Last week I fell down a rabbit hole of remembering.
It began with a search for my journal from the year we adopted our oldest son and ended with me digging through a musty pile of notebooks in the basement. I swiped away cobwebs from the dark corner of the cellar where the box of my life’s chronicles sat precariously close to the crawl space, a perfect haven for spiders, mice, mold, and memories.
I lugged every last notebook out of the basement and up the stairs where I wiped down the cover of each book with a damp cloth. There were at least twenty, and that doesn’t count the ten or so that are hiding in random bookcases and drawers around the house.
Though my very first journal opens with my seventh birthday, I chose the notebook from my last semester of high school. I’ve been reading for three days and am currently drowning in my sophomore year of college. I’ve always been grateful to be a lifelong journaler, but I have to admit my embarrassment about who I used to be. Pages and pages inked with my conflicting desires to both follow Christ and find security in someone besides Him.
I feel sorry for the girl who couldn’t figure out who she was, who believed she loved without reciprocation, who couldn’t bring herself to speak to people she didn’t know. She had a lot of dreams but was too afraid to chase them. Loneliness and longing were the parallel themes of her life; both throbbed with a misunderstanding of who she was. She wanted so badly to be accepted, to find “the one” who would love her for who she was, not who she thought she should be. She did the best she could to anchor herself in the truth of Scripture, but bubbling beneath the surface was an insatiable desire to be enough for someone to give her a second glance.
Then she met William.
There is a marked difference on the pages in the girl before William and the girl after him. Before him was the girl who never felt like she was enough, never liked what the mirror told her, never felt she measured up to her peers. After him, she stood with confidence, smiled widely, laughed freely, loved and knew she was loved.
Knowing she was loved changed her. Certainty of reciprocated affection was the piece of completion. It filled the gap between her shoulders and pushed out the feelings of inadequacy she had carried so long.
Fifteen years later, she is still better for being loved by him.
I barely recognize the girl in the journals. His love changed her; it made her better. Brought out the parts of her that were yearning to be seen. It is right that the one who opened her eyes to certainty is the husband who still washes her in the water of the Word. It glimmers with analogy, whispers as it should to the greater awakening of identity in Christ.
During my study of Ephesians, I’ve been moved by the metamorphosis of the dead man outlined in chapter 2. Phrases characterizing the before and after effects of grace through faith in Christ give a rich view of what happens to a person who is changed by the gospel. Addressing Gentiles specifically, Paul says we were children of wrath, far off, without hope, without the Messiah, without God, foreigners to the covenant of promise, dead in our sins, walking in our fleshly desires, excluded from the citizenship of Israel.
In other words, we’re doomed. And happy to be doomed. There’s no bleaker picture I could paint.
And there in the middle of the first paragraph are the two most beautiful words ever to be penned: But God.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Ephesians 2:4-5
I combed through chapter 2 over and over, taking copious notes. A distinctive flow emerged when my notes categorized themselves into three people (one named twice): man before salvation, God, Christ, man after salvation. I even drew out a chart. The bleak picture of the unregenerate man stands out, resolutely shackled to sin. No hope, no Christ, no God.
But God, and then there is so much that God does because of who He is. He is rich in mercy and full of great love for us, so He saves us by grace, makes us alive, raises us up, seats us with Christ, displays immeasurable kindness to us, gives us free access to Himself, sets us apart for good works, reconciles us to Himself and to one another, and builds us together into one body, the Church.
Christ is the agent of this startling metamorphosis. This quickening from dead man walking to breathing man believing happens through Jesus and His work at the cross. It is in Him and through Him that God does these things, these miraculous, old to new, dead to living, far-off to brought-near, splintered to unified, foreign to family, reconciliatory, resurrection things.
In this rebirth, wherein a rotting corpse rises from the grave a brand new person, bleakness gives up its seat to the hope of all hopes.
But God. In Christ.
This reconciling relationship changes everything. It breathes life into dry bones. We are more than better. We’re new. We are forever changed when we believe that we are loved by God, when we understand that the love He lavishes upon us is love that turns our affections away from our destructive fleshly desires and toward the beauty of His glory. His love calls us out of the grave, makes us new, changes who we are at our very core. His love does not allow us to continue to live under wrath, without Him, without Jesus, without hope. Indeed, He is our hope.
Being loved by God awakens us to real life. We are incomparably better for being loved by Him.Being loved by God awakens us to real life. We are incomparably better for being loved by Him. Click To Tweet
Journal photo cred: Simson Petrol with Unsplash