I am hard on myself. I judge myself with too many oughts, shoulds and less-thans, especially when I’m in a new phase of life—the birth of a child, moving with boxes everywhere, illness, a new job, or a new age. What was normal suddenly isn’t, and I feel “less-than” what I “should” be. I “ought” to be handling this better. I “should” be doing more.
I take the whip of self-recrimination and begin beating, “Should! Ought! Should! Ought!” until my heart is crisscrossed with the lacerations of my own abuse.
During these times, the Word of God, which is usually a comfort and a hope, becomes a whip, and my time with Christ becomes a whipping post. This makes it hard to spend time with God.
What is a whipping post? It is a post upon which slaves or criminals are shackled to receive a lashing for their failures, disobedience, rebellion, and crimes.
As I journaled on the day I began this blog, I saw things clearly. I wrote, “When I’m with Jesus, I’m with a redeeming, holy, and merciful Savior. He is more inclined to save and love than to harm.” Jesus is not a torturer.
As I wrote those words, the image of Christ being beaten in the film The Passion passed through my mind. In fact, he was beaten for me and for my transgressions. For “our griefs he bore…our sorrows He carried”…”He was pierced…for our iniquities;” the beatings fell on him—but it was for our well-being. (Isaiah 53) The whip upon his back was for our healing—not for the purpose of his or my ritual abuse.
His mercies are new every morning, and He longs to be gracious. He doesn’t want my time with Him to be miserable. In John, Jesus tells his disciples that they (we) are to be one with him just as he is one with the Father. God wants my intimacy with Christ to be more like God’s relationship with Christ, and they are ONE. Jesus went to his Father in the mornings, and fled to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He loved to be with his Abba. I want my time to look like THAT.
Why is His mercy and grace so hard to remember?
For one, I live in a world where perfectionism is the standard by which we judge one another and ourselves. But perfection is utterly impossible. That’s why there was a cross. That’s why there is mercy and grace—so God could fill in the gaps of my less-than moments—of which there are too many to list.
God wants my time with Him to be sweet, even when I am convicted of sin. Before his cross and in God’s presence, I take hold of grace and receive mercy in place of judgment, hope for my despair, and healing for my sin. Jesus did it all at the cross. Whew! What a relief.
But it seems like I can take my sin to the cross more easily than my shortcomings—those times when I’m depressed and can’t make a phone call or cook dinner, or I’m feeling like I’m not all that I should be (joyful enough, bright enough, or wise enough).
But feeling small and incapable isn’t really that bad. It is in fact the path of true hope, for it leads us to desperation and the righteousness of God in Christ.
Years ago I hid an important document from myself. My husband and I needed it, and I couldn’t find it anywhere. I was beating myself up again and filled with self-loathing. As I walked up the stairs preparing to give my husband the bad news, I said, “I can’t do anything right. Not anything! Not ever!” I remember the place and the moment as if it were yesterday, because I believe Christ spoke to me that day.
“I’m so glad you finally realized that,” he said, and I felt a gentle laugh behind the voice.
It was as if warm oil covered me from head to toe. “Yes! Yes! Relief hit me. Yes. My spirit leapt inside. He spoke truth. I can’t do anything right. Nothing. Zero. Nada. It all falls short of the glory and perfection of God—even my very best human efforts. I’m a wreck, and that is why he came—to become my righteousness since I can’t ever be what I want to be—perfect. He willingly took a beating and died on my behalf to cover and make good before God’s judgment seat all the shoulds, oughts and less-thans in my life. My heart rises. I am again in awe of His mercy and kindness. I think of Isaiah 53. The chastening for our well-being fell on Him, and by his scourging we are healed.
Then, I worship.