Anne blogs at Front Porch, Inspired about surrendering everyday living for sacred purposes. She and her husband, Jay, are founders of a ministry called The Bridge, focusing on missional living and advocacy for youth in vulnerable places of life. She holds an MA in Teaching Languages (TESOL and Spanish) and is a lover of words and the Word, culture and communication. Jay and Anne have five kids, a front door that can’t stay closed, and an abundance of messy, holy chaos at their neighborhood center/home in Iowa – of all places.
I’m convinced, a legalistic heart will find its drug of choice in whatever setting, whatever the cost. It will find opportunities to use anywhere – from steeples to alleys.
The drug? It’s a hit of religion, fear, good works, and pride - all rolled up in the thin paper of public approval.
I was raised in a conservative, Anabaptist congregation with strong German roots. In more common terms, it was in the same vein as Amish and Mennonite communities. The opportunities to use my drug abounded there, and my heart was always looking and craving. But, the do-good work addiction didn’t beat me there; I was in control. I knew the ropes there, knew how to live in that culture, knew the rights and wrongs and how to blend in to the crowd. The drug enhanced me and my appearance, gave me the sense of control and approval.
But, then we left the community there, and Grace wrecked my legalistic heart. It yanked the rugs out from under me and cracked my prized measuring stick in two. Suddenly, I wasn’t in control anymore. It seemed, the Grace I longed for would be my undoing, leaving me vulnerable to a wrath-filled God; for, I no longer knew how to stand before Him without a stockpile of goodness to hide behind. I knew how to do; I didn’t know how to be.
I understood the job description of a Christian, but I could not fathom the undeserved, inherited, blood-soaked place in God’s family that was offered to me - freely.
So, looking back, I think I did what many addicts do - I switched marijuana for cigarettes. Not literally, but I left behind the keeping of religious rules on dress codes and entertainment, and I jumped fully into a world of missions and good works; although not overpowering, that desire to work in order to maintain His favor still lingered.
Because it's far different to work hard in order to earn His love - rather than responding joyfully to Love already given by walking obediently in the good works He's already ordained.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
So, am I still using? Am I still craving? By God’s grace, not on a regular basis.
But, Jesus isn’t satisfied with “not on a regular basis.” I know this, and recently, He spoke something crazy and unexpected to my legalism-laced heart.
He said, “You are going through withdrawal. This is your withdrawal period.”
My withdrawal. Yes, it made sense. See, the ministry and the mission my family and I have been living out for the past five years has changed drastically in recent months. We’ve been prompted into a season of waiting on the Lord – waiting for direction, purpose, vision. We only know the ministry will not continue to look like it has in the past, but we are not yet convinced on what our next steps will be. So, we wait.
I wait, without that stockpile of goodness to hide behind. I wait, craving something to chase after and to achieve for Him. I'm still jumpy to run to earning His favor, securing His love. But, He says it’s my withdrawal. That means it won't last for ever, I tell myself, and Redemption will win.
And, Grace keeps calling for me, inviting me to come out from behind that stockpile and to face Him – just me, no do-good mask on and no badges of God-glorifying victories on my chest. Just me.
It's vulnerable here. It's raw and shaky. But, praise God, the call of Grace is relentless.
So, I’m stepping out now, awkward and fumbling. But, I’m clinging to Grace. I’m smearing this life-giving blood on my arms, my face, my head – because I want to believe with my whole being, down into this legalistic heart, that His blood proclaims the work is all done. And, I can be loved without earning or maintaining His favor - because of His work on that cross, not mine on this earth.
Acceptance has been won, and a divine chair has been pulled out at His family table. It's for me.
Grace Alone has set this family table and Blood Divine has secured my invitation. I am His daughter, and I can never, ever earn this place in His presence.
And, it's for you - you who labor to keep it all looking right and to earn His favor with your faithfulness. Let His work be enough. Let your heart trust His way, that it's about Him, not you. It's always been about Him. May you answer that relentless call of Grace.
And, Friend, may you too surrender your serving platter and lay aside your servant's apron.
Acceptance has been won and a divine chair has been pulled out at His family table for you.
It's for you. Grace Alone has set this family table and Blood Divine has secured your invitation. You are His beloved child, and you can never, ever earn this place in His presence.
And, here we sit, with our names on the place cards, and our chairs dipped red in sacrifice. But it's not our blood, it's His - the One seated at the Father's right hand.
The One who can be heard whispering, "It is finished" should our restless fingers ever start reaching for the water pitcher, the platter, the apron.
The work has been done, and He's paid the high price of gathering us work-addicted souls to His family table. Redemption has won. Now, it's just time to taste and see. He's good.