When you grew up with the idea that you had to work your fingers to the bone or God would be displeased, it’s really difficult to shift that way of thinking. No matter how much good theology you throw at it. So it’s like rediscovering the Good News every day.
Every time you feel bad for breaking some arbitrary rule that really amounts to some uptight Christian’s personal preference, you get that awful twinge of worry and guilt. Sure, you may roll your eyes immediately afterwards, but it was still there, rolling around in your head like a loose marble in a junk drawer.
The idea that I can love better simply by being in a relationship with God is hard to swallow for a perfectionist like me. The truth that fruit isn’t something that’s summoned, but grows naturally, has me searching for ways in which I can add to it. Yeah, God built this house, but I totally recommended that he put windows in.
That actual desire to do more, when put in its place, is a good thing. When I want to do more of what God wants out of a sense of response to his love, it’s fantastic. When it’s me thinking I’ve got to pay God back or fulfill the law to be saved, it’s death. I often wonder how much better that stupid, prideful desire gets. I wonder if I’ll ever slow down on trying to do what only God can do.
My Cop Voice
I was sitting in the crowd on the last night of the Liberate conference in Fort Lauderdale this year and noticed someone wandering up and down the side aisles. In the midst of people from all kinds of denominations happily sitting together, whatever differences we may have lost in a cloud of praise and joy, there was a fully uniformed officer patrolling. Now, I’m sure he was doing a totally legitimate job, and I’ve got nothing against that or the guy, but as I watched him, he began to represent, to me, that accusing voice that never seems to go away.
It’s not my conscience, (well, if it is, my conscience has a huge crack in its manifold …or some other car metaphor I don’t understand). He’s making sure I never screw up and, if I do, I’m punished immediately. Even in my deepest joy, he’s walking the aisles. But the cop is all business. As bad as he is, some days that condemning voice is more like a monster.
The Troll Under My Grace Bridge
When I was a kid, one of my favorite stories was the Billy Goats Gruff. I’m not sure why, but the idea of talking goats and trolls living under bridges fascinated young Chad. Back then, I would sometimes wonder, as we crossed bridges, if there might be a troll secreted away under them. These days, I know there is.
He follows me, peeking out from under the bridge of my beliefs, whispering at the most inopportune times that I’m doing it wrong. “God isn’t pleased,” he snickers. “That’s what you’re giving to God?” he says with a snarl. Then, when I slow down, he takes a swipe at my legs, trying to trip me, trying to knock me down to where he is.
I totally hate that guy.
Speaking a Dead Language
But, whenever they get going, God seems to remind me that the troll’s toothless and the cop’s gun is full of blanks. I’m reminded that they’re both speaking a dead language, because condemnation went out of style the moment I put my faith in Jesus. Any real condemning was done to Jesus instead of me and he totally traded his perfection for my putridity. The great God of the Universe won by losing the game. He did the thing no one ever suspected. Became a smelly, fleshy bag of mostly water and took every bit of punishment we deserved upon himself. His love silences those condemning voices forever. Now, they’re just brittle echoes pretending they have any real power.
I’ll probably have to remind myself tomorrow, but it’s not a bad thing of which to be reminded.