides an in-depth look at the book of Jonah and God's relentless pursuit of rebels.


  1. GOOD stuff!!! Boy, can I relate. And, I often think about that episode of FRIENDS also. Pretty insightful.

  2. Great post, Keelie. What an honest and wise summary of how any of us can be His....grace and grace alone. In the midst of our best efforts and worst failures, it's grace. Blessings.