The Grace-Nullifier

I know it’s all the rage in Christianity today to confess brokenness, and I suspect the word “broken” is starting to be used as a synonym for “mostly fine, with a chance of sniffles”. I’ve seen pretty caricatures of Christianity confess brokenness so often that I’ve lost the essence of what that word is supposed to mean.

But, at the risk of becoming a cliché, I think I’m getting to a good point of understanding, or I will as soon as I have a chance to let this semester fully sink in.

I have lived a largely graceless life, mostly because I haven’t ‘needed’ it. I was born a sinner, justified at the age of five(ish), and have spent the rest of my life pretending that I’ve also been completely sanctified. The biggest theme of my life is that of trying really hard not to sin, or at least trying to keep everybody (from God to the kids I babysit) happy with me. A mistake has the capacity to make me break down in tears, and I’ve been known to spend entire weeks of my life mulling about having committed a sin (not my pet sins, of course. Their names are Pride and Selfishness, respectively. Come talk to me sometime–they’ll introduce themselves to you within 5 minutes, guaranteed).

My desperate efforts to do the right thing, or at least look as though I’ve done the right thing, means that I’ve essentially spent most of my life trying to nullify the need for grace in my life. Outwardly, I’ve looked mostly awesome (I did sin once when I was 6. It was a ghastly 30 seconds).

But this semester I have reached the end of my “good girl” reserves. Somewhere in the midst of classes, relationship-building, ministries, and work, work, work, I’ve lost my sense of purpose. Instead of making everything else fit around my relationship with Christ, I’ve tried to squeeze Him into the cracks of time I have left. The result has been exponentially ugly, and there have been numerous times during the semester when I have been forced to face the naked fact that I am an unbridled and willful sinner. It’s been a shocking realization; sure, I’ve always known that I am a sinner. . .because of the Fall. I’ve even acknowledged that I’ve done some bad things in my life, and counting my number of unintentional sins–which are still sins, make no mistake–could have been one of the never-ending tasks assigned to Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth.

But there have been very, very few times that I can remember in my life where I have assessed a situation, looked at what I know I should do, and then said, baldly and without blinking, “No. I’d rather sin.” This semester has been rife with those situations.

And I’m having to face the fact that I am a sinner. Not because I’m part of Adam’s race, not because I’m dysfunctional, or impulsive, or make mistakes–but because I make the informed choice to sin.

I am no longer at a point where I can attempt to nullify grace.

I’m at a point where I desperately need it, would do almost anything to get it. I’m at a point where even I can’t pretend that I’m somehow worthy of grace, or that I can eventually do enough good things to pay off the grace debt I owe.

And I’m finding that the less I “deserve” grace, the more desperately I need it, the more of it I am offered.

I’m certainly not suggesting that I am going to cultivate a habit of sin in my life so that I can experience more grace. Realistically, I’m probably not sinning any more than usual–I’m just becoming more aware of my sin, and more open to admitting it. As my understanding of Christ’s counter-conditional love increases, I have become far more willing to confess my shameless wrongdoings, because it is becoming experientially apparent that who I am and what I do have nothing to do with the offering of grace; it’s Christ’s character that dictates his acceptance of me (and, incidentally, of you, too).

Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.–Martin Luther

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One thought on “The Grace-Nullifier

  1. I’ve also spent my life denying my imperfection, and the worst part is, I was proud of it until recently. “My deception is so complete, even my mother is completely blind!” Thankfully I’m starting to realize the extent of my constant lying (or as I love to say, “struggling with dishonesty”, which is in itself a lie) and see how much I need Him.

    I just listened last week to a song called “Jesus is for Losers”. Here’s a bit of the lyrics.

    Just as I am,
    I am needy and dry
    Jesus is for losers
    The self-made need not apply.

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