Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Stilts Are Too Short

I LIVED FOR YEARS under the teaching of a Bill Gothard, drinking in his false definition of grace, which brought me to the belief that to maintain favor with God, I needed to live by a particular set of “standards”.  Rather than learning to understand the heart of God (as in other relationships) we were taught to live a separated and sanctified life through numbered, step by step principles.  In 1996, I began, with baby steps, to question the validity of this teaching. As time went by, I realized more and more the many fallacies that had been shaping my understanding of God. To gain a sampling of how I used to think, read this passage from Ephesians 2 from my prior perspective: “For by ‘the desire and the power to do God’s will’ you have been saved through faith,…” Now read it from my present-day perspective (and the teaching true to the text): “For by ‘unmerited favor’ you have been saved through faith,…” (and the passage continues with “… and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”) In my mind, salvation had become a matter of behavior rather than simply God’s free gift.  Up to that point, my understanding of sanctification was based upon a list of standards that could promote me to God’s favor rather than what GOD had already done for me. This philosophy led me to a place of disillusionment, frustration, and almost a feeling of spiritual death.
Imagine living on figurative stilts day after day in order to reach favor with God. When the stilts became wobbly, I feared God’s discipline or disappointment in me. When the stilts were stable and progressively getting taller, I became comfortable in my relationship with God while looking down at the others around me who had not yet figured out how to reach this high. I learned to depend on the stability of my tall, impressive stilts rather than naked trust on the simple favor of a Heavenly Father.
During these past 15 years, my understanding of God has been progressing slowly.  This year, though, I’ve found myself aggressively attacking the lies I’d previously bought into in order to gain healing and to grow my relationship with God. I’ve read, researched, and studied everything I can get my hands on in order to understand what grace really is and how the truth of it can transform my perception of sanctification and purpose.
THEN CAME LAST WEEK. A sensation of conflict began to hover over me like an oppressive cloud. A reoccurring burden of guilt that I had worked for years to either forget or make up for has reared its ugly head at me as though it were all new again. This weight is over an incident that happened over 14 years ago. Someone I love was hurt -possibly damaged for life- because I made a wrong decision. I can give a thousand excuses as to why it ultimately wasn’t my fault, but the fact remains… I was guilty. I’ve done my best to “make it right” and I have continually tried to figure out how to erase the painful memories and to make up for what happened. For years, I’d been figuratively building my personal Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) to reach that place where I can FEEL better and the weight of guilt can be lifted from me. But the focus on grace that my life has kind-of opened my entire life, clear and barefaced before me. And it took me back to that dark place of regret all over again. It’s almost like a deep cut that had almost, kind-of scarred over. But now that I am faced with the truth of GRACE, the scab has been peeled off –along with a whole additional layer of skin! And it hurts! My heart was LITERALLY HURTING. I was faced with the final realization that I have to quit building this tower to a place of FEELING better and trying, trying, TRYING to make it right. And when I say “make it right”, I don’t mean apologize. I already did that. I mean,… reverse time almost. Make it as though it never happened.

There's a girl in the corner
With tear stains on her eyes
From the places she's wandered
And the shame she can't hide

She says, "How did I get here?
I'm not who I once was.
And I'm crippled by the fear
That I've fallen too far to love"

But don't you know who you are,
What's been done for you?
Yeah don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.

Well she tries to believe it
That she's been given new life
But she can't shake the feeling
That it's not true tonight

She knows all the answers
And she's rehearsed all the lines
And so she'll try to do better
But then she's too weak to try

But don't you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.

'Cause this is not about what you've done,
But what's been done for you.

This is not about where you've been,
But where your brokenness brings you to

This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,

And what He felt to make you loved.

You are more than the choices that you've made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You've been remade.
(10th Avenue North)

SO THEN I REALIZED: God already did that! It took me a few days, but it occurred to me that I spent all these years trying to make up for or erase this terrible thing, the awful memory of who I once was and the devastating choices I made… but God has already erased it. He made it as though it never happened. I’ve been hanging on to this thing, unable to acknowledge that God is bigger. He is larger than ANYthing I have done. His grace is all-sufficient. And the more I try to make penance for my guilt, the guiltier I will feel because there is no way my stilts will ever be that tall! I can build and build and work and work and try and try but I will never get my tower tall enough to reach a not-guilty verdict. Like many times before, I had taken my eyes off God and His grace and placed it on myself and my little hamster wheel of spinning round and round but staying in the same guilt-filled rut. My husband told me last week as I explained to him my pain, “Donna, all I know is that you sound like a self-martyr. God already told you He is enough. You’ve learned how His grace can work in the other areas of your life. But you’re trying to take the weight of this one thing that you’ll never be able to get over without just LETTING GO of it.” The problem with this is that I have this tiny little haunting thought in the back of my mind: God’s well of grace SURELY must have a bottom to it. If we cash in too many checks, sooner or later, one is going to bounce, right?” I guess after all that I’ve been discovering lately, I felt like this one dark room in my life was just a little too much and I might overdraw on grace somehow. ???
I'd like to end this post with a clip from Les Miserables.
If you're not so sure why I'm in love with the reality of grace,
Come take a look...

My chains are gone
I've been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing


For another great article on GRACE,
please check out Wendy's blog at:



amber said...

such a powerful post, donna! i so appreciate your transparency~

"you are more than the sum of your past mistakes!"

amen for that! so grateful for grace.

love to you girl.

amber said...

p.s. oh, and i changed the spelling of my username, so the new link is

just so ya know. :)