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where strivings cease

you guys, i've been trying to write this post for weeks. it has been an ever-evolving "draft" for almost a month. i don't really know why, exactly. can't put my finger on it. was it too vulnerable? maybe... and then today i read this post by Jon Acuff [Stuff Christians Like]. it got my wheels turning again, and i came back to this draft. to my surprise, i had already written a lot more than i remembered. so anyway, here goes:

let's face it: none of us are ever going to be perfect. we mess up daily, and sometimes we sin BIG. i was always the good girl. always followed the rules, wanted everyone to know me as the responsible and mature one with my head on straight. i liked that attention. i always dressed modestly. i always did the right thing... almost. in my later high school days, i allowed temptation to lead into sin, and i did things that i knew God hated. and i kept doing them, knowing that he hated them. i almost didn't know how to stop. i was caught up in a whirlwind of sinning, knowing it was wrong, doing it anyway, and hating the person i was because of this.

when i finally grew out of that cycle, i became so ashamed of myself for what i had done. recently i read through journal entries from high school and college that i had penned through tear-blurred eyes. my heart ached for that girl because i had actually believed that God did not want me. He didn't love me, how could He? i knew the way back, but i was scared of His wrath. i wanted to pretend He wasn't there, that He didn't see me. if i didn't confess anything, He would never know. i read through these journal entries and just wept over my past self. i was so deceived, so blinded by shame [which Beth Moore refers to as "satan's stamp of approval"]. i wanted to make things right in my heart, but i believed i had sinned too deeply to turn back.

as i began to grow into the woman that God had planned me to be, i was able to let go of my deep shame and feelings of inadequacy. i was able to accept His gift of grace. i could finally believe that He was good enough and trustworthy enough to forgive me once and for all. i came to accept that He could never love me less, no matter what i had done. He just loves me...

then i began to feel an urgency to get involved in church ministries, serve the homeless, anything to prove to God that i was sorry and that i loved Him. if there was anything i could do to make Him love me more, i would do it. and then He hit me with a ton of bricks over the head.
"I love you the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. I could never love you less... and I could never love you more, either."
He wanted me to serve Him and serve others out of love and compassion, not out of guilt or a feeling that i needed to make up for what i had done to Him. let go of the guilt, the shame, the ugliness. allow His grace to really dig deep into your muddy heart. let His peace renew your weary soul. be freed by His unconditional and unchanging love. He just plain loves you. stop striving, stop trying. just accept and believe that God knew before the foundations of the earth, that you would need His grace and His mercy and His Son. that is why the plan of salvation has always been laid out. Jesus was always willing and ready and waiting, and when the appointed time had come... He came. He was born. He loved and served. He died. He rose. He ascended and sent His Spirit... so that we could be saved, covered by His grace, and freed to live and love and serve out of an abundance of His love flowing through and out of us, not out of an abundance of guilt.

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