I didn't come to Christ like I was doing Him a favor. On the contrary, I came to Him devastated and broken, completely aware of the si8n and shame in my life and desperately aware of my need for a Savior to pull me out of the much and mud that was my existence. When the "Lifter of my head" drew my eyes upward to the cross of Christ and all He had done for me I experienced a level of gratitude that I am hard pressed to find the words to describe. The grace of God radically and completely changed my life. It changed me.
I've been thinking back a lot on that girl. I can see her standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes when a song called "Free" by Steven Curtis Chapman began to blare through the house...
"And with repentance in his voice he told me of his tragic choice
That led him to this place where he must pay the price
But then his voice grew strong as he began to tell
About the One he said had rescued him from hell, he said...
I'm free, yeah, oh, I have been forgiven
God's love has taken off my chains and given me these wings
And I'm free, yeah, yeah, and the freedom I've been given
Is something that not even death can take away from me
Because I'm free
Jesus set me free"
A song about a convicted criminal waiting on death row for his punishment literally drove me to my knees right there in my kitchen, crying out in gratitude. I was a murderer too, I'd killed my own child through abortion, and although it wasn't a criminal offense, I have lived with the certainty of my condemnation, and then.... Jesus set me free.
And I knew, KNEW, to the depth of my very being that my freedom had come at great cost. I had looked upon the cross and I understood His suffering, the passion of Christ, was truly at my hands. And I was grateful.
I don't know when it happened exactly, somewhere along the line my knowledge of that grace, it's power, it's blessing and it's cost faded back into a memory, and somewhere I started to live like I had done something for Christ, rather than like He had done something for me, something I did not deserve and never could earn.
In the beginning I wanted to change my life out of a grateful heart. I wanted to live for Him, and live a righteous life BECAUSE of what He had done for me. But somewhere along the line I think I actually removed the cross from the equation. Instead of recognizing the mercy and grace, the unmerited favor and free gift out of the goodness of the Giver's heart, I got caught up in some perceived goodness of my own. I looked around and wondered why other people weren't living the same kind of life I was "for Christ." And I judged people. Not just inside the "body," but outside the body too. It wasn't a willful decision, but one I slowly slipped into, losing love for others with every step further.
I don't know exactly when or how, but I exchanged my "grace card" to become a "card carrying" legalist instead, and it wasn't just how I lived my own life, but it was an expectation I put on others. And I can't help but realize, because of it, people had to have stopped seeing Jesus in me-- or worse, the me they saw, must have made them not want to look toward Jesus at all. How the thought of that breaks my heart.
There is another line from another Steven Curtis Chapman song that has been resonating in my mind and heart. In the song "Remember Your Chains," Chapman sings these lyrics:
"There's no one more thankful to sit at the table
Than the one who best remembers hunger's pain
And no heart loves greater than the one that is able
To recall the time when all it knew was the shame"
God forgive me, I had forgotten. I had forgotten what it was to remember "hunger's pain" and the sea of shame that rightfully consumed me before I stood at the cross of Christ, where His blood flowed down and covered my sin... healed my heart... gave me a hope greater than myself... a blessed assurance that what He did for me was everything, and it was enough.
I don't know how I forgot, but I did. And I don't want to ever forget again.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper.
He will spare the poor and needy,
And will save the souls of the needy.
He will redeem their life from oppression and violence;
And precious shall be their blood in His sight.
Here are both the songs referenced above if you're interested.