“For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is a gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we say we may have earned- our degree, our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite, and a good night’s sleep- all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. “If we but turn to God'” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.” My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
I have the head knowledge but the trickle down is stopped up by a huge a dam known as Bad Mood. I know I am supposed to be kind, patient and ever-forgiving. But the words coming out of my mouth could snap a Redwood in half. I have a boiling stew in the pit of my stomach and the word vomit can’t be stopped. How is it I can tell myself over and over again “don’t say that” “don’t say that” yet end up saying something ten times more hurtful. I might be possessed. You would have to ask my husband or my mother if my head spins around at an unnatural angle. I don’t want to know their answer.
How is it that my emotions and my moods can overpower my intelligence and desire to be full of grace. How is it that the devil wins when I belong to Him. If I were to enumerate an “I Struggle” list, controlling my words would probably take the number one spot.
I find myself in a spiritual conundrum that Paul validated in his own life when he said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” So, this is my out right? Even Paul struggled! I have grace, whew, I guess I’ll keep rolling my eyes and spitting out words of fire. NO. There’s more.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
My words are reflecting anger and, ironically, I would never consider myself an angry person. What is in my heart that is debuting itself through my mouth? Who do I want to please: myself and my selfish desires to be right or my saving Father. Of course, that’s an easy answer but next time when the background music to Scream starts playing in my head will I chose to murder with words or pray for the Holy Spirit to infiltrate my very being? Because that’s the only way my mouth will be held in check. I pray that I slow down my reactions and my tongue long enough to realize that I am rebelling against the One I love most.
What’s on top of your “I Struggle” list and what scripture helped you see the light?
God, help me overcome my selfishness. I want to love the way you asked me to.
I don’t want to say another insulting word to or about another person, not even jokingly.
I want to shock my enemies with Christian love.
I want to joyfully sacrifice for the poor, and to see You when I see them.
I don’t want to fit in anymore.
Holy Spirit, save me. Set me apart. Make me worthy.
This prayer was written by Francis Chan in his book Erasing Hell. It stood out to me not only because it was a sincere, impromptu prayer in the middle of his book, but also because when I thought about praying it for myself I stumbled over some of the requests. The first sting of conviction was in the line: “I don’t want to say another insulting word to or about another person, not even jokingly.” How very specific. Too specific. So may times in conversation I will find myself saying flippant comments at the expense of another person, usually for the sake of some laughs. Sarcasm is my first language. My tongue struggles with meekness. I put that blow in the “deal with later” compartment of my heart and continue in prayer application.
Again, I stop when I read the line “I don’t want to fit in anymore.” I definitely didn’t pray that; I came to an abrupt halt. Of course I want to fit in! What is Sir Francis saying? Why doesn’t he want any friends? Well, I don’t think he is saying he wants to be a loner in the corner playing with a ball of yarn while singing praise and worship songs (was that sarcasm?). Yet, why does “not fitting in” scare me and make me stop mid prayer. It’s a simple answer: because a part of me wants to fit in. What does fitting in with the world look like for me? It looks like wearing daisy dukes and bandeau tops to compete with the college girls, it looks like drinking three too many cocktails at the bar, it definitely looks like putting my efforts into money-making and raking in the material treasures. Now that I see it here in writing, I ‘m closer to praying “I don’t want to fit in anymore” and this time meaning it. I am cornered in with my unworthiness and my desperate need for redemption. I start to understand Francis as I remember who I am. The last sentence of the prayer becomes all too real and I pray it more desperately than I first intended.
Which lines in this prayer make you stutter?
As a twenty-something, it seems like the pinnacle of existence to find your one true beau, get that rock and plan the ultimate wedding. Although, I wasn’t bursting at the seams to get that diamond on my finger and plan a wedding, that’s how my story played out. It seems to always go that way, getting what you don’t desire (so repeat with me ‘I don’t want a fiance right now’ ‘I don’t want a fiance right now.’ Congratulations you are one step closer to getting married). I knew I wanted to have a joyous, beautiful, spiritual, and delicious wedding celebration, but I had no idea what it would take to obtain it.
Answer: Sacrifice, tears, pain.
Not exactly my idea of planning a wedding. And I am not the bridezilla type, nor did I want anything extravagant, expensive or lavish. Nonetheless, I have a mother who was VERY invested in planning this wedding
for with me. Needless to say, there was grief.
So, the cake was not dropped, I did not have a “wedding gate” nor a white runner down the aisle. The church was minimally decorated; I had a beautiful dress and delicious food. My wedding, in my eyes, was perfect. I fought for the simplicity of it, and (although I love my mother very much) I’m glad I got my way. Now, I never intend on having/planning another wedding again (on principle and practicality) and I walked away with many-a-life-lessons I had to learn the hard (best) way.
All this to say, your wedding is just a minor detail. GASP. Yea, I’m not retracting my statement. The person you are spending the rest of your life with is the major detail. Bottomline- a very expensive evening of dancing, ooohhing, ahhing, and (let’s be honest) seeking positive regard from judgmental friends will never replace a lifetime of misery. Put the sacrifice into the relationship not the bank account. It will make a lifetime of difference. Promise 😉
So, do you want to know the real love story? Not the one polished for wedding viewing pleasure, but rather the nitty gritty, the down and dirty. The love story we have shame in, the story of faults and sins. It isn’t easy to tell the story. It’s filled with lies, drugs, immorality, and the constant desire for control over another. That’s always the true story, right? We are struggling to be God, to have people bow down to our wishes, to demand love and service. The problem is, we are not God. It took both my husband and I a while to learn we were not the dictators of our own soap opera universe.
Our story begins at a young age when we were rebellious and “free,” or so we thought. We fell in young love and along with that came young decisions and young faith. We fell into sin, and we had to crawl our way out by tooth and nail. It was the toughest climb we’ve ever conquered. I can still remember the stinging pain and breathlessness of betrayal and dishonesty. My husband can tell you about the frustration bursting from his dignity as I pressed my thumb down on him over and over again. We didn’t know what we were doing wrong. We loved each other; wasn’t that enough to revive tear-drowned hearts and our precious, dying relationship. We were blind to selfishness and expected worship of each other that squeezed a mighty God out of his sovereign place in our relationship.
The story ends well because God redeems. Oh, the grace we were shown through each other, through our vicious sins, and ultimately through God transforming our individual hearts. We shouldn’t have made it, but on a perfect day in May we vowed to never leave each other and to never treat each other the way we had. We have been given new hearts of joy and grace. We gave our marriage over to the one who saved it, the one who poured grace over us, and the one who will keep us together forever. We finally bowed down. We breathed in the peace of the Lord and held each other in the lightness of His freedom. He will carry us home; ‘til death do us part.
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” – Zephaniah 3:17
Maybe I am a bad Christian or just an undisciplined one, but I have never personally read this verse before. When I first read it, I was shocked. The Lord my God sings over us? Over me? I couldn’t digest how the Mighty God of the Universe would take delight in the oh so rebellious human race. But he does. And I should probably recognize and take part in this holy delight.
I love to sing. I have a horrible singing voice, but nonetheless I love to sing. Singing praises to God is a form of worship I enjoy and appreciate. It makes sense to me to pour out your soul in front of the presence of God while being vulnerable and heard. I find such delight in singing to The Lord.
Apparently, The Lord likes to sing. He chooses to sing over his rebellious children but nonetheless he delights in his singing. Is it possible that the Lord singing over us is Him pouring his Spirit into us; is it Him becoming transparent in his love for us?
It takes my breath away to think about it.
The Lord rejoices over you with singing. Repeat it to yourself until it strikes that chord within your soul. You know which one I’m talking about. The one that brings you to your knees with gratefulness.
Oh, how he loves us! Sing it with me now….