Easter? Why are we still talking about Easter? You and I are women who must live our lives in light of the truths we celebrate every year at Easter time. We are gospel women, seeking to celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ every single day–not just on Easter Sunday. The truth is, the realities we celebrate at Easter impact every moment of our lives and that is what this series is all about. So, don’t get past Easter, keep celebrating with us and find encouragement in this incredible guest post from Lisa Spence on the freedom found in Christ!
It’s my turn to bring breakfast to church. Worrying and fretting over my options far more than is reasonable, I am texting my friend various ideas. She helps me weigh the pros and cons of this recipe or that and finally reminds me there’s “No rules!”.
Ah, but there are. Aren’t there?
The truth is, there are rules and by that I mean the high standards and lofty expectations not merely of church breakfast wars but of how I judge my success and my failure as mom, cook, wife, blogger, name-your-role-here.
Last week I remarked to my husband that I was glad I wasn’t raising younger children in this day and age of Pinterest. We chuckled together, you know, as if women of other stages and ages aren’t subject to the high standards and lofty expectations that define the ever evolving ideal woman.
I am at turns amused and depressed by how we as women define ourselves (and others) across all aspects of our existence. Take motherhood for example. When I first became a mom, lo these nineteen years ago, the gold standard for motherhood was to stay at home. Oh, the mommy wars then! Our battles have evolved somewhat and now we hold as paramount the mom whose pantry is photo-worthy, who bakes her own bread, who runs a shop on Etsy, who blogs with insight and candor (and wit), and, to top it off, yes, who plans her kids’ birthday parties according to Pinterest.
I know, I know, I’m speaking with some degree of exaggeration but the truth is there are rules, those unspoken lines drawn in the sand where we seek to define worth and significance. Or, at least we think there are, and as my dilemma over breakfast attests, I know well this burden of expectation and this fear of failure. In fact, it’s the story of my life. I’ve done my best to play by the rules and I’ve not only failed, but I’ve failed miserably.
I remember as a young mom crying myself to sleep at night, yes, no doubt because I was exhausted (hello, four children in less than six years), but also because I knew the rules and I knew I hadn’t met them. I would weep over all that I should have done and didn’t, and I would weep over all that I did do and shouldn’t. Whether it was reading aloud or daily baths, I had somehow, somewhere, more than once and more than twice, failed and I felt trapped. No matter how much harder I would try to do better and be better, I failed all the more flagrantly. I was desperate. I was miserable. Though I knew the Lord and loved Him I could not muster up the kind of joy and peace the Bible described. In fact I hated Romans 8 because I knew I was so much less than a conqueror. I asked for victory daily and instead I was defeated over and over and over and over again.
I’d like to tell you that my grief and resulting effort were born of a sincere desire for godliness. I could say that, but really what mattered to me far more than the Lord’s estimation of me was my estimation of me. I cried myself to sleep each night because I wanted to look over the course of the day and feel good about myself. I wanted to see the rules, the ideal, the expectations, and know I’d met them. I hadn’t of course, not even close, and the continual thwarting of this desire resulted in the debilitating guilt and condemnation I’ve described to you.
One day I was sitting on my back patio enjoying a few moments’ peace and quiet. I was reading a book on, of all things, grace. I turned the last page, closed the book, and said to myself “That can’t be right.” The author dared to assert that our standing before God–our worthiness–had nothing to do with our accomplishments or our failures. Rather, there was nothing I could do to earn God’s favor and nothing I could do to lose it. In Christ I was free. As one who’d spent her life striving to earn favor and fearing she’d lose it, this was not only shocking but also nearly incomprehensible.
Where then is my worth measured? If I am not the sum of what I do or don’t, then who am I? The answer is demonstrated at Easter in the heartrending, horrible death of my Lord and in His glorious, triumphant resurrection.
Because of Easter I am free. 2 Corinthians 5:21 asserts that God made him who knew no sin to be sin so that in him we might be the righteousness of God in Christ. It’s the glorious exchange: by His death on the cross Jesus paid the penalty of my sin and the righteousness of His perfect life is credited to me. I do nothing; He does everything. It’s by grace I am saved, grace abundant, unmerited and free.
Because of this grace Romans 8:1 joyfully and clearly proclaims: there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. No condemnation. None. No as in zero. Why? Verse 2 continues: for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
Jesus bore the condemnation of the law of sin and death.
He set me free.
My breakfast angst, my debilitating sense of failure, my misery over trying and doing and striving and failing–these stem from forgetting who I am in Christ. I forget the gospel. I forget Easter. I forget I am free. Before I began to understand true grace I saw my failures as indicators that I needed to pull up my bootstraps and try harder. I turned inward, to myself, attempting to muster up enough determination or discipline to do better tomorrow. It was a vicious, desperate cycle. But because of the glorious grace of a good and merciful God, I am free. I am accepted before God wholly apart from any rule keeping. I am His and He is mine and all because of grace.
I am free, yes, glory to God, but still I stumble. I fall. I mess up royally. What then? I must preach the gospel to myself daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute. I must tell myself the truth about myself: I need a Savior. I must confess. I must repent in genuine sorrow over my sin. As I do, I thank the Lord for His righteousness and I praise Him for His grace and His mercy toward a sinner like me. I cast myself before Him–yes, again and again and again–and I trust Him to sanctify me and cleanse me.
And I know yet again the freedom of the forgiven and I humbly, joyfully testify: He is all my righteousness. Not the rules. Jesus.
Do you know this grace? Are you weary of the try-hard, be-good life? Because of Easter you too can be free.
Keep reading more posts from the Because of Easter… series: Because of Easter… I Can Believe the Impossible, Because of Easter… I’m Alive, Because of Easter… I am Reconciled, Because of Easter… I can Serve with Joy! and Because of Easter… I Can Be Honest About My Sin.
Lisa Spence lives a very ordinary life in Alabama with her husband, four sons, and dog. Passionate for women to know the gospel grace that is found in Jesus Christ, Lisa teaches Bible study, volunteers at the crisis pregnancy center, and serves her local church. A few of her favorite things include coffee, chocolate, and a good book and the best sorts of days find her on her back porch enjoying all three. The occasional chronicle of Lisa’s confessions and conundrums can be found at her blog Lisa writes… as well as at Out of the Ordinary where she regularly contributes.