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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

When Our Shadow Side Gets The Better of Us

 What do you do when it seems like all others around you are falling? When it appears as though hypocrites reign large and those who preach a message are tempted right out of it and suddenly find themselves in a place they never intended to go. How do you stay the course and continue in grace when so many fall away from it? So many espouse to believe it…and to lead others toward it - but never allow it to penetrate their wounds. If grace is for the needy, the broken, the weak, I wonder why people feel it necessary to hide their pain and to avoid the one thing - the One Savior - who can deal with it!
 The more I watch of human nature, the more convinced I become of why we need a Jesus who will rescue us from ourselves. We all have a shadow side…and it's dark. Often darker than we think. And when it rears its ugly head, we come away shamed and discouraged by its ever-present activity in our lives. I find sometimes that I shock myself at how badly I can fall. But can sinners living in a world gone bad expect any different?!
I find that the older I get, the less horrified I become at how loud, how haunting, that shadow side is. Seems like I almost expect it to rise up and seek to do me harm. To lead me into paths I do not wish to tread. So how is it that one who is desiring a life abundant and full of joy can stand when others slip away? Can take heart when others are losing theirs? Can love fully in a world that screams of mis-trust, betrayal, heartache?!
 Grace. I keep coming back to that one word. That one word that gives meaning to my life. Peace to my soul. Grace isn't for the the brave, the bold, the famous, the strong, the ones who seem to "have it all together." It's for the ones who struggle, who mourn, who weep, who get angry, who want to hide, who run away from the truth, who can't live with themselves. Grace reaches down into the darkest depths and cries out, "I'm not afraid of how bad you are. I love you still!" This is the hope that tells a longing heart to believe and hold on. This is what keeps a desperate person coming back time and again to the simple message of the cross: grace is meant for those who know their own need and who cast themselves fully on an all-sufficient God whose death and subsequent resurrection gives life to dead souls. I can remain true not because I am perfect but because He is perfection for me; I can hold fast when others walk away because He is faithful when I prove faithless; I can live with full awareness of my shadow side, knowing that I am not the one to fight my battles alone - I have a God who fights for me.
 One of my favorite Christian singers puts it this way in his song, "Remind Me Who I Am:

"When I lose my way,
 And I forget my name,
Remind me who I am.
In the mirror all I see
Is who I don't want to be,
Remind me who I am.
In the loneliest places, 
When I can't remember what grace is...
Tell me once again who I am to You."

 The only way to keep from falling away from the message and meaning of a Grace-filled life, of a God-breathed existence, is to constantly be reminded of who we really are…and who God really is. When the ruins are all we see, we must ask Him to show us that forgiveness is a reality. That His love isn't finished speaking to us yet. We are never too healed that we cannot be healed further; we are never too "together" that we are not still in need of His strength and help; we are never so far gone that He isn't able to save us and rescue to the uttermost. As Corrie Ten Boom once put it, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." This profound truth is what enables someone like me to not end up as the religious leaders with whom my Savior contended - the hypocrites who thank God that they're not like the poor souls who beat their chests in contrition because they realize that only God can save them from their darkness. What we really need is neediness. What we really need is Him. What you do when it seems like all others around you are falling is pray. You pray for Grace. You pray for a humble heart. And you pray for more of Him.