“People need you to be stable.”
That’s what the legalists told me about being in leadership. I’m not so sure that it’s much different in the gospel community if I’m being honest. It seems that uncertainty is “bad for branding”. How do I know that? Because I am a gospel writer and I am terrified to be uncertain. It seems that every tweeter, blogger, and author is 100% convinced of everything they are telling us. Which leads this tweeter, blogger, podcaster, struggling author to feel like an absolute fraud as she wrestles through life while sharing good news through the small platforms she has.
I would give my right arm for one of these authors who make boo-koo’s of money off of the gospel to come out and talk about their darkness of soul moments–to be honest with the masses. I would give anything to hear someone say they struggle to believe what it is they are selling me. Not just in a “oh, I give a nod to my struggle…throw you measly people a bone so that I appear relevant and you keep buying my books” but to come out and say that there are moments that they don’t have any idea who they are or what they want or (what’s at the heart of it all) that they aren’t even sure that they are loved.
Is anyone willing to be that honest? Is anyone willing to come out with their truth like, “It’s easy for me to believe that God loves and forgives the heroin addict, but I’m not so sure that he loves and forgives me– the woman who isn’t even sure of what love is or that she is even worthy of such a thing. So from there she conjures up bullshit scenarios in her mind of what it feels like to be loved which really just plays out like some sort of mindless, passionate bang — void of anything that is actually loving — because love doesn’t make sense to her but sex does.”
I mean, who wants to buy that book?
The truth is that we are always tempted to package this grace message and tie it up with a pretty bow and say “here’s grace– isn’t it lovely? Please pass the pretty tea cup and the scones.” It comes out in this well thought out, formulaic way– as if to say that we can somehow “apply” the gospel to our lives and magically everything is okay now. I think that’s incredibly off base to the nature of grace. The truth is that grace, while flawless, is beautifully messy and so completely unformulated. And you know what? It has to be! Because this life is messy and unformulated.
Look at the cross — Jesus was a bloody, gross mess — which communicates to me that love itself is a bloody, gross mess. Radical love is not calculated and wrapped in a damned box– its irrational and irresponsible. It doesn’t come to us with fairy tale promises of making everything better if we can just wrap our minds around it. This radical love, this Grace comes in and it says “You are a fucking mess. You can’t clean this up even if you tried. AND with God as my witness, I love you.” (Simul justus et peccator)
That’s it. That’s all.
I started writing because I desperately needed for someone to say what it is that I desperately needed to hear. That’s always been my “brand” if you will. So here it goes.
I do not believe that I am worthy of love and I am not convinced of God’s love for me. I desperately want to believe and I desperately need to believe. It’s why I keep digging so hard. Sure, there are moments that I believe it and I feel that strength he supplies me with, but most of the time I’m trying to convince you because I’m trying to convince myself. No, I don’t have a handle on the gospel. I don’t have a handle on life.
What I’ve discovered about the gospel is that it doesn’t require that I have a handle on it. In fact, it invites me to be honest about my unbelief. “Lord, help my unbelief” is probably one of the most profound, revealing scriptures about what grace actually requires — An admission that not only do I not have my moral shit together, I don’t even have my “gospel” shit together. No one does.
I hear of this love that will not let me go. It is the stability of perfect love that actually frees us to wrestle. It can withstand our questioning of it and our doubt. We can push up against its chest and scream “I do not believe you!” and it doesn’t pull away. We can squander that love. We can commit adultery against that love and throw everything back in it’s face, and say that we want anything and everything else but it. It doesn’t budge or blink. It remains. When we exhaust ourselves out there in the world and in our minds trying to manufacture that love in every other avenue because we can’t trust it — it holds us.
But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
What you need is not someone to tell you that she believes the gospel and so can you. You need to hear that even when we don’t believe, the gospel is still true. Life has taught us that if anything sounds too good to be true, it is. So of course we doubt this love. It’s okay to wrestle. I am wrestling.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Do you doubt that God loves someone like you? Allow yourself to exhale. God knows that you are uncertain of his love, lay it on him. Maybe dance a little. 😉
This is getting me through the day: Check it.
If you tell me Christian commitment is a kind of thing that has happened to you once and for all like some kind of spiritual plastic surgery, I say go to, go to, you’re either pulling the wool over your own eyes or trying to pull it over mine. Every morning you should wake up in your bed and ask yourself: “Can I believe it all again today?” No, better still, don’t ask it till after you’ve read The New York Times, till after you’ve studied that daily record of the world’s brokenness and corruption, which should always stand side by side with your Bible. Then ask yourself if you can believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ again for that particular day. If your answer’s always Yes, then you probably don’t know what believing means. At least five times out of ten the answer should be No because the No is as important as the Yes, maybe more so. The No is what proves you’re human in case you should ever doubt it. And then if some morning the answer happens to be really Yes, it should be a Yes that’s choked with confession and tears and…great laughter. – Frederick Buechner