I sat on a friend’s couch, listening to her share about her week. We’ll call her Jane (get it, like Jane Doe). She is a woman overcoming a life of the slavery of pleasing others. I say it like this because it really is bondage when our lives are plagued with the feeling that the opinions of others defines us, or that we must live in such a way that wins everyone’s approval. It’s a violent octopus whose tentacles are conflict-avoiding, shame, dishonesty, insecurity, and behavior-modification (and maybe a few more that aren’t coming to mind right this second). I love to listen to her because I used to be her. I understand, and can offer wisdom I learned the hard way.
She tells me about a time recently, when she found herself lying to people (in minor ways, but lying none-the-less), simply so she wouldn’t say something she didn’t think they wanted to hear. This story ends well, though, because upon realizing it, she confessed it to God, and rose up without shame, knowing that conviction is not the same thing as condemnation in the Kingdom of heaven. She is learning that you can see your sin for what it is, and see His forgiveness shining brighter. My friend even had the courage to call and confess to the recipients of her “white” lies. This is monumental growth for a woman who has felt crippled by shame in the past.
I smiled from ear to ear! This is the exact reason we have been getting together. Because I want to see the same victories in Jane’s life that I’ve experienced in my own, as I navigated very similar struggles when I was her age, and have found the victory that comes from full acceptance of my identity as one whose sin was abolished at the cross, and who was made intentionally, purposefully, and perfectly (in His estimation) by the Master Craftsman.
She looked at me, with joy gleaming, recognizing the liberty that has just come to her, through being able to both acknowledge her sin, and also to do it without berating herself with shame… “Does this just keep getting easier?” she asked. “I remembered your analogy of God still loving me, even when I have my hand in the cookie jar,” she continued, “and how God was still smiling at me, and delighting in me, even in the moment I was sinning.”
I smiled at her, too. “Yes! It does keep getting easier! A lot of stuff does. It gets easier to confess and forgive yourself. It gets easier not to focus so much on yourself, so you can love the world around you better, by turning your attention to others. It gets easier to teach others about grace and humility. Like my kids, when I’ve sinned against them, and can easily apologize, they see a woman who has the humility to acknowledge my wrong, but also one who understands grace and has forgiven herself, as well. And it’s easier to forgive others, for all the same reasons. This newfound freedom is a leaf growing off the root of all we’ve been working through. The root is your performance-based understanding of Christianity. As you overcome that, you overcome all the things attached to it. When we realize we are fully approved by God, whether we get it right or wrong, it changes everything…
I often think of David, after sleeping with Bathsheba and killing Uriah. His bastard child dies, and he immediately gets up from his prostrated position. He washes up and gets some food. He was laying on the ground, begging for mercy, when his child was sick and dying. But when the child dies, he was able to get up and move on because he had already forgiven himself. Because he understood God’s grace, so he was able to show himself grace, as well.”
(For those who don’t know the story, you can find it in 2 Samuel 11 and 12).
Our conversation continued, but out of all the things we talked about, that was the real reason I came, and keep coming (though it’s more often at my house than her’s). I showed up because her and I need each other. We are connected at the roots. She needs me to keep pointing the lamppost down the path for her. And I need her to cheer me on, as the finish line of this book-writing endeavor seems so close, yet so far, at the same time. She is reminding me why I’ve spent the last half-decade of my life typing words until my hands feel arthritic… because I can only sit in so many living rooms, but a book can sit on a million shelves, or bedside tables in a million houses, and the same story of grace and forgiveness that is helping Jane overcome, the one that I lived out as God taught me about grace, could bring the same joy and freedom and grace-embracing to many more souls who are trying to navigate the chaos of this side of eternity, in bodies bent towards rebellion against the God who loves and created them.
So I continue to fight. I read once that “writing a book is war”. I agree. Jane’s story mingled with my story keeps my fingers dancing on keys, and my soul from atrophy and surrender. Because if I could just leave this one legacy, long after they throw a stone monument over my burial plot, it’d be a legacy of Grace. I just want people to know Jesus and His magnificent Grace. Grace changes everything!