Early in the morning, we went for a walk in the park- me, my mom and the giant puppy. We talked about the fresh air, the trees, the giant ducks near the lake, and the dog’s collar. We talked about the differences between happiness and joy.
We talked about the things that happen as you feel yourself age. She shared with me her feelings of loneliness, frustration at herself for not being able to do the things she used to do well. We talked about love and hope.
We talked to each other about one another. How the both of us, for some reason, have lived with the sense of having to earn love. To earn affections, earn self-worth by the things we can offer to others, with our body, our mind, and our time. We kept assuring each other that it wasn’t true. I told her that my love for her never depended on how well she can cook, how sacrificial she can be for the well being of the family. She told me it doesn’t matter how well I’ve done in school, how smart I can make myself seem, how accomplished. These things don’t change love, it doesn’t increase or decrease it. Love is a decision, by the one who gives it, and it remains so.
We kept assuring one another with the same truth that was so difficult to accept for ourselves. And we walked in silence for a while.
I thought about the things we said. And my heart went nearer, and nearer, to the truth.
I don’t think I could have admitted it before. I might’ve denied it. But if I really think about it, isn’t it true, that every single thing I do, is in some way or another, an attempt to be loved? To earn love from myself, love from my family, my friends, my church, love from God.
And when I fail, when I fail everyday on these attempts, it brings me to the ground. It brings self-pity, bitterness, jealousy, anxiety. And then I try again, and for a while, I let myself believe I’m doing better this time, the people really love me, God is really pleased. And then I fall again. I fall harder. And then I pick myself up, bruised and hardened, and try again, and again, and again.
I’ve believed that I can actually do it. That I can live a life that deserves the love of God. A life that deserves His salvation, His grace. I wanted to reach that fantastical point, where I can look into myself, look into my heart and be pleased, assured that yes, God loves me, because I am good. I can do it, I can do it.
I can’t do it. I can’t. There’s no thing in me. My past record of sins disqualifies me to try, and even with a denial of the past, the future is just as bleak. I can’t do it.
And with this thought, at the right and perfect time, the Holy Spirit pours out that grace, and turns my heart, my mind to truth. Truth and grace in Jesus Christ.
“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” Colossians 2:13-14
I can’t do one thing to earn the love of God. Everything I do is in my sin, which earns death, and death to hell. But God. But God so loved me, that He gave His only Son, that in believing in Christ, I will not die, I will not receive the wrath I deserve, but I will have eternal life. This is the love of God, this is grace.
He loves me, not because of anything that I’ve done, or because of who I am. He simply loves me, despite who I am, because He chose to love me. And because He loves me, He saved me, through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
There’s nothing to say about myself. There’s everything to say about Jesus Christ. The perfect life He lived, the perfect love He poured out, His perfect sacrifice of Himself on the cross. His humility, His obedience, His grace, His resurrection, His power, His sovereignty, His omniscience, His second coming. His Word. He is my Savior, He is my Lord. And He’s done everything for the redeemed, from beginning to the end.
I can cease striving, because I know that He is God. God sealed me with His love and Spirit, as a child of God. Jesus Christ saved me, and I have faith in Him. God is unchanging, and He is faithful to His Word. I can do nothing, and I don’t have to do anything to earn, to preserve this love.
In this love, in this rest, in this gratitude, in this forgiveness, I can live for Him. The truth sets us free.
It’s so easy to forget, it’s so easy for me to little by little start depending on my deeds again, my performance, me, me, me. But God is faithful. And His grace never changes, and He lovingly reminds me time and time again in His Word, to cease striving. To know that He is God. To know the I live in Christ alone. That He has done it. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus Christ.
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Galations 2:20
If you are still striving, listen to Jesus Christ, who has said,
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
He will do it.