On Tenderizing

May 17th, 2013 § 246

The night I found out I didn’t get in to grad school, I cried myself asleep.

As the tears flowed, I recited the first passage of the five-hundred-something-year-old Heidelberg Catechism aloud.

Q. What is your only comfort
in life and in death?

A. That I am not my own,
but belong—
body and soul,
in life and in death—
to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood,
and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil.
He also watches over me in such a way
that not a hair can fall from my head
without the will of my Father in heaven;
in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.

Because I belong to him,
Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
assures me of eternal life
and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
from now on to live for him.

I repeated those words over and over and over again.

I am not my own. If I am not my own, then I am not alone. I will never be alone.

But belong. Not only am I not alone, but I belong. I am welcomed. I am accepted. I am enjoyed.

Body and soul. My whole being. My whole being belongs. My whole being is welcomed and accepted and enjoyed.

In life and in death. There is nothing that can make me alone. Nothing that will undo my belonging. I am welcomed and enjoyed now, and I will forever be.

To my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Because my whole-being already belongs, I do not need to get my act together. I do not need to measure up. I need not be a self-made woman. I need only cry out in my brokenness and be rescued. I have someone who has saved me and is saving me and will save me. Not an abstract idea. Not a set of rules or ideals or self-improvement strategies, but a person. Jesus. He is for me. He is faithful. He welcomes and accepts and enjoys me.

He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood. There is real grace in my anger and ingratitude. Jesus bought this ugliness away when he was broken in his body.

And has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. I have been freed. I am free. Evil and ugliness will not be allowed to win in my heart and in this world.

He also watches over me in such a wayI am seen. I am cared for. I am protected.

That not a hair can fall from my headI am seen and cared for and protected even in the smallest, pettiest of losses.

Without the will of my Father in heaven. My pain will be redeemed. Even the smallest, pettiest loss is hidden under the will of my Father who is setting it all right.

In fact, all things must work together for my salvation. All things. It will all be redeemed. Nothing gets left behind in the setting right of my heart, in the setting right of it all.

Because I belong to Him. In my forever-belonging, my whole being is called.

Christ, by his Holy Spirit. In this calling, I am not on my own, but I am given the Holy Spirit.

Assures me of eternal life. As I step into my calling, the Holy Spirit will remind me, when it seems dark and hard and scary, that there is forever life, that all things are being made new.

And makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready. The Spirit will not only remind me, but will also prepare me. The Spirit will prepare my whole heart. The Spirit will make me ready.

From now on to live for Him. The Spirit will make me ready to live. Not trapped by selfishness and disappointment and fear. But to really live. Today. And tomorrow. And the next one after that. The Spirit will make me ready, right here, where I am, to live a life for the God who is over all beauty and joy and goodness.

I’ve prayed this passage what must be a hundred times since that night. Multiple times a day. Gripping the steering wheel. Sitting in the shower. Laying awake at night. For a long time I was too pissed to understand why, but I said it anyway because I didn’t know what else I’d say to that big, cruel meanie up there. But every day I’d say these words, he got a little less cruel and a little less mean. And a little more loving and a little more merciful. Somewhere in there when I wasn’t looking, each word of this passage became it’s own small seed of hope, planted quietly in the hot, damp soil of my heart.

It’s still not all better, and by better I suppose I mean easy.

But this prayer has tenderized me. And I feel a weighty gladness to be far enough down the road to recognize that.

 

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