Sunday, 31 August 2014

Back to basics

This is the thing.

As I read blogs and tussle with myself, digging myself out of the dark hole I have stumbled into, I keep on rediscovering old truths.

God loves me.
I am inherently sinful.
God still loves me anyway.
God doesn't just love me - he is crazy mad about me.
God is immense and immanent - this is beyond my understanding, but he is simultaneously Creator of stars whose energy I cannot begin to fathom and is also closer to me than my own skin. God is outside of time and space and ....

Psalm 18:20 - 28 holds a special truth for me this week.

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me.
For I have kept the ways of theLord;
I am not guilty of turningfrom my God.
All his laws are before me;
I have not turned away from his decrees.
I have been blameless before him
and have kept myself from sin.
The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
to the blameless you show yourself blameless,
to the pure you show yourself pure,
but to the devious you show yourself shrewd.
You save the humble
but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
You, Lord, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.

And I look at this and I wonder how it can be true.  Commentaries such as Barnes say: "The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness - That is, he saw that I did not deserve the treatment which I received from my enemies, and therefore he interposed to save me. Compare the note at Psalm 17:3.
According to the cleanness of my hands - So far as my fellow-men are concerned. I have done them no wrong."

And yes, I get that. If my conscience is CLEAR BEFORE GOD - not before the Accuser or my own self-doubt, mistress that I am of Second-guessing and the What-ifs - then I know that my relationship with God is right.

But my conscience is not always clear. I am sinful by nature.
Psalm 51:5 says:  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
And this is true.
But this is also true: because of Jesus, I am made clean. Because Jesus died in my place, took my punishment, I have not been dealt with according to my (un)righteousness. 

I can stand blameless before God.

By my conscience is not clear. And so, as I go back to basics, I realise anew that my conscience will indeed not be clear because I am sinful by nature. And because God has forgiven me and will forgive me every time I turn to Him in sorrow for my sins and mistakes, I do not need to beat myself up more than is necessary to bring me to my knees in confession. 

This is me. Sinning, sinful, blundering through life, making mistakes, offending others...ME. AND I AM A PRECIOUS DAUGHTER OF GOD, MUCH-LOVED, BEAUTIFUL IN HIS EYES, LOVED AND FORGIVEN OVER AND OVER AGAIN.


This is what Kirsten Strong Chasing Blue Skies says: the verses from Isaiah have always been encouraging, even more so at the moment. Last week, at Spring Harvest, we studied them again, too.

"Sometimes a new beginning soars on wings of glorious success. Sometimes it takes off and crashes, leaving you flat out laid out. And when that happens, I want to tear out of there and scurry my red-faced self off to safety rather than shake the embarrassment off my skin and out of my hair.
Tearing away tempts, but trying again trusts. 
I try again because I’m already hidden in Christ, so there’s no need to hide anywhere else.
I try again because God is the generous giver of fresh starts, and grabbing one means I accept that my rocky start is a bump in the story, not the end of it.
Trying again is knowing hope always moves toward the surface, anxious to comfort and hold you. 
So, for all those facing a new beginning this season – especially those whose new beginning took a tumble - I offer you this prayer from God’s heart to your own. May it remind you that even the most fledgling of starts can turn into your favorite stories.
Dear Heavenly Father,
I stepped out to make a place for myself, and I tripped up rather than took off. I feel embarrassed, nervous, worn out and just plain tried out. I know You understand, and because of You, this stumbling block to my new beginning is only a part of my story rather than the end of it.
Where would any of us be without Your daily (hourly?) offerings of fresh starts? A splayed-out mess at the bottom of the stairs, that’s where. Thank You for giving me a fresh start right here, right now. Thank You for showing me that walking in Your will is walking in success. Thank You for giving me a sure identity in You, not in outcomes.
When I contemplate retreating, let me retreat in Your love. When I think about running, let me run confidently forward in the abundant gifts You’ve tailor-made specifically for me. Give me the ability to see how my decisions today affect the story of my future. When I flip through the memory books of my life, may I see plenty evidence of taking Your hand and walking courageously in Your plans for me. Along the way, may I learn the art of taking myself less seriously. And thank You that no matter if I fly or fall, You make every story good.
And You end every story well.
In the name of Jesus, the One Who is head over heels in love with me,