Friday, April 17, 2020

A Testimony of Grace Through Two Lenses

The Poetry Lens: Silver

(a work in progress)

It was on Good Friday it happened.

My parents had raised me in church:
Sunday service,
Sunday school,
choir and handbells,
learning a creed, a Psalm, a prayer,
a commandment or ten,
confirming vows with my classmates,
and I thought doing those things made me a Christian.
(I even read my Bible on my own at night for extra credit, to round out my resume.)

I was firstborn, perfectionist, eager to please parents and teachers,
a "good girl," except when I snuck change off my dad's dresser
or lied to avoid punishment or amaze and amuse my friends.
My "good" was good enough for the grown-ups,
so I thought it was good enough for God.

On that Good Friday twenty-five years back,
I didn't know I was lost, but
He found me,
there on my knees beside the bed,
fretting over possible embarrassment in singing alone for the first time.
He gave me new eyes,
better than first glasses,
and suddenly I saw what I had not seen:
that perfectionism wasn't perfection,
that only perfect was good enough for God,
that only Jesus was the good enough,
that the Good Enough sweated life's blood and died for sins not His own,
for my sins, all my own.

My resume was rubbish,
my Sunday best smeared and tattered,
and I was as dead as an armadillo on the interstate.
I saw this,
and it took my breath away,
and He breathed in His,
His pneuma-breath-Spirit,
and I lived again for the very first time.

Singing was my birth cry,
The trumpets that Easter rejoiced for me,
and I went to Sunday service,
Sunday school,
choir and handbells.
I said the creed, prayed the prayers, sang the hymns,
and they lived with His presence.
How had I missed Him there all these years?
I even read the Bible in the mornings,
for joy,
for sustenance,
for He was there.

I couldn't get enough of Him,
yet found enough in Him,
my Lord Jesus Christ.

That Good Friday was my Good Friday too,
and my Easter, all in one,
when I was crucified with Christ,
when my tomb was emptied
and my life hidden with Christ in God.

By grace I have been saved.

The Prose Lens:

It was the foolish thing of my first vocal solo, for the Good Friday tenebrae service 33 years ago, which my God and Father used to bring me to the end of myself and show me how crooked my straightest line was compared to the straight-edge of Christ. (There are many variations on the tenebrae service. In the church of my youth, a dozen or so Scripture readings from the Last Supper through the Crucifixion alternated with choral music. During the service, candles and lights were gradually extinguished until we left the church in silence, in near darkness.)

Until that point, I thought participating in every available church activity and believing facts about God from the Apostles' Creed meant I was a Christian. Surely doing the BSF home lessons my mom shared earned me extra credit. To my shame, I remember one lesson specifically, on the Beatitudes, which asked me to assess myself on the various characteristics, and in my eyes I was really doing quite well, thank you very much.

Being the type-A perfectionist oldest child that I am, when I found out the lyrics of my song came from the account of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, I spent the weeks before the service immersing myself in the Gospel passages describing it. When the day of the solo arrived, stage fright overtook me and I told my mom, who was working on something in the kitchen, that I couldn't sing this and we'd just have to call the music pastor and tell him to choose someone else. Exasperated with me, she said, "What's the name of the song again?"

"Um, 'Thy Will Be Done.'"

"Well, then, go to your room, get on your knees, and just tell God that."

I did, and the Lord opened my heart to understand the passages I'd been reading. He showed me my sin; He showed me my Savior. I trusted Him, trusted that Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of my sins. His love swept me off my feet. By His grace, He led me that day from knowing some things about God to knowing God, or beginning to.

From that day, I began rising early to pray and read my Bible because I loved it, because I loved Him. The hymns came alive as my sung prayers. The communion liturgy expressed my unworthiness and gratitude for Christ's work on my behalf. The Lord made me hungry for Christian books and music and graciously led me to the good and Biblically faithful and protected me from the false.

I have no memory of anyone ever "sharing the gospel" with me, calling me to repent and trust Christ, or telling me of my need to be converted. My church didn't do any of that, but that's another story for another time. It took several years and a change of churches before I began to have language for what had happened on that Good Friday which changed everything for me. It will take the rest of my life and then forever to understand that salvation as fully as a girl like me can. I am so grateful. So, so grateful. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

If you know Him, too, perhaps this will take you back to the memorial stones of your own salvation? If you don't and want to, I pray the Lord would use this to show you His holiness, your sin, and the sufficiency of Christ's death; I pray you would trust Jesus as your own personal Savior and embark on the journey of knowing God today. {If you do, please let me know in the comments or by e-mail at crumbsfromhistable
at gmail dot com?}

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