This week I learned the difference between sanctified and justified.
I have wrestled with sickness, sin, shame, sharing, solitude and a bit of sorrow this week. So a lot of S-words that are not very uplifting. At the same time, through all these obstacles he continually redeems me showing his glory will reign over these circumstances I fall into.
The same way I am saved is the same way I am sanctified and set free.
He relentlessly pursues me in my rebellion and calls me precious in his sight. I also don’t have to worry because I am forgiven for everything I could do and have done. The same way one trespass led to my condemnation, one act of righteousness led to my justification. So I hope this blog doesn’t look I’m in a state of self pity, but quite the opposite – that in any momentary affliction I can point everything back to Christ.
When we got back from NYC it seems like almost everyone got the same nasty virus. This cold left me feeling groggy and irritable. All I wanted to do was sleep which I’m sure came off in the way I approached conversations this week.
The sickness that started externally soon shifted inward when I started getting frustrated with community. I started becoming overwhelmed with people surrounding me 24/7 – wanting to escape, but also fit in. I assume I won’t get along with certain people just because they are different than me. But God made each of us in his image with our own gifts that compliment one another not oppose. Each person was chosen by God with their own stories that I should get to know before concluding anything about them. If I was in someone else’s situation it’s easy to say I would not act the same, but that is minimizing my power to commit sin. Before I’m quick to judge I should be quick to learn others stories and see them in the way he would.
I also try to shield myself from letting anyone inside to what is really going on. I hate sharing as if I will seem like I don’t have my life together, which is ironic because my face definitely doesn’t hold it together when I’m upset. I think I like to minimize my weaknesses and try to cover up my flaws to give this persona that I don’t need any advice or help.
It stems from my desire to be perfect. (I can hear Jesus laughing in heaven at me right now.) I desire to have perfect grades, perfect looks, perfect relationships, perfect fun, perfect plans, perfect conversations. When things stray from my idea of how it should go, I go haywire. Truth is I am obviously far from perfect. Truth is relationships are supposed to be raw and messy. When I have problems I like to run from them instead of running toward my community. When people upset me I want to high tail it out of the situation as fast as I can. I don’t like confrontation, but how can I truly grow in my relationships when all I do is avoid them. I always feel like I need defend myself and I’m being attacked when usually the other person is telling me these things out of their love for me.
I also fall into the trap of thinking I can work for my value. Now it’s not like this is always my motivation, but I often believe if I just followed all the rules and served others that God would approve of me. In Isaiah 65:6 it says that “we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” In God’s eyes every good deed we do on our own is more disgusting than a lepers blister wraps. God can’t even look upon our “good deeds” without seeing our ounce of pride that goes with it.
This sin of pride and self righteousness makes me want to vomit. I will never get into the kingdom without humbling myself. My God, the Creator of the heavens and earth, humbled himself to come down from heaven to live in the flesh. He came as a baby and lived his life serving those who hate him to the point of taking the weight of death for us. He should honestly avenge us in our rebellion revealing his supreme power over all. We should be condemned for denying him. Yet instead of bringing complete justice to himself, he wanted to make unjust people just and bring glory through saving not judging.
Suddenly anxiety started falling over me like a flood in a way I hadn’t experienced in months. I began to feel myself being judged by the width I judged. I let the enemy feed me all these lies that no one wants me to hang out with me, no one wants to talk to me or hear me and everything I say is obnoxious.
Then came the solitude. Instead of being grateful for this beautiful community, I found myself wanting to be alone. My sins playing on repeat through my mind like a record player.
Finally came a lot of this shame and self-condemnation. Just like Adam and Eve, we are afraid of being fully exposed before God so instead we run from him in fear. We like to try and cover ourselves with religious works and being good, but God knows our hearts – he is omnipresent! The more we isolate ourselves the more we fall into the enemies trap, instead there is freedom in walking in the light and being vulnerable. Just throwing my sin out there in the light of my community that loves me.
“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Darkness holds no power over me. It feels like every morning God has to forgive me for the same old crap. But not only does he rejoice in forgiving me, he isn’t reforgiving me. I’ve already been forgiven. He justified my sin 2000 years ago on the cross.
When I think I can hide in the darkness of my thoughts alone, he is still there calling my name. “Ashton, I love you. Remember that there is nothing you can do that would make me love you less.” He died a humiliating death for me while I didn’t even love him back; so any suffering external or internal I could possibly go through I can rejoice in because he carries me through it. He uses it all. The good the bad and the ugly for his good. My story reflects his ultimate goodness and power to redeem.
It can seem like to non believers that Christians think they are better, but true followers of Christ knows it’s just the opposite. We are humbled over and over again facing our sin, a lot of time we actually condemn ourselves even more so (which is another problem in itself considering he saved us from condemnation so it’s as if we are doubting his power to save). Luckily even though we struggle we have a hope to anchor our soul of a God that gives us the strength to overcome it all. We are far from perfect, but God uses us to spread his good news. We realize the desperate need we have for a savior to heal the brokenness of the world. The news lately really captures how far away from God we have come.
But the good news is that death has NO power.
He will wipe every tear from our eyes and comfort those in mourning. He is our rock that all can trust in whether you are proud and rich, but empty inside or homeless and depressed with nothing of your own. He fills all. Struggling with anxious heart can be hard, but the lies darkness feeds me aren’t true. My community loves me and more importantly God does too.