This morning I woke up with the following thoughts in my head. I need to text Kira, I wonder if I can find a pen to redraw the tattoo that I want to test it out today, I didn’t get rid of enough clothes, and I need coffee. Oh, and some guilt about something dumb I did yesterday. These were the thoughts rambling through my mind. I searched for a pen and couldn’t find a good one. I got rid of three more shirts. I came downstairs, made some coffee, and even decided to make some (pre-mixed, don’t worry, the world isn’t ending,) muffins. I’d been awake for at least a half an hour by the time I looked up and saw it through the curtains. Snow. The real kind, the kind that the eight-year-old living inside of you looks at and thinks: fortress. It packs well. It sticks to everything. My backyard looks a little like a scene from White Christmas right now, minus the singing and dancing. (For now. But you never know.)
I felt the guilt shrink a little when I saw the snow.
My neighborhood has been getting pretty dingy lately. You know what I mean. That awkwardness between autumn and winter, where the ground is just dead: it’s dormant. It’s hibernating. It’s pathetic. The days are darker and the air is chilly, but everything looks disgusting.
That all ends when it snows. Once it arrives in full force, the moon reflects off of those little white snowflakes and makes everything look brighter at night. During the day, it’s almost blinding right after a snowfall. Last year my apartment was on the 2nd floor and I had a hard time being able to really see the snow with any kind of appreciation, but this year, the downstairs is ground level, and I could estimate the inches of growth if I really wanted to. I’m ecstatic. I didn’t realize how much I had missed that. (Not the ability to measure snow, but the proximity to its beauty. Duh.) There is a small part of me that wants to make a snowman today, but I will wait until my roommate, Heidi, gets back. Two girls in their twenties making a snowman leads the neighbors to think, “Aww, what cute and whimsical neighbors we have.” One girl in her twenties making a snowman alone leads the neighbors to think, “Oh, so that’s the crazy one. We need to start locking our doors at night.”
Everything is better when it snows. I am convinced that my coffee tastes better this morning. My house looks prettier. Even that grill outside that Heidi and I have no idea how to use looks kind of precious all piled up with snow.
Snow covers the imperfections. I think maybe that’s it.
Grace covers us like snow. It covers everything in our lives, the same way the snow lands on everything. It doesn’t choose which parts of our lives to cover, the same way that snow doesn’t pick its location. I have been obsessed with grace lately, because no matter how much I try, I still can’t understand it. It doesn’t make any sense. But neither does snow, I guess. I see beauty in my backyard right now, but I’m pretty sure that the snow is covering up all sorts of little presents that my neighbor’s dog has left behind. Tread carefully.
Snow, like grace, allows us to do a lot of things that would normally be impossible. Have you ever tried to sled down a hill in the summer? It doesn’t go well. Ice-skating is also a very bad idea in the springtime. And it is really hard to gather and pack up a ball of water in the fall. Grace is like that too. Until we accept the grace that living in Jesus Christ brings us, there are a lot of things we can’t do without a lot of struggle. We can’t love those who hurt us. We can’t have compassion on those for whom our automatic response is “Well they got themselves into that mess, anyway.” We can’t trust that our lives are a part of something greater and more beautiful than ourselves. Until we allow every part of ourselves to be covered in grace, we will never view ourselves (or anyone else) as anything but not good enough. Instead, we keep trying to earn forgiveness, or good standing, or even just self-acceptance.
I was talking to a friend about grace the other day. She keeps telling me that she knows what she needs to be doing in order to grow her relationship with God, but she just hasn’t been doing it. I could smell the guilt over the phone. I could sense that the greatest thing that was keeping her from her relationship with God at this point was the fact that she felt she wasn’t good enough to approach Him with confidence. She wasn’t doing the stuff on the Christian “to-list,” so she didn’t have the right. She figured that at this point God was probably passive-aggressively ignoring her, anyway.
Satan is a genius when it comes to getting us where we are weakest. The second we begin to doubt that the grace of God is big enough for us, we start taking slow, back-pedaling steps away from our loving Father. And those steps away lead us into more sin. We start piling all of our past and present wrongs up as a barrier between us and the arms of God. What me may not realize, is that once we are saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, that barrier is invisible to God. Sure, He knows we are sinners—but that is why He sent Jesus down to earth. It is our own disbelief in the great grace of God that keeps that pile of separation between us and God.
We stare at that pile and figure that the only place God exists is BEHIND that mound. We figure it is unlikely that we’ll ever be able to tear that pile down. Hopelessness sets in. What we might not realize is that God is mostly likely standing behind us with His arms open, just waiting for us to turn around and accept His love again. He isn’t intimidated or hindered by your big pile of sin.
Even while I’m writing this, there are these “yeah, but…” thoughts in my head. Thoughts that make me want to make God’s grace conditional on our eventual perfection. Thoughts that want to take certain sins and make them unforgivable. Even now, I am battling the ideas that Satan and this world have put in my head about how I’m never going to be good enough.
I guess that’s the truth though. I won’t ever be good enough. But that doesn’t mean I will remain stagnant in my sin, either. The Holy Spirit works on my heart daily, convicting of me of my sins and telling me to go to talk to God. It is a slow process sometimes, but it is the right one. The thing I have to realize is that even with all of that imperfection underneath, I’ve been washed white as snow through the love and mercy of Jesus. He is in love with me, and He’s just waiting for me to get over myself enough to come to Him. To accept His grace once again.
The only way I can explain what happens to my heart in these times with God where I am overwhelmed by His love and grace, is to compare it to those life-altering times in my life when another precious human being has forgiven me for something I felt was unforgivable. Or told me, when I haven’t deserved it, that I mean a lot to them. It’s that flip-flop that happens inside of my heart. Feeling those barriers between myself and another person melt down is so incredible.
It’s a lot like that with Jesus, too. But only when I realize that no matter what, He’s love with me. His eyes make my sin transparent, and through that sin, He sees a person who He died to hangout with.