about her worth

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This is not going to be an easy post for me to write, it's time for me to put several years of scattered thoughts and conceptual ideas into some concrete words, if not for my readers, then for me. To have said it. To have explained it for myself.

Pete often tells me that I live under more guilt than almost anyone he has ever known. I am a "justifier" by nature, meaning that I often attempt to try and explain away mistakes and imperfections and issues in my life. I think some of this is because there is much that I see in myself that does not measure up to my own standards for me.

Over the last few years, I think God has been waging something of a crusade to bring me to a place of vulnerable, non-justified openness with Him about these mistakes and imperfections and issues. It is oddly terrifying to me how little time He seems to spend convicting me of sin. I feel as though I need to cover the bases He's not getting, fix myself quick, make "right" choices I'm not making, prioritize my own growth, legitimize my image.

I used to spend my quiet times making mental or actual lists of things to apply to my life, but no matter how many lists I made, how many times I was reminded and re-reminded, I could never fulfill or apply everything I intended.

A few years ago, I made a deliberate choice to quit trying. If I saw something in Scripture that screamed, "you need to fix that!" I began to intentionally lay it at God's feet and LET GO of my control to fix or to ignore. I began to accept myself as I was, broken, imperfect, helpless to offer God anything but a contrite heart, powerless to gain forgiveness.

And as I began to release my need to "be fixed," I began to accept something new about myself. In Jesus, I am a new creation. The impossible "be ye perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" became not only possible - it became an identity. In Jesus, I am perfect. Complete. Justified.Declared righteous.

Paul explains that God chose the weak and the fool so that His power might be displayed in us. This is power indeed, that we obtain righteousness through faith that He gives to us (and that not of itself, it is the gift of God), that we may now come boldly before His throne to receive mercy poured out at the Cross, that we may have relationship with Him that is eternal Life.

I am a woman who falls short in many, many ways. I don't have many qualities that characterize the Proverbs 31 woman - you know her, the perfect godly woman we're all trying to be - and I often struggle with intense condemnation over the fact that I don't even come close to being able to TRY to be like her.

But something God showed me about the virtuous woman is that her qualities, however they translate or define or manifest, are merely symptoms of something going on deep in her heart. She is a woman who fears the Lord. I'd be willing to bet some serious money that she is not a woman who decided to apply all of those amazing characteristics to her life to prove that she was virtuous, the way that I tried to apply them when I was younger - the impossible list. She is a woman who knows God. Who knows who He is, what He can do, what He is like.

Her worth is far above rubies. She must be incredibly rare. She must be incredibly passionate. She must have an incredible depth. She must own an incredible love.

I picture her fear of God as an awed, beloved reverence, an easy relationship where she knows safety and peace, peace that allows her to risk, to choose, to live passionately and pursue passionately and love passionately without fear of what may come.

The Proverbs 31 woman I have known in the past has robbed me (and many women I know) of my chance at owning the beauty of a quiet and gentle spirit. She stands over me, austere in her perfection, stern in her example, and I have striven to meet her standard and tried to ignore her standard and attempted to justify my way out of her standard and all the time I have been trading my freedom for a yoke of bondage.

"A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised."

My attempted application of the Proverbs 31 qualities to my life has been little more than an attempt at outward adornment on a woman whose heart is most decidedly not quiet, not settled. Too many times I have burdened myself with a list of things to accomplish that God has not given me grace to accomplish. Instead, He asks me to come to Him, weary and heavy laden, so that He may give me rest. "Learn of Me," He says, ever so gently. "I am meek, humble. You will find rest for your soul."

"My yoke is easy, and My burden is light."

His commands are not burdensome.

My restless heart is only quiet when I approach life in Jesus, clinging (and BOY do I mean clinging!) by faith to the knowledge that I have been declared righteous, that I may present myself to God already approved, that I may be transformed, renewed. Sometimes I need to think of myself like this:

"Kelly, you are the righteousness of God in Christ."

It is a righteousness not my own, undeserved, and in speaking of myself in this way, I am humbled, because I could never attain this by any list or application or goal. I am moved to reverence and fear because it is a righteousness for which I did not pay, and I cannot take it lightly. And my heart is eased because I have no reason for terror, for I am not condemned in Christ, and nothing in this world or outside of this world can separate me from the love of God in Him.

As the condemnation falls away, I am freed to give my all for His glory to whatever my hand finds to do - and here is the excellence, the virtue of the Proverbs 31 woman who fears the Lord.

My heart is burdened for you who are trying so hard to meet the standard, to live up to the law, the characteristics of a queen mother's description because you believe that she is what God wants you to be. I know your pain. I know your weary. I know your despair and fear and the sick feeling that spirals in the pit of your stomach when you think you're failing at what He wants you to be.

I know you wouldn't be trying to measure up if you didn't love Him, if you didn't want to please Him with everything that you are, if you weren't His.

He became the sin we are so that we could be righteous. We can live forgiven. We can live redeemed. We can live right where we are and trust His Spirit's sanctifying work in our hearts as He conforms us to the image of Jesus.

Remember this, though, and rest - You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Trust me. I'm gonna be remembering this too.


Charity said...

Beautifully written. I've been on a similar journey of late - a long, slow process, but one I believe will bear good fruit.

Heidi said...

I love this. I'm glad you were brave and wrote it. You're so right; I think so often we reinterpret the Bible as a list of expectations we have to live up to, when really it's just meant to be a story of God's love for us, an invitation to relationship with him. Everything else flows from that, instead of us earning relationship with God *through* living up to all the "shoulds". Then again there's always the fear that without those "shoulds", we'll go hog wild doing things we "shouldn't", but I'm actually starting to believe that if we're truly living in God's love, "should" disappears and is replaced by "want"...and the thing we want the most is to be close to His heart.

It's sure a far cry from the guilt of my childhood...I spent every day living in "conviction of sin". Funny thing - not only did it not help me to sin less, I think it distanced me from Father's heart rather than bringing me close.

the Joneses said...

And this is why, despite our very different perspectives and passions in life, I connect so well with you. The words are different, but the experience is the same. Just recently someone reminded me of "My burden is light..." I almost laughed out loud. I remember being puzzled and frustrated by that verse, because the burden I was laboring under certainly wasn't easy or light. Who was Jesus kidding? Slowly I'm realizing how much of that burden wasn't His doing at all.

I, too, feel anxious that God doesn't convict me of sin often enough. He doesn't send enough trials to test me. It hadn't occurred to me that I was trying to fill in where He fell short, but I do.

I hope that one day you'll see yourself as Pete and the rest of us do.

-- SJ

emily said...

I came to this same place about 10 years ago...realizing I had reduced the fruit of the Spirit down to a checklist rather than an eloquent description of a person who lives inside me. Who wants to come out. I need not ask for patience...I simply need to let Jesus be patient in me, through me. It is a radical, scandalous, beautiful, life changing thing. Thanks for writing about it.

Jessica said...

AMEN to this whole post!! Have you read my latest more thoughtful post yet? Largely along the same lines. It seems that God has been working on more than one of us in the same way lately!

ellen said...

Thanks for this post, Kelly. The Lord has been dealing with me about this very thing. One thing that I've realized is that when I try to earn the righteousness you speak of-acheive it and work at it-then I am, by my actions, stating that the cross is not enough for me. There is nothing I can add, no way I can earn it. It is more than enough.

dancebythelight said...

Two quotes stood out to me:

"As the condemnation falls away, I am freed to give my all for His glory to whatever my hand finds to do - and here is the excellence, the virtue of the Proverbs 31 woman who fears the Lord."

Amen to that.

"He became the sin we are so that we could be righteous."

Right, and that's what so many of us don't get. He's already made us righteous. We're clothed in it. Done. Now, we just grow into that righteousness through sanctification. We grow into the work He's already completed! That should make us released to rest in Him and not strive. But so often we don't, we feel me must add to it. But amen for grace to even cover that.

Amber said...

Wow. This is something I still struggle with; wanting so much to be perfect, knowing I can't be, wishing I could be, condemning myself for NOT being, ...criticizing myself for not resting in HIS goodness, knowing I need to let go, yet feeling unable to let go,... and going 'round and 'round the cycle. It's strange - almost like I feel GUILTY for admitting that Jesus is enough to cover me. He's good enough for the both of us - and then some! Why is it so hard? I guess I make it that way myself.

Thanks for the post, Kelly.

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