Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fall to grace: Aftermath, part 5

For the whole story, read this, beginning with Part 1. The condensed version can be found in Part 6. Links to the entire series can be found on the blog sidebar.

My fall to grace was so dramatic that it seemed to change everything, especially my relationships with others. Freedom became more precious to me, and so many negative things began to fall away, even as I still questioned myself.

Subject: All kinds of stuff
Date: 3/3/99 10:06

What do you think that verse in Hebrews means about us being surrounded by a "cloud of witnesses"? Do you think that God allows those in Heaven to catch a glimpse of some of the stuff that goes on here? I've always imagined that there is a big huge party in Heaven whenever someone comes to the Lord or whenever there is a great spiritual victory. What do you think? Do you think, for example, that God lets Paul know that what he wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit is still changing lives? "Look, Paul---these people over there are finally getting it and are beginning to stand firm in their liberty!"

The thing that's really starting to hit me now---and I have realized that it's at the bottom of why [Husband] thinks I'm so different and why our marriage has taken on a different flavor--is Romans 8. I've always loved that chapter; I even have a mental image in my mind of how Paul reacted to the Holy Spirit's inspiration when he was working on it. But now---it's starting to penetrate into my very heart and soul...it's going down all the way to my toes. It's so personal. No condemnation---just that incredible love. Last night [Husband] and I read it together. He can be all calm about it, but it just about destroys me.

One of the things that I wondered about was the issue of moderation. Was I going too far? Should I really throw out what seemed like everything? Weren't some of my convictions and standards worth keeping, even if they couldn't be found in Scripture? What about the Law: couldn't I exercise moderation there as well?

Subject: Re: Had an interesting conversation...
Date: 3/8/99 15:49

On the date of 03/08/1999 14:17, Mike stated:

Besides -- what is moderation -- keeping SOME of the Sabbath-laws, eating pork but not shrimp, and abstaining ONLY after giving birth to a boy?

Sure---I opt for stoning people who don't observe the Sabbath the way I do. Think I'll abstain only after giving birth to a girl, because I can't believe I'll ever have another girl anyway! Seriously, I think [a friend] might be afraid of me casting off all restraint
or completely abandoning everything I ever believed about Reformed Theology. Or maybe both. Or maybe, since we're friends, she's not exactly sure what she's afraid of, but just afraid that I'll go off on some strange tangent that will threaten our friendship. It's happened before, so it's not like she doesn't have a valid reason to worry.

Yes -- you are very intense. You fought it for a while, then you plunged into the deep end
and began gobbling it up like you had been starved for it.

That's just it---I have been starved. I just didn't know what it was that I was craving, what was missing.

Think about how to apply this truth. How do we now live, now that we know this? What do we do differently? How do we react to others differently? There are a lot of practical implications -- that is the subject of lesson 16 .

I've already noticed that my attitudes towards others is a lot different. In some ways---kinder and gentler because I'm less judgmental. People don't have to dot their i's and cross their t's the same way as I do in order for me to respect them. But, in other ways, I'm less patient with [those that are extremely legalitic]. Maybe less patient isn't really what I mean. I'm less accepting of that rigidity and error...now I'm grieved and sometimes angered by it. It matters more to me than it used to---while at the same time, a lot of other stuff matters far less or not at all.
I think I'm less hung up on all the externals.

[Husband] claims I'm much happier. It must be true. I'm having more fun than I have in a long time.

But...I feel like there is lots of unfinished business in my life...like I'm supposed to be doing something, only I don't know what it is.


Along the way, there were still doubts:

But, even while I'm reacting with disbelief and with a really disturbed and uneasy feeling to all of this stuff, there is this subtle pull, not to Gothardism, but to this whole Higher Standard rubbish. It goes kinda like this:

1. I want to live a righteous life and do what God wants me to do.

2. But I'm weak and puny, prone to sin and self-deception.

3. It's important to protect my areas of weakness---what better protection than strict standards that will keep me from temptation?

4. Better to be overly-cautious than fall into sin.

5. It's not legalism if it's motivated by a desire to live a righteous life and please God.

6. Won't it please God that I obey an even higher standard?

Chris talked about this online recently and described it as "just in case" legalism and how one went from not being drunk with wine to avoiding wine to avoiding those who don't avoid wine and finally ending up hiding under one's bed.

Someone else recently told me that she had grown tired of the "contest to see who had the most convictions".

At the same time...the idea that God and His Word are enough to keep me from running wild---well, I know it intellectually, but I'm assailed by doubts at times, especially when friends of mine are urging caution and sounding alarm bells. It seemed that some of my self-imposed standards were good ideas at the time. What if I can't really handle freedom?

I don't want to go back. I'm just feeling kinda weak and defenseless right now. What if all this grace and freedom stuff is only attractive to me because I'm deluding myself...because I really am rebellious? Sheesh. That's what I get for reading Gothard stuff.


Subject: Re: Going off the deep end
Date: 3/11/99 23:55

On the date of 03/11/1999 13:29, Mike stated:

Rebecca -- in my great kindness and tact -- I gotta say -- this sounds really stupid. You KNOW it isn't that at all. You KNOW it is the truth of God's word that did it, NOT your desire to be lax.

Ah, what can I say? I feel...stupid. You're right, of course. But, I have to tell you---you do have an odd way of encouraging people. At first I laughed. Then I felt insulted. Then I laughed.

I feel kinda like I was waxing nostalgic over those leeks in Egypt again. Sigh. Silly and stupid of me, I know. Especially since this freedom has been so glorious. I think you know. Well, I know that you know how glorious it is for you...but not how glorious it is for me. It's a bit different for each of us, I think. Different layers and aspects of freedom. I've tasted and experienced and lived freedom before, but it's always been freedom from something and this is more than just that---it's freedom to something. Does that make sense to you? It's not just being released from chains...it's being released to glory. Being released to a closer glimpse of who Jesus really is.

And now I'm crying. Again. Still.

It's like a rebirth to me, Mike. There's things that maybe someday I'd like to tell you. I'm not sure. Maybe...but this is, at times, simply too big for me. Too awesome. It's breaking my heart, but in a good way.

I remember my Opa once reading me a passage from Revelation and saying, "Do you realize that we'll sit with Christ on His throne?" I thought that was the most outrageous thing I'd ever heard. I thought I'd be happy just to sneak into the back door of Heaven and be able to catch the tiniest fleeting glimpse of Jesus from a very far distance. Even that seemed too much for me to hope for. Opa---well, he really understood grace. It was, I'm beginning to realize, his whole life. He used to like to think about how people would be shocked and surprised to see him in Heaven and how he'd be so happy to tell them that it was all the grace of God. I thought he was the greatest spiritual giant I'd ever met and I simply couldn't imagine anyone being surprised to see him in Heaven. But I'm beginning to understand a lot of the stuff he tried to tell me the last time we were together. He urged me to taste the goodness of what the Lord had to offer---said that anything less would then seem as desirable to me as burnt split pea soup. Yuck!

The God who loves me enough to do all He's done for me---of course He'll sustain me. How could I not know that? Has He brought me to this point just to abandon me to some sort of confusion and running amok? Nah...

I believe too much in the providence of God not to believe that His hand has been in all of this. Ah, the goodness of God...His love...His mercy...I hope that I never get over this feeling of awe and newness and wonder.


  1. Rebecca, I have so many thoughts about today’s installment of your story. One of the first things I became aware of in my own life was my judgmentalism toward others. I TRULY thought I was not judgmental, but all of a sudden, my eyes were opened to that. For me, in order to overcome this judgmentalism, I had to change my outward appearance – drastically. I now find that if I dress in a way that I fit in with all those around me, that I can’t very well look down on them now, can I? This has resulted in my being much kinder to others. My relationships have changed dramatically now and I can really understand this part of your story.

    I’ve also realized that, for myself, adding my own convictions is just the first step in a slippery slope back into legalism. I firmly believe that most people start out just wanting to please and obey the Lord. Then they add little details on to that. And more and more and more details, until the conviction is so extra-biblical that they have convinced themselves that they are more “sanctified” than those around them. As much as I loved my convictions, Rebecca, right now I can’t afford to have any of those kinds. I must stick to 100% straight Scripture, and in all areas where I had convictions, I have to really loosen up or I will be a Pharisee again. What did you end up deciding about convictions?

    ” I've tasted and experienced and lived freedom before, but it's always been freedom from something and this is more than just that---it's freedom to something.”

    Can you explain more about what you mean by ”freedom to something”? I’m not quite getting that part.

    ” It's like a rebirth to me, Mike.”

    They are probably getting really tired of hearing me say, “It’s like I’ve been born again!” I didn’t feel that way when I first came to Christ, but there’s no mistaking it now!

    ” I hope that I never get over this feeling of awe and newness and wonder.”

    Well? How do you feel after this many years?

  2. Jen, I fully relate to the judgmentalism and to the needing to be free of extra-biblical convictions.

    "Can you explain more about what you mean by ”freedom to something”? I’m not quite getting that part."

    At first I saw my freedom as being freedom from...as in freedom from the law, freedom from condemnation, freedom from wrong guilt, freedom from wrong attitudes, etc., etc. Then I began to see that there was far more --- I was free to...to be more intimate with Christ, to enjoy deeper fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ, to worship more deeply, to live a life more pleasing to God, etc.

    How do I feel after this many years? Obviously it's not as new. Every day isn't a fresh set of "oh, wow!" discoveries. But I still can't get over the sense of awe when I think of God's grace. It has never stopped being intensely personal, intensely overwhelming, and intensely real.