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Sabrina Gauer

Faith, Life & The Journey

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Forgiveness

Wasted Grace

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” – John 8:11

There was a woman who had committed adultery.

The religious leaders caught her, and in their smug, self-righteous attempt to prove how holy they were, she was dragged to the feet of Jesus, where the religious leaders laid her sins out in front of everyone, and challenged Jesus to do something about it. “She’s supposed to be stoned, according to our Law,” they sneered. “What are you going to do about it, oh great Teacher?”

And Jesus looked right at them and said, “Okay, whoever here is without sin – go ahead and throw that first stone.”

One by one, the leaders had to choke on their own pride and walk away. The text says that Jesus was writing something in the sand – was it their hidden sins? Was it the Law that they claimed she had broken, yet they had forgotten the other 9 commandments that were also impossible not to break?

When Jesus looked up, she was still there.

“Where are your accusers?”

“Everyone left,” she replied, probably confused, probably timid, probably still shaking from the prospect of being stoned to death.

So, Jesus told her she was forgiven. And to go and leave her life of sin.

We all struggle with sin.

Our earthly, fleshly nature is sin. Pride, covetousness. Gossip, deceit, lies. Lust, greed, and immorality. It’s all programmed right into our DNA, and we are powerless against it. Might as well just give up trying to fight it and give in to it, right? We’re already saved by grace anyway. We’ve already been told there’s no condemnation in Christ!

Stop right there. SUFT 9 worship

I’ve had too many conversations and observed too many Christians/Christ-followers (even churches!) who believe this very thing- even if they don’t say it outright. Their actions show that they aren’t willing to go the extra mile. To be different even though the world would call them out on it. To stand strong even when it’s lonely, depressing, and discouraging.

They aren’t willing to be “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).

I’ve been mind-blown these past few days over how much I’m gleaning from the book of Romans. I remember studying it a few years ago, and having an older friend tell me they were surprised, because it was a difficult piece of the Bible to understand. I remember feeling a little deflated in my study because of those words, and stupidly moved on to something else. But reading it now – it’s a very clear, very concise, very hard-hitting letter. There’s nothing confusing about it.

And it makes more sense to me than ever before.

In chapter 7, Paul confesses how hard it is for him to fight his sin-nature…in his own strength. “The things I want to do, I don’t do, and the things I don’t want to do, I do!…I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

Just give up and give in, right? NO. Paul then continues on in chapter 8, which in my personal opinion is the most powerful and life-changing part; “You, however, are controlled NOT by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” (v. 9, emphasis my own)

God didn’t send His Son to die a horrific death, defeat sin, and rise again to glory just so we could continue living in our filth…so that we could continue giving in to sin but claiming everything’s fine because God already forgave us. If you’ve accepted that Jesus is LORD of YOUR life, that you are no longer a slave to sin but a child of God, that the atonement for your sin (past, present, and future) was owed and yet taken on by Jesus so you could be free and have eternal life…

Then why do we act like grace is nothing? Why do we ignore 99.9999% of the Bible, and only subscribe to the feel-good fluff that so many people are preaching? Of course we don’t want to be uncomfortable! Of course we don’t want conviction! We don’t really want the Power of the Holy Spirit.

We want the perks of salvation without giving up anything. We want to be saved out of fear, but we don’t have enough fear to change our hearts.

I need this message right now. You need this message right now. Jesus’s words echoing from over two thousand years ago, “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” It isn’t a suggestion. It’s a command.

He forgave you everything. But that doesn’t give you license to waste His grace. Instead, it should break your heart, tear off your chains, and set you free on the road less traveled.

Working On My Plank

  • People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
  • “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:5
  • “If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

It’s really hard to see your own shortcomings. Obvious statement, but painfully true. I’ve had a lot of time these past few months during my surgery and cancer recovery, and a great deal has been spent on looking deep inside myself and uncovering things I’d rather leave hidden or untouched. It’s so much easier to jump at someone else’s faults- especially when you had them pegged in your mind as “better than that”. But when you start to really dig deep within yourself…

Let’s be honest- none of us are “better than that”.

It’s a learning process. You can’t change years of thought-processes, habits, and understanding of the world around you overnight. And it’s even more difficult to try to prove change. I know I struggle hard with wanting those closest to me to really hear me, understand me, listen to me, get where I’m coming from. But it’s not that easy. Just as I fail miserably at this at times when others want the same from me, we can only live our lives the way we feel is right and true. And if people don’t understand it, or want to judge it…well, that’s not anything we should be stressing ourselves trying to fix or convince others about.

I know this all too well. I am a fixer to the core of my being. If I have a conversation with someone and (in my mind) it ends up being unresolved, there is a part of me that won’t rest until I find resolution somehow. I will argue with myself over whether I said or did the right thing  Death_to_stock_photography_bonus_floral_8after an interaction. I convince myself of my own personal morals, values, and convictions- until someone close to me mentions a change I could make, or points out (intentionally or unintentionally) what seems to be a flaw. Then, I’m overanalyzing and questioning myself for hours (haha, I’ve even second-guessed this post a couple times before hitting publish!!). Social media is the worst for personalities like my own.

But this has stemmed from years of a struggle within myself to be what everyone told me I should be versus who God created me to be and ultimately listening to His voice and direction. I took everything in as absolute truth when I was younger (especially when it came from influential people in my life), never able to let any criticism roll off my shoulders, and allowing careless words to bury deep into my being. As logical a person as I am, it fascinates and frustrates me how intensely I can take emotions as well.

(A logical-feeler. I believe that whole Myers-Briggs business refers to this personality type as an “INFJ”…which, of course, happens to be one of the more complex and hard to explain. Yay!)

So all of that to say this: You don’t know what drives people to make the decisions they make or the actions they take in life. Could it be personality? Could it be influence? Who knows. But we are so quick to judge others and question their choices. What if we made a conscious effort to catch those judgments instead of letting them fly freely? I’m a work in progress with this. Which is why I’m confessing it to you now and wanting to be better.

We usually judge someone based on a flaw or shortcoming within ourselves. So I’m challenging you today (just as I’m challenging myself): Work on your own plank. Next time you have a critical, negative thought toward someone or toward a situation they’re in, redirect it at yourself. Ask yourself why. Search for the root. It’s going to be difficult, but it takes conscious effort to change the way you think or react. It takes conscious effort to love instead of judge.

 

 

 

I Don’t Care if Your Wedding Dress is White…And You Shouldn’t Either

Several years ago, a young woman in our church community was getting married. The dress was a beautiful, satin white Vera Wang, and she was going to look radiant walking down the aisle for one of the happiest moments of her life. And let’s be honest, Vera does have the reputation of making any bride even more stunning…She was excited as she prepared for this big day, as she should have been.

Then, a few weeks before her wedding, I overheard a very self-righteous and judgmental comment from someone who attended her church; “I can’t believe she thinks she has the privilege to wear white on her wedding day! What a hypocrite!” I still remember the feelings that terrible, careless comment triggered even inside myself. Anger. Doubt. Remorse. Indignation. More anger. And being the curious, over-zealous, fact-hoarder that I am, I started where I usually do in situations like this- the Bible.

And guess what? The Word of God (which I believe is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but) does NOT include any passages dictating the color of your wedding dress.

I have been told my entire life that the white wedding dress is a symbol of ultimate purity and saving yourself for your future spouse (and I’ll leave the tangent alone about what a double-standard that happens to be…), while the world celebrates and nods in approval at your public declaration through the color of the very expensive dress you chose for your special day. I’ve heard countless youth group sermons preached on this subject, and a very vivid memory of a Sunday morning service where the pastor began his teaching with a skit depicting a wedding where the bride wore white…but had the names of all her former lovers tattooed on her back. And her unsuspecting husband-to-be left her at the altar in disappointment and disgust when he saw how “unfaithful” she had been. ptg01672836To this day, I have no idea what the actual point of the sermon was.

Being misguided with this legalistic information from a very young age, and by almost every single church or young women’s group I ever attended where we studied books like “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” or “And the Bride Wore White“, it’s not a mystery to me why I was so confused and missed the boat on mercy, grace, and forgiveness for myself as I got older. Or why my theology on this topic was so off-base. This may come as a shock to some, but you’ve been lied to. And if you’re anything like me, that destructive lie (passed down from only a few generations!) caused you to question your worth, your faith, and your identity. Sure, there was always a quick, glossed-over disclaimer that said, “Confess your sins and Jesus will forgive you, and THEN you can wear white again!” But it wasn’t until after you had been told what a crummy, regretful, condemning life you would live if you ever crossed that line before marriage.

But with age comes wisdom.

Google “the history of the white wedding dress”, and the first thing you’ll see is this statement:

A wedding dress or wedding gown is the clothing worn by a bride during a wedding ceremony. Color, style and ceremonial importance of the gown can depend on the religion and culture of the wedding participants. Most brides choose a dress of white to symbolize purity of the soul.

If we dig a little deeper, we find that weddings happen all over the world, all the time, in many different and diverse cultures, and the brides wear brilliant shades of red, gold, green, purple, or even black! I have several friends who incorporated their various cultural backgrounds into their own wedding day, and the traditional dress was (gasp!) definitely not white. And it was beautiful.

Traditional Chinese Bride
Traditional Chinese Bride

In 1840, Queen Victoria married her Prince Albert in England. They were the 19th century version of William & Kate. Everyone wanted to emulate the Queen. They looked to her for fashion, speech, and etiquette- even here in the states. And lo and behold, she wore a white wedding dress for her well-documented day. “European and American brides had been wearing a plethora of colors, including blue, yellow, and practical colors like black, brown, or gray. As accounts of Victoria’s wedding spread across the Atlantic and throughout Europe, elites followed her lead.” (read more here) Universally, the color white symbolizes purity, joy, and interestingly enough, wealth. But the tradition of the white dress here in the U.S. didn’t really take hold in society until after a British queen made a fashion statement.

So…just to recap…we’ve been using a fashion statement from the 19th century as our excuse to judge our own worth and to condemn others, and to hold an impossibly high standard over our heads as women? In essence, guilting us all into

Brides in Spain wore black, with tall, intricate veils
Brides in Spain wore black, with tall, intricate veils

desperately trying to answer the impossible question: “Are you pure enough to wear white?” We write books on the subject, preach sermons about it, listen to our mothers remind us about it…and it’s all because of a famous wedding in 1840?!

Enough of this shaming. Enough of this guilt and condemnation. Is purity important? Absolutely. But purity isn’t just physical. It isn’t just the color of your wedding dress and if people secretly (or, as in the sad case above, publicly) think you’re worthy of wearing it. It isn’t whether or not you’re a virgin on your wedding night, whether you ever owned a purity ring, or whether you planned on saving kissing for the altar! It’s about your heart. “Create in me a pure heart, Oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” -Psalm 51:10 (click here for one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read on this subject)

Someday, when it’s my turn, I do plan on wearing a beautiful white gown for my wedding. Vera if I can afford it. But the dress won’t be some ridiculous symbol- it will just be a dress. And for every woman out there who has believed the lies, who has let herself be labeled or identified as one of those “unworthy” ones…stop it, right now. You are more than enough. You have been bought at a price- the sacrifice at the cross- and have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Your worth doesn’t depend on anyone’s opinion of you. Your worth is beyond measure in the eyes of God. And He doesn’t care about the color your wedding dress. He cares about your heart.

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