Over the last week I've been sharing my story in a linear kind of way. If I could go back and do it over again, I'd probably do it differently. It's been exhausting and it's been driving me crazy but I wanted to share where I am coming from in this series and I wanted to share a story that has been in my heart for awhile now, just waiting for the right moment to come out. I guess this was it.
God has done so much in my heart - so much healing and restoring. When I look back to where I was a few years ago to where I am now the difference is huge. Daniel and I are in a much better place in our marriage, I am in a healthier place personally and I can confidently say that God has brought so much beauty out of the ashes of the past few years.
Last weekend I brought in some stories from the Bible that I thought connected with my story and I have been looking forward to writing about Abraham all week long because I love his story so much.
When I was in my early twenties, (pregnant with my third!) participating in the Bible Study "Believing God" I cam across this verse:
"For what does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.' " Romans 4:3 ESV
What was it that was counted as righteousness? It was his faith. Not his obedience.
Here is another verse that I always think of in connection with the one above:
"All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." Isaiah 64:6 NIV
I think it's easy, when we have gone through (or are currently in) a season where we have been far away from God or when we are keenly aware that we are a million miles away from where we think we should be, to believe that God is somehow repulsed by us, that he doesn't love us the way he used to or the way we wish he would. That he looks down his nose at us and says who are you again and what exactly do you think you're doing here? I am here to testify that this is just not true.
These are some verses from Romans 4 in The Message translation that I wanted to share. I know it's kind of a lot but every phrase is precious to me:
We call Abraham “father”
not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint,
but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody.
Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture,
God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”?
Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father
because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do:
raise the dead to life,
with a word make something out of nothing.
When everything was hopeless,
Abraham believed anyway,
deciding to live
not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do
but on what God said he would do.
And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples.
God himself said to him,
“You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless.
This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.”
Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up.
He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise
asking cautiously skeptical questions.
He plunged into the promise and came up strong,
ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said.
That’s why it is said,
“Abraham was declared fit before God
by trusting God to set him right.”
But it’s not just Abraham; it’s also us!
The same thing gets said about us
when we embrace and believe the One
who brought Jesus to life
when the conditions were equally hopeless.
The sacrificed Jesus made us fit for God,
set us right with God. Romans 4:17-25
Abraham waited on God to fulfill his Highly Unlikely Promise for a Really Long Time. But the promise, and the timing of it's fulfillment had nothing to do with Abraham's obedience and everything to do with God's faithfulness. Abraham wasn't "made fit" by his perfect record he was "declared fit before God by trusting God to set him right." That is right where I need to land when I'm tossed by waves of shame and doubt.
It can be easy to think that because our lives are more or less obviously a mess right now that we are more or less acceptable to God. But here is the truth that I want you to hear right now: God doesn't think about you in those categories. We are all of us a mess before God. All Of Us. With God there is no distinction. The churchy lady with her prim pride and the woman at the back who can't tell up from down. He cherishes them both. He cherished me when I was both. When I was the snobby holier-than-thou-girl he showed me mercy and taught me some humility, when I was the mess of a woman willfully going directly against his will for my life he showed me his steadfast lovingkindness and hedged me in. He loved me in both of those moments with no distinction. I believe he has allowed me to go through seasons of wandering so that I can experience the depth of his forgiveness and unconditional nature of his love for me.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
I believe that God sees me as his precious child, His beautiful creation. I believe that He sees who I was meant to be when He was carefully knitting me together in my mother's womb. I believe that He sees me as I truly am, as perfect as I will one day be. I believe that He sees me clothed in the wedding gown of grace. I want to see myself the way my Father God sees me. I want to see myself and everyone around me with His eyes of love and compassion.
I have found a lot of healing and freedom in the path of obedience but only after I let go of it as my identity.