Therefore since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.
— Hebrews 12:1
It’s been a long season of searching — seasons really — of trying to understand this grace. I clearly hadn’t earned it nor do I deserve it. Yet I kept finding myself in the trap of trying to somehow merit God’s love and strive for grace, the ultimate irony! And before I could even begin to talk about the grace God has bestowed through his Son, I had to be willing to let go of that which hindered me in order to receive the gift so freely given.
It all began as a path of healing. Panic attacks had become my modus operandi. Many a day I had longed for peace in the midst of panic. The heart pounding like pistons in the chest, mind tangled with thistles and barbed with briers. In the middle of a siege, overcome by a barrage, arrows of deception shooting through the mind. On the battlefield of the mind, peace is not easily won.
Anxiety is the worry that sits like a rocking chair. I have sat unsteadily upon it so regularly that it is worn in the seat, a spot that feels almost comfortable. There’s that incessant feeling of helplessness, like falling through a void, weightlessness catches the stomach, and I reach to grasp at something to hold onto. I am Alice falling through the looking glass. I may end up on the other side of the world, where everything appears upside down, and suddenly I find myself in a room that is too big and I am too small. How ever will I get out of here? Where is the key?
Expectations. Those false hopes I erected upon alters of Control, projected upon situations and circumstances, images of my imaginings, gods of my undoing. I had constructed safe walls around myself to protect against the elements of the unknown and invited others in with me. Surely if I hide them within my walls I can protect them too?
These are the shackles I have worn. Fettered by what I wasn’t fully aware had become my bondage.
Being this transparent feels vulnerable. Uneasy. Terrifying even. But then…there is freedom. It is the freedom given by a God whom I could never have constructed and couldn’t begin to imagine the depths of his glory. A way made through the wilderness, leading along paths of peace (Luke 1:79). He is called the Prince of Peace because he was born with the singular purpose of being the offering that would close the gap between a holy God and fallen mankind. Peace between God and his creation. The very glory of God wrapped in the flesh of a babe so that the veil that separated our imperfection from God’s perfect presence would be torn away.
Back in 2013, the Lord began walking me along a path to discover peace. I spent two years praying for peace, searching the scriptures for peace. A simple truth hit me like an epiphany. If peace is a fruit of the Spirit, then I cannot will myself to obtain peace. No amount of effort on my part will earn me peace. In fact all of my failed efforts at creating peace in my life have been mere facades and were in fact cloaked in pride and the idol of control.
“You cannot have peace with God until you encounter the grace of God.”–Pastor Ed Rae
I began praying for more of God’s Spirit to fill me and guide me as I longed to bear the fruit of his attributes in my life – love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, self control. These things are born of the Spirit. Against these things there are no restrictions. No bondage. Only freedom (Galations 5).
I can only find the freedom I long for in Christ when I welcome his presence and consent to his will in my life. God led me to one startling and simple conclusion: peace is found in his presence. God present. God all here. God with us.
So I step forward into 2015 by letting go of what was behind and bravely stepping forward to receive grace. Because no matter what, when I choose to step out of the chains that Christ has already broken then I can step up to victory. Even if I falter, each stride will be taken by faith and carry me along by God’s amazing grace. Each step is a growth spurt in trusting God and continuing to abide in him.
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Because of the joy set before him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame.