The Writing on the Wall

For those reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace, along with my small group, today’s devotional will match up with her sixth chapter: “Johnny Come Lately”

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 “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake”
(Ecclesiastes 7:20, Good News Translation).

My two-year-old created a masterpiece with a purple marker and a piece of paper.

Then she made a masterpiece on my kitchen wall.

I caught her standing back to admire her mural, giggling with pride.

Walking her back to the paper, I reminded her where art belongs without yelling or even raising the volume of my voice a decibel.  She took one look at my stern face, listened to my firm “no” and burst into truly remorseful tears.

I scooped her up to hold her, but she ran out of the room and I found her lying face down on a pillow, pouring out heavy sobs of brokenness.

All because she had made a mistake and done something wrong.  All because she wasn’t perfect and because I had to correct her.

Surely we all can shrug our shoulders and say, “We all make mistakes sometimes.”  Some of us can even get theological about it and quote “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

But then there is that moment when you need grace because it’s not “all” who sinned or “all” who made a mistake.

It’s you.

It’s me.

Please don’t tell me you missed that part of the blog where you discover I’m not perfect.  The part where I sin.  The part where I have a bad attitude sometimes.  The part where I make silly mistakes and stupid decisions and act like I’m in an I Love Lucy episode.

And every time I’m the one in need of grace, I react like my two-year-old—-run away, bury my face and sob.

Grace sounds so wonderful when you’re explaining it to someone else or extending it to another. But when you are the one who needs grace, oh, how painful it is sometimes

Grace addresses sin.  Forgiveness always requires a wrong.  Erasing always requires a mistake.  Strength always highlights weakness just like perfection always reveals imperfection.

Admitting that we need a Savior requires personalizing the message of redemptive grace.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake” (Good News Translation).

So, that means we’re doomed to imperfection sometimes?  Guaranteed to need forgiveness?  Certain of mistakes and assured of being wrong occasionally (or often)?

Yup, that’s us.  That’s you.  That’s me.

So, when we mess up, we can engage in the horrors of self-condemnation.  We can become weighed down by shame and guilt—

that we are a mess
that we’re stupid
that we’re an idiot
that we never do anything right
that we deserve whatever punishment we get
that God can’t ever use someone so broken

Or we can accept the gift extended to us by a God who specializes in forgiveness. As Emerson Eggerichs wrote, “Mistakes can’t be undone, but they can be forgiven.”

But how do we move on after a mistake?  How do we walk humbly, yet not live paralyzed by shame?  How do we serve gratefully rather than withdraw altogether, unworthy as we are? How do we let the past shape us and not destroy us?

David experienced this same struggle.  He was a godly king turned adulterer and murderer.  Faced with the magnitude of his sin, still he continued serving on the throne of Israel, still he wrote Psalms of praise to God.

It wasn’t easy.  In Psalm 51:3, he says, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

But David acknowledged the need for grace, accepted forgiveness and moved forward in joy.

He brought to God the only acceptable sacrifice: “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise” (Psalm 51:16-17).

God doesn’t desire our brokenness because He rejoices in our shame or needs our degradation.  He wants us to remember that He is God, not us.

We can begin to feel perfect, strong, capable, worthy in our own strength. But if we really are all those things, then who needs grace?  Who needs a savior?  Our worship and ministry can become tainted with self-exaltation. It becomes all about us and not at all about Him.

But when we accept grace, we acknowledge that we’re never worthy, not now, not ever.  Thomas Merton said,

“God is asking me, the unworthy, to forget my unworthiness and that of my brothers, and dare to advance in the love which has redeemed and renewed us all in God’s likeness.  And to laugh, after all, at the preposterous ideas of ‘worthiness.’ ~Thomas Merton~

Yes, we advance in His love.

We don’t need to be shamed by our sin, by our foolishness, by our scattered-brains and accident-prone clumsiness.  We should be humbled.  We are reminded that even though we are not perfect; He is.  Though we are not good enough; He is always sufficient.  Even though we are never worthy, He is worthy of all our praise.

And so we ask Him to forgive us.  We accept His grace.  And then we, like David, ask him to help us move on.

David prayed:

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.   Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you”
(Psalm 51:10-13).

We pray as well, “Father, forgive us. Wash us clean.  We’re broken people, weak and mistake-prone.  Give us hearts that are confident not in our own strength, but in the power of your grace.  Restore our joy.  And allow us to minister to others even though we are unworthy.  We pray that others will want to know You because of the grace they see in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

2 thoughts on “The Writing on the Wall

  1. Theresa Nunn says:

    Good one! I feel bad for her though………..but I so understand discipline/correction. Hope it comes off the wall without having to repaint……

    • Heather C. King says:

      She’s such a sweety that even when we tell her “no” in a whisper she takes it so hard. She has a sensitive heart. The good news is that we love our washable Crayola markers, so it came off with a wet wipe!!

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