Wednesday, March 12, 2014

50 Shades of Gray and then some... #50Shades

Twenty-two years ago this month I suffered my first miscarriage. I didn't know it at the time, but it turned out to be a huge turning point in my life, and a bookended on the part of my life I lived apart from Christ.

I had gotten married just ten months before, but I had been trying desperately to get pregnant for over a year. The child I had aborted two and a half years before that had created a hole in my heart that I was trying so very hard to fill.

I was celebrating my 22nd birthday on a Friday at Disneyland the day the bleeding started. I was very irregular in my cycles so I thought it was just the unfortunate arrival of an unexpected visitor. The next day I spent resting as the bleeding got heavier and more uncomfortable, but on Sunday I got up and got dressed because Neal and I had committed to attend the couple's wedding shower of one of his good friends. Within a short while after our arrival my pain and bleeding was so severe that Neal actually had to carry me out of the party and drive me home.

I suffered through the night and made an appointment to see a doctor on Monday afternoon. Whether it was grace or providence, I do not know, that had me laying in the office of a woman doctor who was on call that afternoon. I am to this day thankful that it was a woman doctor because I felt a level of sensitivity from her as she examined me and told me that I was in the final stages of a miscarriage.

"It's not your fault, it's not your fault," she said repeatedly. "It just happens."

Her words were cold comfort, but I appreciated the effort just the same. In that moment as I gathered myself together and prepared to leave the doctor's office, an unquestionable certainty filled me, mind body and soul. I knew she told me it was nothing I had done, but to the very depth of myself I knew she was wrong. This was my justice. This was what I deserved. God, I was certain, was paying me back for the sin that I hidden so deeply in my heart.

I had killed my child, and now he took another one away. I had aborted my first pregnancy when I was nineteen, and now He took this baby from me on my 22nd birthday. I was destroyed.

What made matters worse was it was a secret. I had lied and kept the truth from the father of both my children. My new husband had no idea that I had lied to him about aborting our first baby, and he had no understanding of why I was so desperate to have another. I couldn't even drive myself home from the doctor that day. I felt guilt, shame, pain, and I believed with my whole heart I deserved exactly what I had received. God had brought down the hammer, and rightly so.

I think back about that girl and my heart breaks for her. She really had no concept of who God was. Her belief and image of an angry, punishing being was so real, but so completely inaccurate. I am so grateful that God was swift in that time of utter brokenness to send me into the path of people who would correct my errant understanding of who God was. Someone took me to the foot of the cross, and in my muck and mire and shattered spirit, they bent with me there and explained the truth about Jesus.

They told me about Jesus, the very Son of God, who loved me so much he came to earth and gave up His majesty to live life as a man so He could conquer the sin and darkness that so easily entangled me. They told me about a Father God who loved me so much He was willing to crucify that perfect, beloved Son to pay the penalty of death that I so completely deserved. My soul could scarcely comprehend the magnitude of grace... it was amazing.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now was found. Was blind but then I did see.

It's a compelling moment to revisit, and one that as the years went by I slowly seemed to forget. For as the years passed I exchanged this sold out amazement, of a girl undeservedly rescued, awed by the grace of God and the power of forgiveness and exchanged it for a slowly built wall of self-righteousness and works. Forgetting the miracle I had been given, I began to actually think I was somehow impacting God - impressing or pleasing Him with my, "my," gifts and talents and works, rather than living in the awareness of how His finished work had impacted me. How it had changed me. How it had changed my whole world. I just simply seemed to forget.

The farther I walked away from those first days, the more black and white the world seemed to become, until one day everything was black and white, right or wrong, of God or of the devil - and I had crowned myself the expert of it all. Life was clear to me, I knew everything I needed to know, and could proclaim judgment like God Himself, and often did. There were NO gray areas.

But these past few years God has been dealing with me and the wall that I'd built. I didn't really realize that it had completely obscured the cross, but it also hid the truth about the woman that had bent her knee there in total recognition of her need for her salvation and her Savior. Now make no mistake, God loves each of the women that I was on either side of the wall equally. But just as He was not willing to leave me broken, neither was He willing to leave me self-made. He needed both of me to open my eyes and recognize my need of the Savior. We both needed to be amazed. And as God has slowly and systematically undone my wall of works and self-righteousness, and removed the obstacle in my view of the cross, I am amazed again, and I do remember the God who loves sinners, so much so that He was willing to lay down His life to rescue us from the punishment we all so completely deserve.

With the wall down further, my view less obscured, as I look around, I realize it is better that I see the world around me not in black and white, but in all the shades of gray that do not see the reality as clearly as I'd thought. Don't misunderstand me, I DO believe the world is "black and white." There is a clear right and wrong in all things. Morals are absolute. But what I recognize now is that I am an expert in none of it.

God alone belongs on the throne. He is the only one who absolutely sees the black and white, and it's not just ok that I see things in 50 shades of gray, but it is better that I see the world around me in 50 shades of GRACE. Whatever I may know, it will never compare to what I don't. The heart, the hurt, the motive of another, I cannot comprehend the how or why of another's struggle, only God can do that. Only He sees evreything, He alone is the omniscient One.

There was an incredible penalty paid to ransom me from myself. God thought I was worth it. I wasn't, at least not until He said I was. And as I look around I have a renewed compulsion in my heart to reach out to the lost. Maybe they are feeling broken, or maybe they feel self-made, either way, if they don't have Jesus as their Savior, they need Him. But I also feel compelled to remind those of us who have encountered Him at the cross not to forget, we've done Him no favor and we can never do Him any service or good that would cause Him to love us one ounce more than He did when we came to Him full of sin and need. He loved us at our worst first, and He loved us with His everything. It is incomprehensible this grace, this Amazing Grace.

We need to hold onto it, to remember who we are and from whence we came. And we need to let it go, we need to let it flow into the lives of those around us - the backslidden, the legalist, the heathen, the rebel. We need to look at them all with 50 shades of grace and then some. If they don't know the Lord they need to, and we need to share the hope we have. And if they do know Him they need to never forget that the reality is it's all about Jesus anyway. Let's stop being impressed with ourselves and make sure that the One on the throne is the only One qualified to be there.

I want to share this song below, "Rooftops" by Jesus Culture, because I think it captures the heart of who I was at the cross. I wanted to tell the whole world about what Christ had done for me. And now as He unpacks the religion I built over the two decades, it's who I believe He wants me to be again,it's who I should have always been: the one who will proclaim Him, His goodness and His grace...

Here I am before you
Falling in love and seeking your truth
Knowing that your perfect grace
Has brought me to this place
Because of you I freely live
My life to you, oh God, I give

So I stand before You God
I lift my voice because you set me free

So I shout out your name from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am yours