We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking.
So heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest.
I don't have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about the way
He loves us.
-David Crowder, "How He Loves"
Yesterday I woke up with these words on my lips. My heart was light, and I was overflowing with the satisfaction of joy, and yet something lapped just at the edge of my consciousness all day, patiently and persistently nudging me. My productivity was amazing, and I rode on the high of getting things done, but something was off. I felt it during my run at the Y, I felt during dinner with a friend, and I felt it getting Quinn ready for bed. This morning I woke with the distinct feeling of being fragile. My spirit was like a bird, flitting around and unable to settle during my quiet time. I realized I was hyper aware of the presence of my sinful nature, even in the ordinary routines such as getting dressed. I felt pressed down and burdened, unable to lift my spirit in grace. Finally, on the way to meet a friend for lunch, I just started crying, but they were tears of thankfulness and relief. Not because anything had changed, really, but because I was so grateful for the purifying presence of the Lord in my heart and spirit. I began to look back at the last few days and noticed a sinful laziness and self-indulgence creeping into my heart. A lack of patience with Quinn, an unkind thought, a lazy quiet time, a self-satisfied thought - so many little things here and there had calloused my heart to the truth.
Lately I've been reading through Joshua and Judges. I have been struck for some time about how Israel failed to completely obey the Lord by driving out their enemies. Repeatedly the Lord warned them to drive out the foreign tribes because they would prove to be a snare for the Israelites, and yet they continued to fail to do so. They subdued the tribes, subjecting them, and yet these very tribes later became a continual source of grief as they led the Israelites away from God and into sin and slavery. I have no desire to debate Old Testament ethics or the goodness of God here because what the Lord has been pressing on my heart is that I am the nation of Israel, and the foreign nations are the patterns of sinful living in my life. It is not enough to simply subject them for the moment. I must completely destroy them.
Most of us can picture someone we know who has lived through this death to self and grown in grace and love as they have gotten older. Yet we also know of people, very good people, who have grown in blindness to a particular flaw, and the passage of time has turned them bitter or depressed or any number of things. As James says, they have been dragged away by their desires and found death. How I see the seeds of future death in the habits of my mind that I dismiss as harmless!
Misplaced desires, self-satisfaction, the need to be admired or loved or praised - man, I could go on and on! It is not enough simply to discipline myself not to show these sinful thoughts. What I may be able to hide today will simply find another way of enslaving me unto death. These desires must die. How painful is that thought, and how my spirit nearly faints with the idea of what it will take to kill them, what it has already taken in my life to just begin putting them to death.
And yet, how thankful I am for the Lord's tenderness to make my spirit sensitive to His. No matter how fragile I feel, I am learning to rejoice in the awareness of sin. And not just to rejoice in the awareness, but to invite it and search for it. Formerly when I would happen upon sin in my life, I would grieve at the shame, at how it violated my need for validation and perfection. Awareness of sin used to be embarrassing and something to avoid or cover up or blame someone else for. Now, though, I find myself rejoicing (mostly, on a good day, that is) in the discovery of sin because it means I am alive and being made new. There is pain, deep pain, at the grief I cause so many in my sin, but there is also joy in learning to throw off the sin that so easily entangles. There is breathless joy in running the race and amazing tenderness at being corrected along the way.
I love the phrase above, "my heart turns violently inside of my chest." I feel the violence of turning right now, the violence of death and conviction and desperation. Because sanctification is violent, unapologetically and gloriously and jealously violent, and I am thankful for the Lord's violent mercy.