When Alice followed the white rabbit down the hole, she fell, and fell, and fell. Truth is, all of us must first experience this kind of fall in order to truly understand the wonder and awesomeness of grace.
I have bad news, and it gets worse before it gets better. The Bible teaches that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and that there is none righteous, no not one (Rom. 3:10). Romans 3 goes on and on about how we don’t desire God, love evil, hate good things and love bad things. And according to the bible, this is everyone’s condition from childhood. WE have the DNA of unrighteousness—even if we appear “good.”
I knew I was a sinner early enough, and I figured out I wasn’t good enough for heaven without a Savior, but somehow I thought I had something to offer God and that he helped me believe because I deserved it. He filled in the little gap between my goodness and God’s perfection. I remember the first time that I realized this was a lie.
I was in my early forties and attending a counseling class. The teacher began to expound on the fallen condition of man. He compared it to a crystal wine glass being dropped from the Empire State Building. Everything was shattered, he said, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God: health, thinking, emotions, personality, creativity, sex, our relationship with God and man, and creation were all impacted—everything you see and feel was damaged. Additionally, everything and everyone began to experience death. He went on to say that in order to come to Christ, God must draw us and awaken us. We are dead. Dead men don’t talk. Dead men don’t walk. Dead men can’t search for God because they are dead. Dead men don’t have faith, either. God awakens curiosity, hunger, thirst, and an awareness of need. He gives budding faith, and draws us to Himself, not because we are good, but because He loves us and He knows that Christ is the only solution to being dead.
When we are given the gift of awareness of our very, long fall down the rabbit hole, it is at the very least, overwhelming. I cried off and on for days and went into deep despair. Seriously, I did. “You mean I have nothing to bring to God worth having, no goodness at all? I have nothing to do with my salvation, no tenderness toward him that he hasn’t given to me?” But one day I awoke to the beauty of that reality. I began to comprehend the kindness and mercy of
God in saving me while I was still dead, corrupt, and His enemy (Romans 5). I understood grace, perhaps for the first time.
You must have darkness for light to be more beautiful. In literature and art this is called a foil. The nemesis must appear very evil and powerful in order to comprehend the courage and sacrifice of the hero. Fear must shake our bones in order to understand the relief of falling into safe arms. Painters too, understand the value of shadows. Likewise, the more we understand the depths of our own depravity, the more likely we are to love God and appreciate His love, mercy, and grace and the sacrifice for sin offered in Jesus Christ. We see this with the prostitute who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair (Luke 7). She saw her deepest sins, was loved and forgiven much, so she loved much in return. The Pharisee, on the other hand, didn’t see his sin and never got to see what she saw—the wonder of grace and forgiveness.
Don’t be afraid to fall (no, dive) down the hole. It is devastatingly delicious and painfully perfect. When my depravity first gripped me that day in the counseling class, I thought I’d die from the pain of it. But if I hadn’t seen, I wouldn’t stand in awe of God’s amazing grace. So, don’t cling to the sides of the hole, grabbing at the dirty roots of your own goodness. It won’t hold you. Float on down. It’s a long hole, but God’s grace and mercy wait at the bottom, and the beginning of a wide-eyed journey into thankfulness and amazement can truly begin. I still go down that hole often just so I can remember how much I’ve been forgiven and how much more, now that I’m His, I’m loved and forgiven in my today-sins.
For more on the beauty of God’s grace while we were sinners and His continued grace once we are His, read Romans 5. The following link will allow you read it in The Message.
The Mad Hatter