The sound is married to our experience of the ocean: the crash of the wave upon the sand and the pulling whoosh of the current back into the swell. Over and again it pounds, regardless of whether or not we are wandering close enough to hear it. It will continue while I see it, it will continue while I don’t. I couldn’t stop it, nor could I do anything to help keep it going.
Life sometimes comes in waves also. Crashes of wild seasons, whether they be filled with excitement or pain or confusion or stress, followed by the strange recovery in between. I think I crave the crash, forgetting that another one is guaranteed to come. The lull between them seems uncomfortably still to me; each time I realize the crash has ended, I’m anxious to begin the whirlwind again. The movement is an assurance that things are happening, that life is being lived. The peace of the breath inbetween makes me nervous.
I’ve been learning to appreciate that pause, knowing that the sand of my heart needs that moment of recovery before being submerged again. But it doesn’t mean I’m still completely over my hunger for action. Lately, the recovery period seemed too long, too drawn out, as if I was moving from recovery to laziness, from rest to numbness.
But then, I find sometimes all I need is a collapse from law into grace. The fall functioned like CPR to my soul, one He so perfectly timed, knowing how badly in need is my aching heart.
Funny, that I have to remind my feet to run back to the grassy knolls of His grace when straying onto the rocks of law requires no thought at all. My natural self wanders into the desert of self-effort with ease, hungry after the luring idea that I can somehow perform my way to success. Over and again, this occurs. It is another type of wave: celebrating grace, followed by withdrawing into peformance, only to be jolted alive with a crash of grace once more.
So, as my parched throat realizes I have run to broken cisterns that cannot ever hope to hold water, the crash happens. Romans 3 happens.
Whenever you feel the pull, be it ever so small and gentle, to go spend time with Jesus, go. Cancel your plans and go. It’s easy to plunge headfirst into something distracting, to trying burying one’s head in numbing activities in order to dismiss the whisper, but its always, always worth it to listen. I had been, for weeks, staying on the surface with Jesus and rushing off before anything could get too real. The ache created by my avoidance kept annoyingly creeping into the corners of my life. It sapped my patience, my joy and my ability to connect well with others. Far too obvious to ignore, but I tried. Then, a week or so ago, I let myself acknowledge that deep down the real issue was that I needed to really, truly get alone with Jesus and stop avoiding (sometimes I need reminders of that- thanks Davis), and by His grace I didn’t brush it off. So, I came home that night, willing to finally be honest with Him, and Romans 3 happened. Halfway through the chapter, I started weeping, because I read this, and it was all I needed to read in that moment:
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. (Romans 3:20, NIV)
It was an undeniable moment of scripture acting like the double-edged sword it promises to be, dividing joints and marrow, revealing where my heart had forsaken truth and embraced a false hope.
The constant temptation for us all is to function as if we have something to offer God, that he owes us, that we aren’t as helpless and pitiful as we actually are. We want to earn the right to demand what he should give us and the right to avoid what we don’t want him to give us. The idea of being unable to control our own lives or lay claim to our own credit is repulsive to us humans. Our natural inclination is for us to be the center; even our most altruistic projects are laced with hopes for self-glorification. It’s true of me, and it’s likely true of you, if you dare to be vulnerable enough to reflect on it.
For no person will be justified (made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable) in His sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law. For [the real function of] the Law is to make men recognize and be conscious of sin. (Romans 3:20, AMP)
See, in that moment that I read this verse, I realized what had robbed the vibrancy and flavor from my time with Jesus. I had fallen into the trap of taking a diagnostic tool and expecting to somehow use it to earn my acceptance. I had forgotten it’s “real function”. The law, the standards of God, were never meant to justify me, to make me acceptable, to qualify me to “make the cut”. And yet the all-too-common human temptation is to take His standards and try to apply them by brute force in order to get myself “in”. It’s a simple lie, but until you catch yourself living it, it’s hard to realize how powerful it actually is, and how easily it can shape your frame of mind.
Instead, the law is only meant to reveal to me just how badly I need a Savior. It is only meant to prove to me that despite all my attempts at self-deception, I’m really not as wonderful as I’d like to think, or as I’d like others to think. It’s commonly said that the law is an x-ray to reveal the sickness of sin in our hearts, not the surgery needed to cure it.
The current’s pull into my default self-salvation mode, and the crash of His grace, telling me to abandon such futile ideas. The pull of law, the crash of grace.
Thank Jesus for the crash of his love, for the breaking waves of his grace and justice over my life. The crash of his death on a cross, the crash of his victory over the grave.
Gospel. Good news. It never gets old, never loses it’s relevancy, never is outgrown.
One of my favorite reflections on Easter is that what he did to provide us with this grace, what he did to fulfill the law we never could, he did with great and abounding joy. He did not look down at us from the cross with accusation and annoyance in his eyes, as I fear (I got to reflect on this last year, and wrote about it here). Instead, it is love washing over me, the immensity of it proven by what he was willing to do for me. His love was proven, not diminished, by the cross.
While His love for me cost Him dearly, the cost did not sway His steps to Calvary.
And because of that, this is my story: he has brought me from wrath to riches, gutter to glory, separated to secure, destruction to delight, shame to splendor, fear to fullness, treachery to treasure, alone to accepted, all by the power of His blood and the freedom of His love for me.
And in the wake of every time my heart is fickle and runs back to law, His love comes like a wave, crashing over me. And not just once, but continually; His love comes in waves upon waves, like the perpetual pounding of the sea upon the shore. It does not stop, it is not a single, finite moment, but rather a continual pouring out; wave after wave after wave. I cannot deter his love, I cannot disqualify myself from it, no more than I could stop the sea.