But I didn't wake that way on Day 2. Rather, I saw the list awaiting me, smiled as I turned my back on it, and said to the negativity, "See my Father about it; I'm covered by His grace..." and rose to a much brighter day. :)
It's so nice to be at peace with self. Mind you, I wouldn't have been able to awake this way this morning, or carry on through the day celebrating my efforts had God not written these days in the order that He has. There's no way I'd be able to encourage myself if I was still damning myself.
Grace, I have found, is a field in which I am free to receive all of God's goodness, and great freedom to be myself; a place where I can receive forgiveness, a new start, hope, love and acceptance, no matter what.
1 Corinthians 6:12
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.
All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.
DEFINE MERCY: Compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm.
I am standing at the gates of a prison. I've been judged for my sins, found guilty, and the appropriate punishment has been dealt to me. There I stand, with two huge guards either side of me, waiting to face the consequences of my sin, when Jesus walks up to me, hugs me, then turns and enters the prison with the guards, to be locked away as I walk free.
What?! My sins. My debt. He pays...?
Yes. His life for yours...
There has to be a payment for my sins. Mercy lets me walk free, but grace pays the price. Someone has to pay the price... Jesus has me covered.
And not only that. I had scars which He healed me of. I had baggage which He chose to carry for me. I had hang ups He cast away. Wounds He tended to. Sadness He lifted from me. Brokeness He removed from me. He took all that with Him...And so much more has He done for me, so that I may be free of sin, death and the pains of the past, so I may live life and that more abundantly and be imprisoned by nothing ever again, that I wouldn't be able to remember it all let alone number it.
Jesus took my punishment and said, "Arise and live; Walk, be free, and love..." but I hang by the locked prison gates, trying to convince Him that I'm the one that should be in there. I'm the one that should be punished. And as I sit there, a darkness comes over me, a shadow of the evil one, embracing me as though he seeks to bring me comfort, agreeing that I'm the sinner and I'm the one worthy of the consequences of sin and death, that it's not fair on Jesus; and we crouch there, in the darkness, in agreement, and so heavy is my heart that I can't get up and walk on.
Oh, there have been times when I've celebrated my freedom and run off to enjoy it, but then I stumble and fall and that shadow returns. I'm reminded of my sinfulness. I look back at that prison. "I should be there. I deserve that... Jesus doesn't..." and the dark shadows of hell agree with me, whispering in my ear, reminding me of what I've done, of who I am, of what I'm capable of, and I let them lead me back to the prison gates; they hold one of my wrists while holding on to the gates, and there I sit, linked to my past again, linked to my sins again, linked to hell, looking through the wire fence, knowing Jesus suffered for me - for my past sins, for my present sins, and for the sins I am yet to commit.
And then a voice cuts through the darkness. A still small voice...one filled to overflowing with great love. "What are you doing here?"
I look up, guarding my eyes against a bright light. "You know, Lord," I say, lowering my head with shame.
I feel His hand touching mine as He kneels down before me. "The price has been paid in full. You are free to go."
"But I keep sinning. Even when I don't mean to."
"The debt has been paid in full, My child. Arise and walk. Come out of the darkness; live in the light. Enjoy your life. Be free... Be you... Look," He says, drawing my attention to uncountable dark clouds dotted along the outside of the prison's fence.
"What are they, Lord?"
"Not what, My love; who. They are like you, unable to accept the fullness of mercy and grace. At least, some are. Some are yet to know they, too, can arise and walk, live, love and be free. Go tell them. Take what is in your hand and offer it to them. And pray. Pray that their hearts will be opened to love and to truth, so they may suffer no more."
"Lord...? There is nothing in my hand."
He takes my hand in His and I notice the darkness that held me at that prison gate is drawing away. He turns my hand over, revealing the palm. There is nothing in it.
"See," I say as disappointment weighs heavily upon my heart. And then I see them, the scars in His hands. Scars that should've been mine. "I'm sorry..."
He smiles. "I know." He places my hand in both of His - ever so gently. "Everything I have," He says, "is yours. Please take it. Use it. Own it. It's time to receive your inheritance."
"My inheritance? From whom...?"
"The Father; Our Father, who is in heaven. He's waiting for you. He wants to be in a relationship with you. He misses you."
"Oh, yes. Very much so. That's why I came; to take you back to Him."
He touches my cheek, and, with earnest affection, grins. "Dear child, I paid for your sins and ransomed your life, but I did so not to burden you with guilt, not to cover you with condemnation, but to set you free of sin, death and shame. The Father calls you home. Back to the Kingdom. His kingdom. My kingdom. Your kingdom. I came to get you. Come... Arise, walk and live. Receive your inheritance - right here, right now."
I look at His scars. My hearts breaks. "But I feel so ashamed."
"Oh, dear one, I suffered, yes, but I did so willingly, so you can be set free. I did it for your freedom. For their freedom," He says of those bound to the fence. "For everyone's freedom."
His smile increases. There are tears in His eyes. "Because I love you. Because the Father loves you. Because we want to live with you for all of eternity." He pauses for a moment, looking at me as though He can see directly into my heart and is capable of reading it. "Do you not know what it is to lose a child?"
Shame turns my face from Him. I know what it is to abort a child - and regret that action every day of my life. I know what it is to see myself as a mum who has, in more than one way, failed her child and even placed a wall between a child born to another but placed in my care - and the regret that clings to such things. I imagine what how devastated it would've been for me to never have a child. It's all I ever wanted... I imagine the loss of a child to be the greatest pain a parent could know...but I don't know the fullness of such sorrow.
"I don't tell you this to shame you," He says. "I only wish to make My heart, and that of the Father, known to you. We don't seek to cause you more heartache. We just want to open your eyes to the depths of our love for you." He looks back along the fence. "For all of you." He touches my cheek with a warm, gentle hand, catching my tears as I rest my head against His touch. "Wouldn't you willingly take the place of your child if it meant saving them - even if it cost you dearly? Could your heart stand to see your child on the other side of that fence; suffering? Wouldn't you take their place if you could?"
I think of my children - those born to me and those given into my care by grace. I think of my firstborn. I think of my baby. I think of all my children - all of my babies... I see them all as they once were. Oh, the innocence they held; the trust... I see their true selves. I see the vulnerability they held before the world proved itself to be a harsh place. I see them as I know them to be - before they started hiding and protecting their hearts from the world. I know the tenderness of their heart. I know the beauty they possess. I cannot stand the thought of them suffering. Oh, that I could take all suffering from them - past, present and future.
With understanding rising, I look up through my burning tears, into His eyes. Strong emotion causes my voice to break, as I confess, "I couldn't bare it, Lord."
"You'd rather take their punishment?"
Thick emotion catches in my throat. I nod.
He nods. "Me, too..."
He helps me to my feet and dusts me off. With strong arms, He holds me to Himself, in silence, until our tears have dried.
The darkness that covered me earlier has gone. I know not where. I care not where.
With His warm lips to my brow, He asks, "Would you have your children wait here by the gates, mourning over their past, over what their past has cost you?"
I cringe over the thought. "No, I wouldn't."
"Me, either." He steps back, keeping hold of my hand. With a smile, He says, "Come, it's time to go. It's time to enter into freedom - into all the Father has for you. You are as I am now. His child. His heir. All that is mine is yours. Take it. Use it. Share it. Give it. But, if you can help it, don't give it to the darkness. The darkness has no place with us. Wherever the Light leads you, that is where you must walk. It never leads you back to the prison, or to the grave. Do not follow any path that leads you there. That path belongs to the Deceiver. It is not the path the Father has prepared for you." He opens my hands again. "I give you life, freedom, hope, peace, healing, forgiveness, joy, love and all that you will ever need. It's yours. Freely you have been gifted with these things - just as you would freely gift your children with them, without string attached, without payment due, without agenda. Now embrace, enjoy and freely share with all who come your way. And tell them. Tell them that all you have been freely given, they can freely receive, also. Please," He said, His voice deepening with emotion as tears pierce His eyes, "tell them we love them. The Father and I. We love them. We always have; we always will. Of this, we shall never change our minds or hearts. We haven't forgotten them. A parent can never forget their child. Tell them... Please?"
I nod, catching His tears with my heart.
He smiles then, tapping me on the nose with the tip of one finger, making me laugh. "Just don't come back here, ok? This is the past. It is now dead to you. I have come so you can have life and have it more abundantly; I have not come to gift you with death. Eyes forward... Heart forward... Feet forward... Now go. And don't worry; you won't be alone. I will send the Helper to you. He'll always be with you, ready to help, protect and defend. Just keep your heart open to Him. And love one another, as I have loved you..."
I look back at that fence. I know that prison cell should be mine. But I see Him. I see Jesus. He conquered sin and death for me. He paid my debts, in full. There's nothing left to pay. He's not in that prison cell anymore. He's free, too. And that's what I need to remember: He paid the price for my debts - past, present and future. I'm covered, yesterday, today and tomorrow. There's nothing left to pay.
Jesus has risen from the grave; He paid the price and then walked free. If I go back, even to just sit at the gate, rather than celebrate and live in the freedom He died to give me, I treat what He did as being worthless, and I hand over His honour, His glory, His well-deserved praise and worship, to the darkness. THAT is unfair.
Oh, my!! See it! Jesus is not in the tomb. He's risen. He's free. He completed what He came for. Now all I have to do is walk in the freedom He gives... and I will do so with a very grateful heart, knowing what He willingly, and lovingly, saved me from.
Thank you, Jesus! I love you, too...
This is grace at its best. This is Love... :)