For those who don’t know, I work with abused and traumatized children, which to say the least, keeps my work interesting. I’ve learned that children who are taken away from their families, the only place they know as home, by a stranger with a badge and brought to a place in Lubbock called “The Children’s Home” and told they will never see their parents again, have no reason to trust me. I’m just the nice lady that works there that gives them rules they have never heard of and have taken the place of their family that can never be replaced. While rules, discipline, and bed time may be the “norm” in most American homes, this is not normal for the children that come into our care. Their family may have been completely dysfunctional, but it was the only thing they knew as home, as normal.
I am a stranger to these kids. I know they have no reason to trust me, which is why many of them don’t. Adults in the past that they trusted hurt them badly. They were beaten. They were sexually abused. Often by people who claimed to love and care about them. I can say I am safe, that I will do them no harm, but they have good reason not to believe it.
This has been a humbling experience. In my eyes, I often want to say, “But look at me! Look how good I am! I go to church. I read the Bible. I pray. I’m nice! I’m safe!” It can be a hit to the pride to know none of those things matter, to know that I can’t be “good enough” for them. In the eyes of a child who has been let down time and time again by adults, it doesn’t matter what you have to bring to the table. You have nothing. You are just another adult. And you are not my family.
Realizing this reminded me of my relationship with Jesus. I often want to come on the defense, like I do with my kids at work. “But God, look at me! I’m doing all these good things for you. Aren’t I making you proud? Do you love me more now?” God knows my heart. He knows I am another sinner, just like I’m only another adult to my kids. He looks at my works and says, “How could you possibly think this work of yours will make me love you more? You come with nothing.”
If it ended there, this would be terrible news. If it ended there, I would leave believing that God sees me as just another worthless sinner, not at all worth trusting, and not at all worth His time. But it doesn’t end there. No, my good deeds and morality don’t cause God to love me more. Because he CAN’T love me more. He loves me now to the full extent to which he can love. Let me tell you, friends, that is a lot of love. I will never be more loved by God than I am in this very moment. You will never be more loved by God than you are this very moment. My good works mean nothing. I don’t earn a thing. I can’t earn it. If I was to earn anything, it would end the same way my children at work see me, a stranger who is not worth trusting. Just another sinner, full of evil. But it ends with grace.
Last night I had the privilege of seeing Shane and Shane at their CD release concert. The name of their new CD is “Bring your nothing.”
Shane Bernard made an awesome statement that stuck with me. To paraphrase, he said all we have to bring is nothing. And that is all that God requires. This is what makes Christianity different from every religion in the world. It makes it the opposite of every religion. Religions tell you, “Bring SOMETHING. You need to bring something to the throne of God and then he might forgive your wickedness. Bring something to show you are worthy, to show you are sorry.” That’s not what the Bible says. God requires nothing. This is his one requirement. All we have to bring is our sin. So we come with our sin and an empty cup and tell God this is all we have. You have no reason to trust us. You have no reason to show us favor, to believe us when we say we’re sorry. You have no reason to think of us as nice or safe people. We come with an empty cup and empty hands, with nothing to offer. Then, he overflows our cup with his love. He gives us life and He gives us Himself – things opposite of what our sin has earned us. That is grace, my friends. THAT…is grace.