My darling mom died two years ago. I miss her every day. I don’t think anything quite prepares you for saying goodbye to your mom.
After her funeral in Scotland, I stayed several days to help my sister, Frances, go through Mom’s things. One treasure I brought home was the little Bible that always sat by her bed. She’d received it in December 1942 when she was 13 years old. She wrote on one of the blank pages, “Grace is undeserved favor. It is love stooping.”
We spent several hours going through Mom’s big red box of family photographs. “Did you really mean to have purple hair?” my sister asked with a smile, holding up a photo that showed one of my more creative choices. “Yes,” I said, grinning back. “Sadly, that was intentional.”
I paused on a photograph from the day I graduated from seminary. I remember that day so well. I was 21 years old. My hair in that season was dark and very short. I had to have most of it cut off after a disastrous experiment with a perm. I looked at my smiling face, confident I would now go out and change the world for Jesus. I remember my mom saying to me that day: “God began this good work in you, Sheila, and He will continue His work until you see Him face-to-face.”
I wish I’d listened to those words more carefully. I wish I’d understood the liberating truth that God is the one who begins His work in us, and He will complete it. I thought it was up to me. I believed God’s love was based on my performance, and I didn’t ever want to let God down.
Have you ever been there? Studying that photograph, there was so much I would have loved to tell my 21-year-old self. First … I’d tell her to moisturize her neck. She’d understand that piece of advice later in life!
But seriously, I’d tell her this will not always be the life she imagined. I’d tell her she will fall down over and over, but rather than understand the love of God less, she’ll get it more.
I’d let her know her heart will break, but she’ll survive. It will change how she sees others, not as causes to be saved, but as people to be loved. I’d tell her to remove the merciless list of spiritual “to-do’s” she’s carried inside because she needed to get everything perfectly right. I’d tell her it really is OK not to be OK, because Jesus has already made her right.
These words may sound like a bumper sticker, but for me they were hard-fought truths.
I tried for years to be the perfect Christian. It would take many broken roads and heartaches to begin to grasp this truth: We’re not called to pursue perfection; we’re called to pursue Christ, who is perfect.
I don’t know what situation you’re facing right now, dear sister, but know that as you are, you are loved by God. It’s never been up to us to get everything right. Christ did that on the cross. As Philippians 1:6b tells us, “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
If you feel you’ve fallen too many times, remember you get to start over and over and over again. Grace is undeserved favor. It doesn’t have a sell-by date. I read an old Chinese proverb that said, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.” With God, it’s never too late to start … again and again and again.
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me today. So often I feel as if I’m not good enough, but I thank You for loving me as much on the days when I think I got everything wrong as on the days when I think I got everything right. Thank You I get to come to You just the way I am, imperfections and all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
© by Sheila Walsh
October 18, 2018