[But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And]
“The Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
- 2 Corinthians 3: 16-18- NLT
I want to start by being VERY clear not to confuse sanctification with justification. In the instant that God calls us to Himself (and grants us the faith to believe in the work of Christ on the cross) we are justified before Him. There is nothing we can do to add to (or take away from) what He has already done. So I feel like I should start with my story of justification (or more accurately, the story of God calling me to himself for His glory):
“For God knew his people in advance,
and He chose them to become like His Son,
so that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
And having chosen them he called them to come to him.
And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself.
[And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory].
- Romans 8:29-30- NLT
I will be 25 years old this coming March and was hugely blessed to be raised in a Christian home. I had the most wonderful parents a girl could ask for; I have never wanted for love or acceptance. My mom and dad sacrificed financially to send myself and my siblings to a Christian school where I had the opportunity to study the Bible on a daily basis, and where every classroom we stepped into focused in on the Christian faith. Growing up in the Christian Reformed Church, I did a public profession of faith and as I stepped into my teen years I took a missions trip to Mexico. In 2005 I walked out of high school with excellent grades, self confidence, respect and love for others and “the world at my feet” (so to speak). And yet, with every opportunity having been afforded to me, I had not encountered Christ.
Though I don’t know that I would ever have voiced it this way… I didn’t need Him; I could live a happy, moral, successful life all on my own; and in this thinking, I certainly didn’t need God to guide my steps… I was perfectly capable of making wise choices.
So, that being said, I will never understand what prompted me to take a year off before heading to university (except to say that I now faithfully believe that every step I took was God was calling me to him).
In that year, I met my husband-to-be, fell MADLY¹ in love,
¹[definition of: madly [ˈmædlɪ] 1. in an insane or foolish manner, 2. with great speed or energy, 3. extremely or excessively…. Accurate on all three points]
and shortly later stepped into a marriage founded on “you make me happy, therefore I love you”. (recipe-for-diSASTer). Two kids, and five years of dissatisfied marriage later (“you don’t make my happy, therefore I don’t love you”), and I wanted out.
Walking in the belief that I deserved so much better, I asked my husband to move out until he could get his act together. I told him I was unhappy, and that I essentially needed time away from him to figure out if there was anything salvageable left in my heart for our marriage….ouch. He loved me enough to grant me that, and all of a sudden I was alone.
And then came Christ.
And In a MOMENT, that I couldn’t pinpoint if you asked me to, my world changed.
In sharing this part of my walk, I have been asked how I knew that something had changed. When asked by a brother or sister in Christ who has walked a similar path in their faith, I find it easy to answer: “I just knew.” But when it is someone who is struggling to accept my story of salvation, or worse someone drowning in the mess that “Christianity” has become, grasping for anything to quiet the voice of uncertainty, I find that my answers feel insufficient…as if the meaning I long to express gets lost in words that have long since lost their flavour and their depth.
Peace, Hope, Love.
If I had to put it down to one tangible bit of evidence, for me it was that for the first time in my life I was SURE of my salvation;
“For I AM CONVINCED, that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, neither height nor depth,
nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Romans 8 -
and because of that assurance I have been able to begin to walk in a peace I never imagined attainable... which I can put down to nothing else but the Spirit in me and Christ’s sanctifying power at work in my life.
All that being said…I am being made humbly aware that sanctification is a process. A two steps forward, one step backwards process; a lesson in humility, and a daily reminder that though Christ lives in me, I am, and will be until His return, nothing more than a blurry reflection of the image that is His beauty and grace.
Here’s how it played out in our household a few nights ago:
Our baby girl is struggling to fall asleep, a constant problem for the past few weeks.I am exhausted. Minimal sleep, excessively grumpy child(ren) and every cell in my body is stuck on crazy mode. My husband is listening to a podcast on his Iphone and I snap at him to take the headphones out of his ears. He asks why and I snap (again): “So that you can hear if Talia starts crying for the eighteen millionth time!” Obviously unimpressed with my attitude he does it anyways (wise man) and sits looking at me until I break. In a semi-coherent mess of sentences it all comes tumbling out… “I’m so frustrated. I spent all day putting them first and they’re still grumpy. I didn’t get any exercise… and I’m so frustrated. I’m sick of Talia whining at me all day and Braden not listening… I’m so frustrated. I can’t remember the last time we had a date night and you haven’t texted me from work in ages… I feel like I’m running on empty and I’m just so frustrated.” At this point the tears are making their way to the surface and honestly I’m a really ugly crier. My face goes all blotchy and my nose starts to run; but as I wipe away the mess of tears and snot, realization breaks through. “And I’m not really frustrated with you. I’m not even frustrated with them. I’m just so frustrated with me being frustrated.” And, loving me through Christ and Christ through me, my very wise husband gets up and pulls me into his arms. And I can let go.
To the casual observer this scene might not be anything special. But to me... to me this was revelation, and freedom. As a professing OCD, perfectionist control freak I have the tendency to need to finish everything I start and tie it all up with pretty pink ribbons to find peace enough to let go and move on. But the reality is that Christ’s sanctifying work in my life isn’t always going to go the way I want it to; in fact, more often than not I think its going to be an ugly, messy, humbling, and yes “two steps forward and one step back”, continuous process until the day that he returns and renews all to Him for His glory. The beauty for me in this moment is that I could let go; that I could accept the comfort and peace that He offered me in the arms of my husband, and in the quiet truths whispered in my soul. “You don’t have to do it. I’ve already done it, and I’m going to keep doing it.”
It’s going to be a process, and I’m okay with that. In fact, I’m more than okay with it… I am so incredibly thankful that in His great mercy and love He chose to lift me up out of the mess I was making of my life, and grant me His Spirit so that in all things I can say boldly, in the words of Chris Tomlin:
I lay me down, I’m not my own, I belong to you alone.
Lay me down, lay me down.
Hand on my heart this much is true,
there’s no life apart from you, lay me down lay me down.
Letting go of my pride, giving up all my rights, take this life and let it shine.
Take this life and let it shine.
It will be my joy to say, your will your way.
It will be my joy to say, your will, your way, always.
For His Glory (in spite of my rambling),