Part 1 of this 4- part series can be found: here!
Developing a Relationship With My Alpha
Do you know what all that “Wait, Submit, Stay” was all about? Relationship!!! It was HIS longing for ME to enjoy a relationship with HIM of trust and of authority. The first thing He knew I had to learn, was that if our relationship was going to work, I’d have to recognize and surrender unquestionably to my Alpha. There cannot be two top dogs in the house.
Secondly, He was assuring me that He wasn’t hurting me, just subduing me, if for no other reason but to convince me that He could because He had the authority to do so.
Thirdly, He was showing me in His eyes, that although I felt incapacitated, He wasn’t unhappy with me. And truthfully, the more often I experienced Him pressing me into my incapacity, the more I felt He loved me. It didn’t make sense, but there was something in His demeanor toward me that demonstrated to me compassion, mercy and grace.
The Nagging Question Of Justice
And while I experienced this one aspect of peace, that is, that He still loved me even though He was subduing me, and that I didn’t feel He was angry, there was still the nagging tension of the holiness of God and my duty as a believer to live righteously. How could a holy God be ok with unholiness? How could a holy God, in all His justice, still be able to be pleased with one as despicable as me? It was not enough for me to only have a “feeling” that God was ok with me, but I needed to reconcile it with what I knew of His Word. I needed to have a confidence that He was ok with me.
As a born and bred performer in the world of Christianity as a way of earning God’s pleasure, a Pharisee who looked to my obedience to the Laws of God, His mercy overwhelmed me! While I was still struggling with His justice, I felt the only thing I could do to bear up under ALL the incredible shame I felt was to cry out for His mercy! I cried out, “God, I can’t bear up under the burden of your justice! How can you still even look at me???? Have mercy on me a sinner!”
And He told me, “ My mercy is not held captive by your sin or My justice. I’ll have mercy on whom I’ll have mercy!” He NEVER told me my sin was righteous; He convinced me that my sin nature had ALREADY left me utterly unrighteous. But He told me, I’d always receive mercy when I asked. His mercy was absolute relief.
Psalm 51:16–17 (NAS): “For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
I love Rich Mullin’s song, “Hold Me Jesus.” He sings it this way as a prayer, “You have been my King of GLORY, won’t you be my Prince of PEACE?” In fact, do you remember the Jews rejected their Messiah because He didn’t come to be a victor but to redeem them, to reconcile them to God, to establish a tender loving relationship with them that He could not do until He had buried their sins in the deepest of seas. But they didn’t want that kind of Messiah! They wanted a strong Messiah that would overcome and release them from their suffering. They wanted a Messiah to prove His victorious strength. Sadly, they rejected the Messiah who came to offer them relationship and are still waiting for Him today.
I, too, had seen God as the One who would turn ME into God’s glorious victor, but that left me with no need for His sufficiency; I felt no need for God’s peace when I was strong. I was already sufficient in myself. But what I really needed was the Prince of Peace, acquainted with my insufficiency, to speak peace over me in spite of my weakness and desperation.
When He offered me mercy so readily, so graciously and so kindly, I couldn’t wait to bring Him one more thing, I was DYING to get it off my chest. My honesty! My authenticity! One of my greatest fears was that God could only offer me grace and mercy because I had been able to pull the wool over God’s eyes and He didn’t know really how bad my heart really was.
As great as it is to be offered grace for a seemingly perfect life, I was intensely afraid that God would not be so gracious if He really knew my wretchedness. So, if I was ever going to be able to take comfort in His mercy. I’d have to be convinced that He knew EVERYTHING He was offering me mercy for.
I needed to test our new relationship based on one-way favor. I needed to know whether He would cringe and turn away in disgust if I showed Him all my nakedness and all my wretchedness. You see, I could understand being loved by someone who had the appearance of righteousness, something I had been trying to portray to the world my whole Christian life. What I couldn’t fathom was God offering mercy to one who had NO appearance of righteousness!
I was dying to take off ALL my masks. If I tried to pretend one more moment that I was doing ok, I’d go crazy. I hated the feeling that I was just masking the dirtiness lurking beneath the surface in my depression. I felt like I was prettying myself up with my own ugly rags and hoping God saw them as righteous. But if I had to wear those ugly rags I’d been using to cover up what was inside one more day, I’d go insane. The pretending felt like weights on my ankles dragging me to the ocean floor. My ultimate freedom would only be proven to me if I could be absolutely honest and God would prove to me to be absolutely merciful and gracious. It was “all or nothing.”
Could I trust Him with the truths of my soul? He reminded me, “This isn’t much of an offering, you know. I’ve always known what was in your heart. But thank you for sharing your honest confession.”
Michael Card sings it this way, “Come lift up your sorrows, and offer your pain. Come make a sacrifice of all your shame. There in your wilderness, He’s waiting for you, to worship Him with your wounds, for He’s wounded too.”
What About My Duty?
But there was still that nagging question I couldn’t let go of. “What about MY duty? What will I have to DO myself to be assured of His pleasure with me? What about His justice? It just wasn’t fair for God to be ok with me even with my wretched depravity on display. I couldn’t reconcile my ‘inability to DO’ with what His word demanded that I should do.
God Answers With Truths I Already Knew But Had Long Forgotten
And then it was as if God opened up heaven and sun rays shone down in front of me and angels started to sing…. “Heidi, there is not ONE thing I have asked you to do that either 1) hasn’t ALREADY been done FOR you, or 2) for which I haven’t ALREADY paid for, putting in place a way for my justice to be satisfied! Right now, I don’t want you to do anything. I want to be the One to do for you. I want you to embrace an intimacy with me, where You know my heart and I know yours.
What?!?! But what about ME? What about MY duties? What about the strength I felt when I had the power to not sin? What about the satisfaction I gained from presenting Him with MY righteousness? I felt absolutely devastated because I would never become His Trophy of strength! While He was merciful to me as a poor schmuck, I grieved that I would never be one of His best.
And although I am not claiming to have heard God audibly, that is when I heard him ask me, “Since when has this always been about YOU and your glory? Since when was this about YOUR righteousness? Since when has MY purposes been to help YOU have confidence in your own righteousness?”
You see, I had pre-determined which path I wanted God to use … to glorify Himself in my life. I determined that He would be MOST glorified in the strength of MY character, the strength of MY resolve, and the success of MY living out righteously. While my intentions were all FOR Him, and about Him, my trust and confidence had been in MYSELF to please Him.
Contemplating God’s Answer To me
But what I hadn’t even stopped to consider was, What if He didn’t choose me to be a trophy of His strength? What if had chosen to make me a trophy of His mercy and grace?
What if when He looked down from heaven and pointed me out to the angels, saying, “Do you see that wounded, broken, bleeding lamb down there? She is special; she touches my heart. My other lambs run off and do their thing and I love them. My other lambs are strong. They please me in other ways, win awards at the fair, produce wool and milk for me. But this one…this little runt and I have a very special relationship. She knows how desperately she needs me. I am always finding her out stuck in the thicket, and she’ll cry out to me, and beg me to pick her up. And when I do, she nestles her head into my chest. That is when My heart leaps for joy. For she finds joy in ME.”
What about SHAME?
Then finally, God, in His kindness, showed me what my silly heart had been hiding all along, in this dark place of torment, this depression: Shame. I was ashamed in my depression.
God is a God of JUSTICE!!!! And I couldn’t measure up to His holy standard. (Not now! Not in this terrible affliction of depression.) He is God, I was sure that fairness would demand that He would one day apply justice to my wretched sinfulness. I feared that I would eventually see those eyes of kindness turn to eyes of disappointment. So, I clung to His mercy; I bathed in His mercy, but my mind and heart still needed figure out how I never felt shame in the presence of God.
I kept wondering, “What about the wrath of God? What about the holiness of God? What about the guilt?“ Then, God reminded me that the justice of God didn’t just ignore my sinful depravity, the sacrifice of Christ fully satisfied God’s justice. Justice was already completed on my behalf.
As if the blinders fell off my eyes, it all became very simple. The CROSS. It was the cross!! When Jesus died for me, He forever satisfied the wrath of God on me. He completely paid the penalty of my sin’s guilt. He forgave me all my debts (ALL the debts I’d ever incurred in my past sins, ALL the debts of my current sin, and ALL the debts I’d ever incur for my future sins). He prepaid the cost; he left His credit card on file and said, “She’s gonna rack up a huge bill, but… it’s all paid in full.” He justified me forever.
He reminded me that, choice or not, I was STILL helplessly chained to my sin nature and I’d remain that way. That’s exactly WHY He came to die for me in the first place. Every issue that the justice AND holiness of God required had been satisfied. “There is now therefore NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) And the most wonderful gift of all was that, God took the righteousness of His own son and like a warm, comfy blanket, placed it over my wretchedness, so that when He looked at me, He would always see ONLY Jesus’ righteousness. Praise God, I was redeemed!!!
God’s Grace Covers It All
BUT the final tension… But what about all His commands about righteousness? I was not doing a good job obeying any of them. i wanted to, more than anything, but I couldn’t. I still felt like a failure in God’s eyes! His first answer was… “GRACE, my child! The answer is GRACE!
Some of you may have to chew on this a while… You’ll have to wrestle in the tension of it yourself. Although you have a free will, every good deed and act of righteousness you do was FIRST enabled by God because of a gift of His grace. He plants in our hearts and minds a desire to live righteously. He grants the self-control and the Holy Spirit gives the enabling. But make no mistake, YOUR righteousness first came to you from God who enabled you to live righteously. It is HIS gift of grace that saves you. And it is HIS gift of grace that enables you to resist sinning.
And if, because of illness, or disease, or something I’m not acquainted with, He genuinely doesn’t give you that gift today or tomorrow (say like a retarded child, a diabetic in insulin shock, a demented senior, or a depressed individual), then HE is God. That’s HIS choice. It doesn’t make Him culpable in the committing of sin anymore than allowing a child to be born retarded makes God culpable of that child’s actions or inactions towards or against God.
Second, He saw me in the helpless condition that my illness left me in, but more than my obedience, He wanted relationship. Rich Mullins sings it this way, “I’d rather FIGHT you for something you don’t even WANT than TAKE what YOU give that I NEED.”
Oh! What a treasure in the truth of those words. That was me for 35 years, struggling to offer God my perfect righteousness. I fought Him and fought Him and fought Him for the right and ability to live righteously, to gain His favor, to show forth my holy life. That’s what the whole Christian life is supposed to be about,right? Or is it?
But what I really needed was an intimate relationship with Jesus and peace with my Savior. What He really wanted was for me to embrace His kindness, His compassion and His grace. What He really wanted was for me to recognize that it could only be Christ’s righteousness on my behalf that could ever truly please Him. He wanted me to finally lay down my sword and accept His love for me and for me to love Him back with all my heart, mind, soul and strength, in whatever capacity or incapacity He ordained for me.
When Jesus was asked why He spent so much of His time on earth with the sinners, He told them (Matthew 9:11-13). “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means, ‘I desire compassion and NOT sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
(to be continued tomorrow)