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I’ve Got it Covered

A few years ago, such tension had arisen with a close friend of mine that we hardly spent any time together and when we did, there was no topic of coversation safe enough to engage in without fear of disagreement or frustration. When we finally talked, she reluctantly but passionately unloaded all the ways I had wounded her by my words, attitudes and even by my distance. While certainly some of her criticisms were not entirely fair, a very good number were right on the money. And oh, it stung. That crucial conversation, much like an effective operation, took the first powerful step toward healing and restoration, but it also left me absolutely drained of energy and emotion.

The truth of my offenses was so condemning to my heart…not only that I had to see the truth of my lovelessness but to discover that my hidden sin (even to me consciously much of the time) was in fact quite visible to her and had actually cut deep, felt like I was drowning.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans 8:31-34

Are these verses telling me, “forget her…God loves you so it doesn’t matter!” In His redemptive plan and by His powerful grace, no, this is not at all what it says! Paul is saying that because God loves me and has fully accepted and forgiven and covered my mess with His mercy (a Scotty phrase), it can finally matter very much. I no longer have to justify myself because He has justified me. I no longer have to defend or hide my sin because He has died and risen to deal with it once for all. I no longer stand condemned, not because someone just misunderstood me but because they understood exactly why it is that I need Jesus every day and have reminded me too.

I, a minister of the Gospel, who adamently claims before others it is not by my works but by His grace, should not be so shocked to discover that I actually NEED His grace. The only reason I have had such a hard time, for my whole life, accepting criticism is that I have found myself so far above reproach that quite honestly there really was no reason for Jesus to die. Grace, in practice in my life, was little more than what southern people say before a meal. (again, stolen from Scotty)

To paraphrase my friend Anne, its not more self-consciousness that I need but more Gospel awareness. When the conflict with my friend exposed some shameful truths about my relationship to her, it was like I had been stripped naked and felt all that one would if so publicly exposed. Like Adam and Eve, my impulse was to cover myself in the fig leaves of defensiveness, blaming, excusing, denying or simply, as they did, running and hiding behind a tree. But what was true about who they were was just as true before they were able to see it themselves, it was just now they had been given the ability to see it.

But also like Adam and Eve, God used this conflict redemptively to show me my shame that He could clothe me in His dignity. Without that exposure, I would have continued to feel satisfied by my own sense of righteousness which carries with it a very small need for Jesus’ covering.

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 1 Cor. 1:30

The conflict was as much unsettling to me for the specifics as it was for the fact that everyone always had liked me. I was likeable. I was a lover not a fighter. (: I’m happy Jane, friendly Jane, nice Jane. And lurking under this reputation I had of myself, was likeable Jane righteousness. Perfect friend righteousness. Never offending others righteousness. Always saying the right thing righteousness. When the very person I imagined I was came under attack, the wind was knocked out of me. God was bringing a far better righteousness into my heart than my filthy rags and fig leaves.

In one of the first most significant ways, He was asking me to believe that it is in Jesus alone that I have my righteousness, holiness and redemption. My horrified and traumatized reaction to having my sin exposed equally unveiled my unbelief that I stand firmly in the righteousness of Jesus alone and am therefore no longer condemned.

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