I don't remember the exact day I began following Jesus.
I don't really have a great memory for dates, to begin with, but I know that I was young.
Following Jesus has been a very real part of my life almost as long as I can remember, but intertwined with that saving grace is a feeling of frustration.
As a young girl, I tried so hard to be "good." I tried to follow the Ten Commandments, worked to be kind to those who were unkind to me, magnified the little light in my heart to reach those around me... but so often, I felt like it didn't "work."
I messed it up. All the time.
My clumsy attempts to witness were met with raised eyebrows and a change of subject. I got upset with my sisters and lashed out in anger at my parents. The other kids in my Sunday School class always seemed to have it all together, while I screwed up constantly, royally, consistently. And I wondered, was I really a Christian? Because if Jesus really lived in my heart, then what was wrong with me? Why did I keep on sinning?
I wish that I could say that I got older and grew out of all my bad habits. The truth is, I've developed more sins- deeper ones, stronger ones. Some of my sins I've learned to cover up in polite society and hide from the world (and even from myself).
My very screwed up humanity is still there. I'm still far from perfect.
As a Believer, I ascribe to the Truth that I'm a new person- made alive new in Christ. But if I'm a new person, if I'm living a new life in him, then I'm doing a terrible job of it. I'm still bound by the sin of my old self.
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus! Come out!' The dead man came out his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'" - John 11:43-44
Whether it's my temper, my need to control everything and everyone around me, my stubborn instance that things be done my way, I still wear grave clothes. I still have my hands and feet wrapped with the linen of my dead self.
Even though I've been made alive in Christ, I still sometimes act like I'm the same old dead me.
I live in fear more often than I can be found in faith. I speak harsh words instead of life-giving ones. I hate my neighbor sometimes, not to mention my enemies.
Salvation makes me alive again, but I constantly struggle with the linen around my hands, the cloth covering my face. So many of us deal with it- the old addictions, the old temptations, the old sins. They keep holding us back and distorting our view.
Those grave clothes can bind us up, cover our eyes, and prevent us from doing what we were called to do in this world. And it can be just so very frustrating.
But we have a Savior who is bigger than all that- our Savior not only brought us from the dead and into new life in him, but he is also continually making us new- renewing our minds and our hearts to know him better. To become truly free in him.
As we celebrate a new year, I'm often tempted to look at those grave clothes of mine in a spirit of defeat. A spirit of frustration. I'm so, so human, and I know that I'll mess everything up. My resolutions will fall flat, my best intentions will pave a road to nowhere, and I'm sure (absolutely sure) to sin in 2016.
Sometimes I get so focused on my own failures that I forget to see the Face of grace standing at the other side of them.
Like Lazarus, I can't take off those old grave clothes by myself. I need the healing hand of my Jesus, the support and encouragement of my loved ones, and so, so much grace.
This new year, don't focus on the grave clothes. Recognize them for what they are, yes. Acknowledge your own sin and all those things that hold you back from becoming the person God made you to be- but don't stop there.
Remember that you've been made new, and that the One who raised you from the dead is continually making you new. He continues to remove those grave clothes and bring you to greater freedom in him.
Hallelujah- what a Savior.
Forging a New Trail: being renewed through identity in Christ
In Christ: our true identity, and what it means for us
DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging habit, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. You may see a full disclosure by clicking on my "About" page. I will only promote products that I use, enjoy, or take a shine to. All opinions and reviews are my own and are not influenced by any compensation I may receive.