It wasn't that long ago . . .
When loving God meant giving up something.
When the right decision was always the hard one.
When surrender was only defined as sacrifice.
During most of high school and the beginning of college I lived in black and white days. I acted under the beliefs that being a Christian was supposed to be hard and that a narrow set of actions was God's will for me. If I truly loved God, I had to be like Abraham and be willing to give up that which was most precious to me - whether God had demanded it or not. Surrendering my will to the Lordship of Christ entailed giving up my desires and needs. Even as I write this, I still find some truth in these ideas, yet I know that those statements are incomplete without the joy and freedom that Christ offers.
I remember those black and white days as a freshmen in high school, when I felt convicted to make God my greatest priority and give Him my time and energy. In order to do this, I felt that I needed to drop my Pre-AP Biology class, because the course load was so much more demanding than most high school classes and it was sapping away my time and energy. If I wasn't working on our lab notebooks or studying for exams, I could spend so much more time reading God's word and reaching out to those around me. I wanted to be in that class and I wanted to excel in it, but that was prideful. Dropping the class would humble me, as it would go against all the expectations I have for myself and my schooling. I even imagined the dramatic statement I could make with this. People would wonder, "Why did she drop this class?" and I would tell them how I didn't want to do it, but I needed to for my commitment to God. Though I contemplated these things, I never did drop the class. I worked through it and made an A. Looking back, I think I was very sincere but rather misguided. Why would God want me to forsake the talents that He created within me?
I was reminded of those black and white days when listening to Jars of Clay's first album in my car -
"Can I be the one to sacrifice
Or grip the spear and watch the blood and water flow
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - I am on my knees
To love you - take my world apart
To need you - broken on my knees . . . .
. . . More and more I need you now,
I owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
I gave up not so long ago
So steal my heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse my pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things I cannot hide
take the beauty, take my tears
the sin-soaked heart and make it yours
take my world all apart
take it now, take it now"
Listening to this song, I cannot help but remember those black and white days when I first heard this song and prayed that God would take my world apart and strip me of all the things that were hindering my love for Him. I wanted to be the one to sacrifice, not the one who held the blood and water soaked spear. God had done so much for me, and I owed him.
Did I really think that during those black and white days - that I owed God for his sacrifice? It almost seems unbelievable right now. I know my intentions were sincere and my passion was real, but how could I possibly give God anything to make up for what He has given me? Eventually, I felt convicted to break up with my boyfriend, who wasn't the one for me and who was robbing my heart from God. Maybe, so I believed at the time. When I broke up with him, I felt that was the sacrifice that God demanded. As if breaking up with a boy would ever come close to sending my only son to the cross. I could go on and on with more stories from my black and white days, but I think those two convey it well. Looking back I wonder, "Did I even understand what grace was?" I still don't comprehend it and don't fully know how to respond to God's grace.
I still believe that sometimes God demands sacrifices, but it's for our own good as well as His. Imagine how Abraham must have changed after being commanded by a heavenly angel to stop as he held the dagger over this son. Imagine all the emotions he could have felt at the sight of the ram he was to sacrifice instead. We are given a hint about how he must have felt -
" 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." Genesis 22
The LORD Will Provide was what he called it. What a title of gratitude and praise! From this we learn that God will provide the sacrifice, not us. The LORD Will Provide the ram, his Son, and all that we need.
As thankful as I am to be moving into a greyer world where God's grace is becoming more apparent, I sometimes miss those black and white days. In those days, decisions were easier. Pick the harder option, the one that requires the most sacrifice and that will bring the most glory to God. This is still my temptation when making decisions - turn down that great offer the world gives, ignore the desires of my heart, because surely the world and my heart are wicked. But this is the battle in finding wisdom in a greyer world - sometimes my heart speaks from the flesh, but sometimes it speaks from the desires that God has given me. I pray for the wisdom to tell the two apart and to accept the grey.