From time to time, it’s easy to get so settled-in to Christianese that you miss out on the meaning. In a sense, you begin to allow your mind to dull the sharpness of the Word. Or maybe it’s just me.
I listened to a message this morning that put me (rightfully) in my place. What knocked me on my butt was, like many things God’s been speaking to me lately, a concept I’ve “known” for a long time. This time, though, it goes beyond the forgetful factor C.S. Lewis so concisely put: “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” This time, I just never really got it.
In fact, this time it was something I had discussed with a friend not six months ago, speaking as if I really understood. The problem is that I’ve known it intellectually, but the theory and the application are very different. Taking it a step further, I’ve even heard this message three times before today, but the truth never resonated until now.
So what is this powerful revelation? What is this life-changing awareness? What has shifted in my paradigm?
No, seriously, I suck.
And it’s not a question of failures, though I’ve had plenty of them. It would be easy enough to embrace the defeat associated with the conscious decisions I’ve made that led me down unrighteous paths. After all, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And I’ve really taken the cake on that. I’m the lowest of the low, and lower. I can acknowledge that.
But here’s the lie I’ve believed: I still have something to offer. God can look past my past and love me because I still have merit. I can still be useful. I’ve got something good in me, even if it’s surrounded by this sinful exterior.
I’ve held a worldview wherein I’m not bad because I’m not “as bad as I could be.” I’ve still got some good stuff in there somewhere.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I frequently compared myself to others in the cliche way. “Well, at least I’m not like so-and-so.” I have made comparisons; I’m human. But that’s not my modus operandi. Instead, my error has been to say things like, “I wouldn’t go so far as to say I…”
So I’m at least a decent person. But that’s false. I suck.
I said earlier that I believed that God could love me despite my sin because I have merit. But I don’t have merit. I have no redeeming qualities in and of myself. Sure, I’m made of God-material. After all, we’re made in His likeness. But that’s like saying that crap nugget and a planet-sized diamond are similar because they both have carbon in them.
I have lived in sin. I have reveled in sin. But even if I hadn’t, I’d still suck. I have nothing to offer God.
God doesn’t love me because I have merit that redeems me. God redeems me and gives me merit because He loves me. My perspective was backward, upside-down, and inside-out. Without Him, without His love, without His redemption, without His sacrifice… I suck.
In Pastor Jeff Little’s illustration from Week 5 of Encounters, he chipped a clay pot to symbolize how we acknowledge our sinful past to a degree, but he then explains that we stop short of an accurate measure. We believe we’re “just chipped” or “a little bit broken”. “I’m pretty well put together. I actually can add something to the discussion. I recognize I’m not perfect… I can still contain good stuff.”
But I can’t. That clay pot didn’t stay “just chipped” in his illustration. And I wasn’t even born “just chipped,” much less am I there now. I’m a hopeless case; I have no redeeming value. Sure, I can make a good decision, and I can find myself aligning to His will on occasion. But given enough guesses I can pick any random number you think of, no matter the range. Doesn’t make me psychic. One right guess doesn’t negate the thirty or three thousand wrong guesses that preceded it.
What I’m beginning to realize is that one right guess, even if it’s the first guess, still doesn’t make me psychic. I’m not a good person. No living human is. We’re all incapable, least of all me.
And yet God still chooses to love us. God still chooses to love me. There’s something significant there. Still digging into that side of things, but I’m definitely realizing just how much I suck.