Too Hard

You are far more harsh and mercilessly judgmental toward yourself than God's grace and mercy even allots. How dare you refuse yourself grace and mercy when the most holy Being in the known universe sheds the same upon you every waking hour, with every breath, with every nano-second of your existence. Who do you think you are, anyway, demanding sinless perfection of yourself when even God knows that such is an impossibility in this life? Are you more righteous than God? Do you know better? Where is your mercy? Where is your grace, O mortal, toward your own inherently-flawed soul?

Are you "in Christ," by grace through faith in Jesus, at this very moment? Do you believe Scripture? Well, then, O merciless hypocrite, why not take your own advice and believe the author who writes, "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1)? Unless, that is, you actually enjoy beating yourself bloody for not measuring up to absolute sinless perfection. In that case, poor one, delight yourself in heap after heap of self-condemnation. But why stop there? Why not just consign yourself to an eternal hell because you, like St Paul, have not yet arrived at perfection?

Answer this, harsh Taskmaster, and then allow yourself the consequences: Did God already know that, in this life, you would never attain to sinless perfection? Yes? But God decided to grace you, and show you mercy, day to day, moment to moment, and save you from your destructive self, from your sins, from future condemnation, in and through Christ Jesus, in whom you are trusting. Is God mistaken? Should God not have granted you this grace, this mercy, this sustaining power every passing moment? Did God, after all this time, finally utter a first "Oops!"? Does God not love you even now?

ART BY LAUREN J. WHITLEY

You must learn to breathe in this grace, this sustaining mercy, and deny your destructive and self-loathing being the corrupt desire to wallow in a condemnation that has been removed from you. Otherwise you make God a liar. Dumping truck loads of shame upon yourself for your constant cravings that war against your spirit is any other notion than justice -- justice was achieved for you on the Cross. Never again will you remain too hard on yourself. In the grace of Christ you will walk in this freedom, in the field of no condemnation, and you will dance to the tune of the song of the redeemed.

Henri Nouwen suggests that, when you begin to feel the anxious feelings of self-loathing (or rejection, or attacks, or being misunderstood), you should keep looking to Christ and keep trusting that He will bring you peace: "Look at him and say, 'Lord, have mercy.'" Say it until your very soul understands that God graces you, gives you mercy, every moment of your existence. Receive it and live in the freedom given to you in and by and through Christ (Gal. 5:1). But live in this freedom that has banished condemnation for your inherent flaws, stubbornness, waywardness, overt sins and failures. Starve the fear and the guilt and the shame that has kept you prisoner for too long. This is how I have to speak to myself sometimes. How about you?

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Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 98.

ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.