Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When Did You Begin to Feel Really Alive?

Thoughts while enjoying an iced coffee at Starbucks

The other day my friend Sue said, "I wonder what kind of answers you'd get if you surveyed people and asked them, 'At what point in you life did you begin to feel really alive?' That would be interesting!"

Well, Sue, here's my answer to that question.

I loved life as a kid and always felt loved and quite alive. But I was very sensitive and took everything very seriously, especially matters of faith. My one passion was to please Jesus. When I look back at some of my favorite hymns and gospel songs (I would be true, for there are those who trust me, I would be brave, for there is much to dare... and I'll tell the world that I'm a Christian, I'm not ashamed his name to bear... pretty heavy songs for a kid!) and I remember some of the rules I made for myself, it's clear I was a bit confused about grace. Still, I loved Jesus and figured the way to show it was to do everything right. No mistakes, no poor judgements, no offending people, taking responsibility, you know, simple stuff like that.

The summer I turned 16 I went to a youth camp that rocked my world! The theme was Come Alive, and  that's just what I did. I began to see things through new lenses. I discovered that the life of faith was intended to be more a life of freedom than of heaping responsibility upon oneself. It infused me with joy and courage to step outside the rigid confines I'd set up for myself.

But I was only partway there.

It wasn't until years later that I saw another problem caused by my legalistic attitudes. That mindset had led to arrogance and self-righteousness, and it had kept me from being open and honest with the Lord and with others. I discovered that I was still living my life in my own strength, and I still wanted to do everything right, without disappointing the Lord. How else could I demonstrate to the Lord and the world that I was totally sold out to him, I reasoned, if I couldn't even keep the rules! But he showed me that he wasn't asking me to do that. He was just asking me to surrender myself to his care and to trust him.

Me at 32

That summer, the summer I turned 32, my life changed. I've referred to it ever since as the point at which I became human. No longer needing to figure everything out for myself and live a righteous life on my own, I embarked on a journey of joy and grace like I had never known before. I'd say it was the point in my life that I began to feel really alive.

As a human I can tell you that I'm not always hilariously joy-filled, nor do I always handle things well. But maybe you already knew that. (I wouldn't have disclosed such damning information to you when I was younger!) I'm learning and growing and so grateful that the Lord is more than able to see me all the way Home.

I've been a legalist and I've been a free woman. Trust me, freedom trumps legalism, hands down!

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