Grace Like Snow

I experienced grace in the most powerful way I ever have yesterday. After a day of wrestling with sin, of dealing with my complete inability to deal with my issues on my own, I felt the urge to go on a run. Outside. In the 10 degree weather. So I threw a crewneck sweatshirt on, edited my worship music playlist, and ran out the door. About half a mile in as I ran past the high school, the cold stopped seeping through my inadequate clothes. The wind stopped biting at my face and neck. The song “White Flag” by Chris Tomlin played through my I-pod as jet streams lit brilliant orange from the setting sun streaked across the sky.

We raise our white flag, we surrender ALL to You, ALL to You. We raise our white flag, the war is over, love has come, Your love has won.

The words rang true. Love had came, Jesus had already dealt with my sin.

I ran on to Moore Park. The pinks and oranges reflecting off of the icy pavement darkened to purples and reds. I stopped seeing my breath for a moment as the beauty, not the cold, took it away. I had this incredible feeling as I ran through the park. I felt like God was running with me. In between breaths and strides He was telling me He still loved me. He was telling me that He wanted me, He fought for me, He died for me.

I ditched the path and started bounding through snow banks to the highest place in the park. There I watched the sun dip below the horizon as God spoke through Matt Maher’s “Alive Again.”

I want you…I’ll do whatever I have to just to get through ‘cuz I love you, yes I love you.

I stood with my hands stretched towards the sky. I must’ve looked like a fool to the other people walking in the park. Then I went to my knees in the snow. Come Thou Fount came on the I-Pod. I sang those words to God as a response to His grace.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy unchanging love

I felt like Jean Valjean from Les Miserables up there. There’s a beautiful picture of grace in that story. Jean Valjean, a just-released criminal on parole, is turned down at every inn but is welcomed in by the priest at a church. He takes the gift of a night’s stay and then steals the church’s silver. That morning, he is apprehended by the authorities who bring him before the priest whose church he has just plundered. The priest has the chance to bring justice to Valjean. He had stolen from the church and was guilty. But he doesn’t. He says that the silver was a gift to Valjean and even tells him that he forgot the silver candlesticks on the table. This rocks Valjean’s world. Grace transforms his character.

I, Valjean, am guilty. Jesus, the intercessor, the intervener, God on Earth, is the priest. He doesn’t just forgive, He doesn’t just love me just the same as before I stole the silver. But He offers me something way better.

He offers us love. In the experience of grace, we find the ability to love. We find the ability to no longer need to love others with strings attached but unconditionally the way Christ loves us.

I hope we take His offer. I hope we choose it every day of our lives. And I hope we proclaim his grace. It can find us anywhere, even in the snow.

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.

“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:16-18

 

Looking Back: One Thing Remains

Looking Back is a series of posts that reflect on my first semester of college.

Whether it’s down the street or 869 miles down I-35, transition is tough. Looking back, I realize why people say the first semester is the toughest. It’s in between.  It’s uncomfortable and insecure. And every day that you’re in this flux, a choice is made. Am I going to take my insecurities and my homesickness to God or am I going to get back into the life boat?

The life boat is a metaphor Donald Miller uses to describe the human condition. The premise is this: it is our natural instinct for humans to obsessively compare ourselves to each other. It’s as if we are in a sinking life boat and we all are desperately trying to plead our case for why we are better than the next guy. We try to plead our case for why we belong and why we matter but stacking ourselves up against the person next to us.

I wrote this in my journal during a vulnerable moment this semester

8/17/12

I feel like I’m back in the lifeboat. I find myself comparing myself to others, feeling like I don’t have what it takes, and caring too much about what people think of me…I just want to love others and know that Christ is sufficient for me.

Christ is sufficient for me. That’s why the song in the video above was my anthem for the semester. That’s why I wept yesterday when we sang it in church. His love never fails. Comparing myself to the guy next to me, finding my worth in what Billy or Suzy or Professor X or Y thinks of me, that fails. Resting in God’s love, knowing that it never fails or never gives up or never runs out on me, that’s what I want to choose to do every day.

On the eve of Christmas, it should be easier. It should be easier to stay off the lifeboat. Every carol, every gift you give or receive, it serves as a reminder of the person of Jesus Christ:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Philippians 2:6-8

Christmas is when we celebrate the beginning of the best love story of all time. Join me in worshipping the very image of love, Jesus Christ, as we celebrate His birth. Let us be so enamored by His crazy love that we don’t need the lifeboat anymore.