“My entire Christian life had been oppressive. I did not know how to live day by day without an overwhelming sense of failure to perform up to what I thought God demanded.”
Reading those words many years ago jolted me. To admit my internal sense of failure as a Christian, as this woman did, seemed threatening. The courage of this writer challenged me to give honest reflection to how I functionally follow Jesus day to day. I too could feel this way. Is that the way it’s supposed to be?
The origin of quote came from a woman reflecting on her experience taking a course called “Sonship” and how her past patterns of thinking about God were brought to light. Considering what it means to live by faith alone in Christ alone, she moved from fear to freedom. I too found great freedom in naming the patterns of my heart’s unbelief and humbly receiving the full grace given to all those adopted by God.
The course focuses on key truths about God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ and applies them to the habits of our hearts. City Church is offering the same course this Fall under the name, “The True Life Course.”
Below is the full story of how one woman moved from feeling like a failure in God’s sight to feeling like a daughter of God.
When I was very young my older sister was hanging up my father's white business shirts on the clothesline to dry. I was suddenly filled with the urge to hang up one of my daddy's white shirts. I'm not sure I can explain my motive. He was my daddy too, and I was his daughter. I loved him in my childlike way and wanted to express it. I couldn't reach the clothesline — it was too high, but I saw a wheel barrow in the yard and its handles were just the right height for me. I didn't notice how rusty it was and I rather joyfully clothes pinned the wet shirt to the handles. When my dad got home and saw the shirt on the wheel barrow he became very angry with me and punished me severely for ruining his shirt.
I hadn't realized the impact that event and others like it had made on me. But as I was repeatedly convicted during the Sonship course for not believing God concerning His delight in me and in the gracious nature of my relationship with Him. After He has put me into Christ, this memory returned to me. Now, you can't get through the course without realizing that your own heart [flesh] is as murderous as anyone else's, so I wasn't primarily focusing on only being the innocent victim of my father's cruel anger.
Rust and the Blood
As I remembered these scenes from the past I saw that through the years I had not been believing that my Father in heaven was any different than my earthly father. I hadn't been listening when He described Himself. In short, I hadn't been believing the Gospel, that by faith in Christ and His perfect atoning sacrifice, now He loves me and is forever for me and delighted in me. In Christ He has made me beautiful and pleasing to Him forever. So the next morning I told our counselor that I thought I was beginning to understand. I told him the memory and said that "I guess if the Father saw me standing next to the wheel barrow with the ruined shirt on it, He would forget the shirt and hug me."
"You still don't understand fully," he said. God would not overlook the shirt, but take it, put it on, and wear it to work. And when someone commented on the rust marks, He would say, 'Let me tell you about my little girl and how much she loves me ... '
I was overwhelmed with that realization. I am beginning to realize that my Christian life has been a continual effort to earn God's pleasure by getting "the shirts hung up right." God would answer if my prayer was "right." God would smile upon me if my theology was correct. And since I knew how I had failed day by day in my works, I sort of snuck them up on the line and tried to be away when God got home, so to speak. Someone in the course had said something that really seems to apply here. He said: "God will not despise the tainted love-gifts of the sinner who looks to Jesus."
My entire Christian life had been oppressive. I did not know how to live day by day without an overwhelming sense of failure to perform up to what I thought God demanded. With that came a sense of God being disappointed and even disgusted with me.
How overpowering it is now to realize that because of Christ, I can experience a daily freedom to move out into people's lives. I can love others, I can obey God with my heart because I don't fear that He will be furious with me if I get the shirt "a bit rusty." There is a freedom to love that I haven't known since the moments before my father got home that day long ago.
The True Life Course begins Tues. September 19th and lasts for 12 weeks. Registration is required and there is a $15 fee for materials. The course includes a 30 minute lecture, small group discussion, and about an hour of reading/reflection on your own. Last year’s class enjoyed the class so much they asked if they could go through it again!
Registration will open August 20th. Questions? Contact Joshua at firstname.lastname@example.org.