8.23.2010

Hoarders

I just finished reading Serena Woods' Grace is for Sinners.
If you haven't read it, you should.  And you'll probably want to subscribe to her blog, too, because it is the shiz.
I read the last page of her book and went back to the first, to read it again.
As someone who sometimes hoards grace, I need this stuff tattooed on my soul.

hoard - to gather or accumulate in a hidden or carefully guarded place.

disclaimer: This is not an official review of the book.  
Reading it has gotten me thinking, and these are my thoughts.

.............................

A change in our way of thinking is always radical and deliberate.

Some ways of thinking are especially difficult to relinquish.  For instance, I find it unsettling -- it makes me very uncomfortable -- when people do things I've deemed unacceptable. What I want to address here today is not the behaviors, but how I treat the people who do the ones on my Dirty List.

I have people in my life that I've actively disapproved of and withheld grace from.  Scripture is very clear about not conforming to the world.  True.  Yet it is also clear that while we are to be hard on sin, we are to be tender with sinners.  I have blurred that line, not knowing how to keep the two separate, forgetting that the highest law, thereby my highest responsibility, is not eradicating sin from the church and keeping my life sanitary.  It's love.  Extravagant love.
[ Wake Up from Your Sleep ] Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.  Ephesians 5:1
I have not loved extravagantly.  What I have done is feared extravagantly.  I have self-protected extravagantly.  I have judged and hurt extravagantly.   I have put "healthy boundaries" before extravagant love.  (There is a place for healthy boundaries, but they're not to be abused in the interest of self-protection.)

I've been afraid of other people's sin, fearful that by mixing with them I'm condoning the sin or worse, that I'll catch it, so I've kept a "safe" distance... like my own sin is less detestable.  I'm ashamed of that; of drawing the line where God has not.  If God has not seen fit to change their hearts who am I to judge them?  Who am I "helping" by being the voice of a "solid Christian", using my words to make it harder for them to find their way back to him? Their story is not over yet, but He knows it all.  He wrote it. It's not my job to "protect his name".  He's a big boy.  He can fight his own fights.  See because when he fights, he doesn't damage people.  When I fight "for Him", I do.

Clearly I have my hands full with sins of my own. Enough to keep myself busy with my own plank.
"Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor."  
Matthew 7:1-5 

 Too often I think we, God's Fan Club, have twisted Scripture.  We read "as iron sharpens iron" and we think that's license to be assholes to each other.  I think that when we've had a long track record of self control and good behavior, we're worse.  We relish getting to watch someone "get what's coming to them".  We're the prodigal son's brother.  Maybe you haven't been... but I have.  I grew up hearing a relative always saying, "every dog has his day".  There is a part of our fallen nature that loves to watch sin destroy someone.  And then we shake our heads and say, "so sad, what a shame", when really nothing pleases us more to see their sin punished.  Grace for us.  Punishment for them.  But is that the heart of God?  Does he enjoy watching someone ripped to shreds by sin?  Even their own?

Changing my way of thinking is no clean break.  It is messy business and to keep myself on the right path, I have to continually remember that Christians don't sin because they want to.  
For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  Romans 7:18-20

There's more to it than what I can see; things are not as they appear.  God is sovereign in all things, at all times.  His plan is in action, right now, even in "them", just as it is in me.  Why do I give myself more grace than I'm willing to offer them?

What if, instead of hoarding, I really gave people the same grace I crave?  
How would my treatment of people change 
if I followed the higher law of Do Unto Others?

God isn't accepting applications for people to point out why other people need Jesus. He already has someone handling that department.  The Holy Spirit.  And his name is not Jodie.

As I write this, I don't wish to come off as a know-it-all.  I still have hard questions.  I do. I still get tangled in my thoughts. I miss the mark, and I will again.  But ultimately, who am I to say where God is, or isn't?  I cannot hear what he whispers to your heart just as you can't hear what he whispers to mine... and I don't go around blabbing it.  So maybe, just maybe, what he says to you is your own special secret, as much it is mine when he speaks to me.

God didn't take me on as one of his because I am such a good girl.  A good mascot.  Even today as I write there are things in my life that I struggle with... things I feel mastered by and thirst to be freed from.  I know that God is working in me, that he is in this struggle with me, proof that the presence of sin is not equivalent to the absence of God.  And as I struggle to get free, I am highly offended when people "help me" along the way with comments like, "I thought you were quitting that".  A taste of my own medicine maybe...

I need grace and space to breathe.  Grace to be where I am in my struggle.  I need you to be gracious, and God to be God. And I would think you need the same thing from me. 

Lord, help me to freely give the same freedom you've lavished on me.  
Help me Jesus, to not be a Grace Hoarder.
In your strong and holy name,  Amen.

5 comments:

  1. this is the best post you've ever written and though it may not have been directed towards me, it landed right in my heart. i love you

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  2. Um, DANG.

    Awesome post, girl. Your paragraph about fearing, self-protecting, etc. extravagantly really spoke to me.

    It's going to take me a while to digest this one.

    Love you!

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  3. Jodie, it's hard for me to imagine you struggling with this. You seem to be a very merciful and gracious person to me.

    Oh, boy, do we have so far to go don't we?

    Thank you for reminding me, because I am so lacking in the grace and mercy area. How shameful and ugly.


    thank you for writing this. man, I am overwhelmed.

    love you girl!

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  4. Thanks y'all. I LOVE YOU ALL TOO! :)

    Holly: You know, I think I have been able to be merciful and gracious with some, but then punishing and harsh with others. I'm not sure the reason behind it but here's what I've observed: I find it easy to be gracious with my friends, but much less so with my family. They've been the ones I've damaged the most. It's like I've taken their sin more personally. Sick, I know. If I'd have had to be the person on the receiving end of some of my remarks and attitude, I'd have hated me.

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