It has been a practice of mine within the last several years to really observe the way things fall into place. How the life (mine, personally) always has something to teach me. There has been so many lessons learned since I have picked up this practice, and by the grace of God I have come to accept those things as they are presented.
I have spent a substantial amount of time really trying to understand this thing we call grace. The Bible teaches that grace is the favor and goodness that God shows to mankind. This word can generally be used to describe everything that God does, or to refer to specific acts of God. Within my knowledge grace, and while being observant of my daily life, I think I have a pretty good understanding of both when I see that they occur. I wholeheartedly believe that God is omniscient, so it is easy for me to see that the God of all things surely knows what is going on within my life, and by faith is His Son and what He has done for me, I wholehearted believe that His will for me (His unbounding love and plans for me) comes about at just the right time.
With that being said, His plans for me are not even close to being easy, and most times, not as I had thought they would be. In fact, His plans have been known to truly kill my entire will to keep fighting. Most times, I really fail to know my will versus His.
Paul explains in Corinthians 13, just after describing what the meaning of agape love is, the importance of keeping love at our forefront (I encourage you to do a deeper study in order to see the true definition of this kind of love). It is not the kind of love that is merely superficial, or sexual or fleeting, it is the kind of love that reaches into the conscience and pulls out the very presence of God from the sin-riddled flesh of our existence–that kind of love.
Unfortunately, for many, as well as for myself, this kind of love is rarely or never experienced. The realities of life: our personal understanding of and experiences with God (if any, or, if ever), personal life experiences, the hard stings, pitfalls and shortcomings, and the way we are personally wired–all have a way of shaping us into the flawed beings that we are. I sometimes have a pretty hard time seeing the true nature of God because of all of these things that life has thrown at me, and I sometimes see no purpose for fighting so hard to fix what is broken…
…and that’s when faith takes over! However, with faith, action must be taken. When you are like me, a lack of love is the very thing that sometimes hinders moving forward; whether it be with forgiveness of others or forgiveness of self–all of that junk that we gather together and carry on our backs, weighing us down and taking up room where love could be placed. We tend to hold tightly to the things that edge God out (EGO), while keeping God at a distance, as He stands with arms wide open.
1 Corinthians 13 is pretty compelling to me. It talks about all of these wonderful things that faith, hope and love bring to the table, and I look at myself and see that my table is quickly cleared of such things by my own choosing. As I have observed these last several years of being mindful of my many realities–minute to minute, day to day or whatever amount of time–I see that the true definition of love (both agape and as love is described in 1 Cor. 13) is greatly distorted by my personal compositions. This love business is something that I had never really grasped until I began the walk with the Lord. Up until that point, love was nothing more than an emotion: a fleeting one, a superficial one, and, at times, one driven only by sexual desire. The other kind of love was never embraced because the God part of me was never acknowledged. Therefore, when first being introduced to the Gospel, I was intensely anxious when learning that a wrathful God said that He also, umm… “loves me?”
I remember thinking something along the lines of, “Ok, so if I’m not completely perfect, that means that I’ll be squished into a little ball of tormented flesh throughout my entire life here–constantly being chastised and beaten by the whip of God almighty!! I realized that I was never, ever going to be good enough for this God. I was so far from even good, let alone perfect.
That was a pretty hard pill to swallow.
As time went on, and truly, as I moved away from the brainwashing and agenda of the institutionalized church, I began to really grasp the concept of grace. Many great teachers and authors began to show up after that move away from the false teachings of the preachers within my area. I truly believe it was all part of His plan. It seems as though the pill that was hard to swallow for me is still hard to swallow for many, as they remain captivated by the agenda that is glorified in our church systems–but, I digress. That is a different topic for a different time. The pursuit to remain obedient and subservient to the pastor and the buildings really has kept the pill lodged in the throats of so many.
It was not until I fully understood that God gave His only begotten Son as a sacrifice for the things that I fall short of and cannot do in the ways that the Lord would have me do, that I began to understand His grace. It was not until I began to understand how grace works that I began to see just how much He truly does love His creations.
He died, because nine times out of ten, we refuse to.
I had a long run of misfortunes within my family. It was all pretty intense, and I have written about many of the painful memories throughout this blog. Through those personal experiences, my heart became pretty cold and blackened. My skin became pretty thick. The calluses upon the mind, and the heart that had become void of the light of God had me, always, caught up within a world of fear and resistance. No one was allowed into my life, and the few who were had to deal with my cruel ways. I also had to deal with the consequences of the choices within that misery, and so did everyone else.
Once I truly felt His Holy Spirit, all of this began to change.
I have a different outlook on life now. As I go through the inevitable hardships and trials of my life, I see the glory of God and His ways–a far cry from the way it used to be. I learned that sometimes the stings of life are exactly what I need in order to see that God is in control of the big picture, and that His love for me is not a punishing, crack-of-the-whip type of love. It is more like a loving dad always looking out for a kid–always directing his eyes to truth and pointing to the paths that lead to love. As I go about the days: minute to minute, day to day or whatever amount of time, I strive to keep this love that I find to be fairly new, at center. I pray often, surround myself with other believers and extend the grace that I also have limited knowledge of to all that I encounter.
At least, I try to do so.
I allow the God part of me to shine through the poisoned flesh.
It is a trying time for me, lately. I am taking on several people who are really stretching the limits, using their wrecking balls against my walls and pulling the old, destructive me out of the grave. Although, I am praying each day that I continue to keep the love of God at the forefront, and that’s enough. I know, as hindsight and the present is observed, that I am exactly where the Lord knew I would be. I know that this heart–this mind–is being conditioned into His masterpiece, one step at a time.