Wait, that can’t be right, can it? I get to have the good stuff? What about that whole “first must be last” thing, and forsaking the flesh, and…and…
Well, I guess it all depends on how you define, “The Good Stuff.”
There is an unfortunate tendency among far too many Christians to continue to live under the condemnation of sin, to hold on to this notion that we are somehow not just unworthy…but worthless as well. We believe the lies the world tells us, we listen to the lies the Enemy whispers in our ears; that we are less than, that we are forgettable, that somehow God must have turned away from us because of what we’ve done, or what we haven’t done.
‘Cept that, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
We hear that a lot, but what does it mean? It means that God loves us despite what we are, not because of what we are. It’s called “unconditional love” and it’s a concept most of us really struggle with, because we see so little of it in the world around us.
Or, to put it another way, God can’t be disillusioned with us…because He never had any illusions about us!
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Which of your sins didn’t Jesus forgive, which of your sins, your errors, your misjudgments or your failures didn’t He atone for when He died on the cross…2000 years before you were even born?
I first found Christ when I was six years old. So, was I: a) forgiven only of those first six years of my life? Or: b) was I truly made a new creation, washed clean for all eternity by the blood of Christ, my life fundamentally transformed from that moment forward? Let me give you a hint: The answer is: b).
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2nd Cor. 5:17)
And that’s where we get back to that definition of, “The Good Stuff.”
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
What does that mean? What is an “abundant life?”
It means you’re allowed to enjoy the good stuff. You are allowed to be happy, to do things and experience things that bring you happiness. That you weren’t put here to suffer, but to come to know an abundant life lived under the redemption of Christ. Don’t live in fear. Don’t live in recrimination and doubt. Set aside the insecurities that rob you of your birthright, and chose to truly believe that God means what He says…that He loves you and wants you to know true happiness.
So…do the things that bring you joy! Putter. Sew. Sing. Paint. Draw. Not for anyone else. Just for yourself. The only person it has to be good enough for is you.
Let yourself giggle as you enjoy the delightfully decadent joy of some wonderful bit of bakery fluff coated with some hoity-toity almond butter slide down your throat accompanied by some far-eastern Darjeeling you bought from that quaint little shop in Pike’s Place Market. And just savor it. Enjoy it.
Walk in your yard and enjoy the blossoms without noticing or caring about the weeds.
Buy that wonderful hand-knit scarf at the street fair, even though you just really shouldn’t, I know, it’s really just too much, and I’ll probably never have anywhere to wear it, and….do it anyway. Then make a pretty throw with it for the couch instead.
Make a bunch of silly scribbles in a sketchbook that doesn’t look like anything, but you really like the way the colors go together. Then stick it on the front of the fridge with a magnet and smile every time you look at it.
Play the piano, just because you know how. And sing to yourself as loud as you want, and who cares if the neighbors hear you and think you’re weird. Draw silly faces on the mirror in dry-erase marker and stick your tongue out at them every morning.
It’s called “rejoicing,” and you can do it a lot more often than just standing in a pew on Sunday with a hymnal in your hands!
I think that sometimes, even as even the most devout of Christians, it’s still hard for us to really, truly believe that God loves us and wants us to be happy, especially after some of the things He’s let us endure. But that’s the lesson I’m trying to learn now, to really take to heart….I get to be happy. It’s okay for me to be happy! What a concept, huh? I think maybe we miss out on a lot of blessings and don’t experience more happiness in our life because we don’t believe it. We don’t look for it, don’t let it in, don’t recognize it when it shows up. We play this karma game. We take a worldly look at God’s work and figure He’s just waiting…waiting….waiting with the ruler poised over our knuckles for us to give Him another excuse to drop the hammer.
So, please, also try to take this to heart. You get to be happy. And you don’t have to feel guilty or unworthy about it. Try to get to the place, someday, somehow, where you can really believe that it really is okay for you to be happy. I’m trying to let go of all the things in my past that are holding me back, bogging me down, things the Enemy takes such joy in using against me.
I hope and pray that you, too, will find a way to let go of all the things that were born out of tragedy or sorrow or abandonment or trials…and just let it be the past. Like an alcoholic who’s quit drinking, a drug abuser who’s quit using and gotten clean…don’t let your past define you. You don’t have to fix it, maybe don’t even have to “heal” it…maybe you just…let it all go.
Give yourself permission for that. Forgive yourself for all of that past, for all of those things. God doesn’t require any sort of penance from you for it — He’s already paid your penance for you, and more! I am choosing to not let myself be defined by my past. Make that choice for yourself as well.
Be free! Be emancipated from all that. The door to your jail cell is open, and has been for a while. You just need to walk through it and accept (and experience) true freedom. “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;” That is the true essence of God’s forgiveness.
See what kind of a life living in true freedom can bring. It’s called “joy.” Live that life for yourself; live a life fully in the forgiveness of Christ, free from the burdens of the past.