Call Me Eustace

Call Me Eustace

“The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. but the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don’t know if he said any words out loud or not.

I was just going to say that I couldn’t undress because I hadn’t any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that’s what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and , instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that’s all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I’ll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – ‘You will have to let me undress you.’ I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know – if you’ve ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away.

Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done it myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly-looking than the others had been. And there was I was smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me – I didn’t like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I’d no skin on – and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I’d turned into a boy again.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been in Re:Generation, Watermark’s recovery ministry, since September. Re:Gen is a ministry for anyone with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. When I introduce myself at group, I say the following: “Hi, my name is Ali and I have a new life in Christ and I am recovering from control which manifests as stress, anxiety, and people pleasing”.  I never really realized how bad my anxiety was until I started the inventory process, where we basically make an excel spreadsheet of our lives, things that have left scars, poor choices, and sinful patterns and behaviors. And ironically, my inventory has sent me into a massive anxiety attack. The worse I have ever known. It is scary to see your patterns of destruction. Through this attack (that I’m currently still in), I have realized (1) I have a serious issue trusting God with my life and (2) I try to fix myself, taking the safe, easy, and familiar road that has always led to pain and suffering (I have an excel spreadsheet to prove it!).  This realization has truly been a breakthrough. I now know that I cannot trust my sinful self and, as we say in Re:Gen, my life has become unmanageable. I need to let go and depend solely on Christ. I’ve admitted I’m powerless over my compulsive behaviors. (“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” – Romans 7:18 ). I have chosen to allow God to move in my life and to trust him, taking the path I’ve never traveled. And I had no idea how truly exhausting and scary that would be. Today, I feel like Eustace. God is cleansing me of my sinful behaviors and patterns and it hurts more than I could have imagined. It’s painful! He is tearing off my dragon scales and I feel so vulnerable and hopeless. BUT God is faithful. I find myself reminded daily by the tiniest moments of peace and smallest reminders of hope to trust in Him.

Hebrews 12:3-17

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no“root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

So today, I feel horrible. Tapes keep playing in my head that I’m not strong enough, I’m broken beyond repair, and redemption is impossible. And the temptation to quit and go back to my old ways are tempting. But these are lies. God never said that change would be easy or fun, but he did promise that we WILL be redeemed. Christ died in spite of ourselves and nothing I do in the past, present, or future can separate me from the love of Christ. I just have to let him cleanse me.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

Growing up in a Christian home, the word “grace” has always been a household word. I always knew what grace was and knew that God’s grace applied to everyone, including me. However, recently I have come to realize that knowing something is different than truly understanding something. I know that I’m forgiven and God shows me grace but its never really sunk in. The concept of grace lost its meaning and its significance as I grew up. I’ve always considered myself a “good girl” and have frequently been called a “goody two-shoes” so I always felt like my sins weren’t that big of a deal to God. My sins were easily forgiven. I really never felt truly remorseful for a majority of the mistakes I made. While reading the book Redemption by Mike Wilkerson, I discovered that my attitude toward grace and forgiveness is arrogant. He writes,

“a preoccupation with self-forgiveness is to believe that your sin is a bigger deal to you than it is to God. You think, “Of course God has forgiven me,” as if it were a small thing to Him. The fact is that God is always the most offended by your sin, even when you sin against someone else. No one knows more than God just how big a deal your sin truly is. It cost  him His perfect son”.

He goes on to say, “It is the height of self-centeredness to think your sin somehow offends you (or anyone else, even) more than it offends God”. I felt very convicted by this. I obviously considered my sin insignificant when in reality, my sins don’t differ from murder or greed. All sins are equal in the eyes of God (James 2:10).

My conviction led me to re-read the gospel so I could truly understand the price Jesus paid for my sins, no matter how small or insignificant they are in the eyes of man. Every night I read a chapter and every night I’ve notice a pattern: its all about faith. In almost every chapter someone either lacks faith and Jesus forgives them or someone has faith in Jesus Christ and is blessed because of that faith. As I’ve mentioned in blogs past, I’ve been struggling with worry and anxiousness about my future. Every night I am hit with the realization that my worrying is really a lack of faith in God, which is my constant sin struggle. Despite the fact He has always provided for me and things always work out a million times better than I could ever plan, I still worry. Yet, as I’ve been reading, I have caught myself getting frustrated with the disciples and others who lack faith. Unlike us, they actually met Jesus Christ. They watched him perform miracles, they watched fulfill prophecies, and they witnessed him rise again. They have no excuse to doubt, right? Once again I have considered my lack of faith not a big deal. But I’ve realized that I also have proof of God’s authenticity: the Bible. So I don’t have an excuse. Jesus died for me and I think its trivial that I don’t trust him? Pitiful. However, it is comforting to know the disciples and I struggle with the same thing. Doubt and worry are natural parts of being human. When the disciples became afraid of the storm Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” (Matthew 8:26). God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and EVERYWHERE. And this perfect, loving God gave His only son to die for my sins. ALL of them.

So for those of you reading this and thinking, “I thought this blog post was supposed to be about grace?”, let me explain. You cannot truly understand grace until you understand the validity of Christ and the meaning of what He did (AKA: the Gospel). Jesus died for our sins. He DIED. He didn’t just ‘die’ either. He suffered the most humiliating and painful death at that time in history and not even for just one person. He died for His friends. He died for His enemies. He died for everyone in His present, His past, and His future. He died for you before you were you were formed in your mother’s womb. He died for your lies, for your greed, for your sinful thoughts and your sinful actions. He made Himself filthy in the eyes of His father. So filthy, in fact, that God turned away from Him. He did all this so that you and I have the opportunity to spend eternity with a loving God. So he suffered for the things I am apathetic for. So no matter how small I consider it in relation to the sins of others, it still cost Him his life. And he did all of this because he LOVES us. Let that sink in.

So as you can see, I’m being convicted a lot recently. And, subsequently, I’m learning a lot too. I was shown the following video from a very dear friend of mine. I feel this video truly encompasses what I tried to convey. Enjoy!