Who knew it could happen to us? Seriously! Weren’t we following God’s lead to sell our home in a beautiful, rural setting in Connecticut — a landscape of lakes and rivers, with the sound of ocean waves crashing on a rocky coastline within an hour’s drive — to move into an under-resourced, poor neighborhood in a city in Alabama — hot, humid and landlocked from the ocean !? And hadn’t this not only drastically changed our physical surroundings, but also the relational landscape as we left behind family and close friends!?
We thought for sure our large home on 2 1/2 acres in Connecticut would sell easily. Why wouldn’t it!!?? Five bedrooms, multiple baths, in-law apartment for rental income possibility, quiet neighborhood …
I had always thought, “follow God and He will take care of everything else”– except that subconsciously I must have thought, “take care of everything else” meant that He would take care of the situation the way I thought it should be taken care of …head above water, coming out smelling like a rose.
For months we begged, borrowed and pleaded but realized something had to be done to stop the bleeding out financially. All our efforts came up short. Our money ran out. Not the way I thought God would work it out. Our debt was too great — our resources too limited. We fell to the mercy of the court to take up our case. We filed for bankruptcy.
It seemed we had always been able to navigate through financial ups and downs and make things work out somehow. ..credit cards, family and friends, selling something, picking up extra side jobs, etc. This felt more like someone had stamped “failure” on our how-to-do-life resume. I always felt we had been good stewards of our money…penny-pincher-extraordinaire! This was a sign of defeat. We couldn’t do it on our own. Painfully aware of a debt we couldn’t pay, we had to raise our right hand as if it were a white flag of surrender and stand in bankruptcy court before a judge pleading for help.
On that rainy, dreary day, we left bankruptcy court and I settled into bed with disappointment–pulling my wounded pride up over my head. We weren’t able to fix this one on our own.
The lens of my mind brought this part of our story into clear focus this week as I read through our Lenten devotional. This time however, I found myself at the foot of the cross …looking at Jesus, Who took up my case as He died on the cross …carrying the full weight of a debt I couldn’t pay …using all of His infinite resources of love and righteousness to adjust my account and stamp “paid in full” on all my outstanding debt…bleeding out His own life-blood to deposit redemption into my account.
No matter how much I tried to pay my own way, it was never enough — the debt of sin too great. My good works and extraordinary efforts came up short every time. No matter how I stacked it, the debt of sin and the inability to cover the cost left me lacking.
It was time to raise my hand in surrender and admit I couldn’t do it on my own. My blood type wasn’t a match…it could only come from the veins of Jesus Christ. I wasn’t able to fix this on my own. I had to stand before Jesus with the realization I was utterly helpless to save myself. Humbled.
“The proud human heart is there revealed. We insist on paying for what we have done. We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing somebody else to pay for us. The notion that this somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take. We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.
” …But we cannot escape the embarrassment of standing stark naked before God …We have to acknowledge our nakedness, see the divine substitute wearing our filthy rags instead of us, and allow him to clothe us with his own righteousness.”
“Nobody has ever put it better than Augustus Toplady in his immortal hymn ‘Rock of Ages’:
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to your Cross I cling;
Naked, come to you for dress;
Helpless, look to you for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.”
(Pages 220, 221–Bread and Wine~Readings for Lent and Easter, Plough Publishing)
And these words sharpen the focus — revealing the crisis and the Truth that sets us free …
” When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners…
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.
For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
Brennan Manning articulates this new relationship with Jesus Christ in his words…
“Over a hundred years ago in the Deep South, a phrase commonplace in our Christian culture today, born again, was seldom used. Rather, the words used to describe the breakthrough into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ were: “I was seized by the power of a great affection.” (page 224, Bread and Wine, Plough Publishing)
And joining in the words of Chris Tomlin, I cry out in humble gratitude …
“My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace”
Grace. Amazing Grace. Unending love. My debt is paid. My account is settled. The charges canceled.
Jesus paid it all!
“He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.”
As we enter into Holy Week, enter with expectation. Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit as He speaks His love and truth. I’d love to hear from you as we continue our Journey through the Season of Lent toward the cross of Jesus Christ and the victory of His resurrection.
Embrace the Journey!
Next week we’ll follow up with thoughts from Holy Week and a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ as we continue along in the Lenten Journey.
Be sure to visit Marie Griffith, at Full-Time, as she writes along the way as well.
*Photo credit: “Bankrupt” graphic created using Canva.
Photo of cross taken at the Chapel at Mt. Hermon Christian Conference Center, Felton, CA (2017)