Sunday, July 12, 2009

God of the uglies

I know, mull over the picture, stare at it in unbelief, relish the thought that I could actually look like that (minus a few photoshopped out teeth) and get over the fact that I publicly posted it for people to view.
Now...can we get on with it?
It is with tears that I've pressed up under the burden of this truth.
John came home this week after being gone for 7 in mommy time...that's like an eternity (I felt like Abigail Adams).
After 3 days of not showering or washing my face (I am not exaggerating) and giving a baby shower that same evening all I had time to do was put on a t-shirt that said "I love my husband" (yes....really) and a pair of jeans.
Now get this picture rolling around in the tumbler of your mind. Greasy pony tail (that sticks more out from my head like a rat tail than pony) pipe cleaner pieces of hair that are kinked from being slept on sticking out all over my head, a big zit on my chin, coffee breath, and 3 day old mascara collecting under my eyes.
I looked was factual.
And here comes my sweet adoring (and newly tanned) hubby waltzing in the door with a giant bouquet of flowers and a dazzling smile.
I was so embarassed.
I don't think I've ever felt uglier.
And I finally told him, "I'm so embarassed you're seeing me this way, I look awful." To which he responded, "Honey you're beautiful." To which I argued, objected, and stubbornly made my case to prove him otherwise, citing all aforementioned ugliness.
Then he looked at me with the most sincere face I've ever seen and said, "you have no idea." Which implied..."you have no idea how lovely you are to me."
(Here come the tears again)
I started crying, feeling so undeserving of such a sparkling compliment, and I bookmarked it in my mind knowing that somehow, God would bring me back to it.
This morning, God opened the book right back to that moment and showed me His translation.
I prayed this morning that I would not be hard-hearted, but that God would allow me to be broken over my sins, to see them appropriately, and to grieve over them. Off we went to church, happily ignorant of the pierce that would come to my heart.
I became so raw and aware of my sin during the pastor's sermon that all I could do was sob (and wipe my nose on John's shirt--something he graciously ignored).
And here's the most glorious realization that I have had come to my heart over and over again.
It is 100% by grace we are saved.
You know those hand cleaners that all boast they kill 99.9% of germs? And we're all left to wonder (aloud at times, if you're like me) what the other .1% is that it misses? Well, the cross of Christ effectively kills 100% of our guilt, condemnation and sin before God when we accept it in faith. Going in after that and trying to use something else to supplement and kill the other .1% that's left is not only redundant but it drags us down.
You know that verse in Phillippians where Paul talks about all his past credentials and how he counts them as "loss"?
"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ." Php. 3:7
I recently read in a book that this word "loss" is found somewhere else in the New Testament in Luke's description of Paul's voyage in a violent storm, and the "loss" of cargo on that voyage.
See they would often have to throw cargo over to save a sinking ship. And it would be hard to let go of some of the stuff,'s your stuff. But that if we don't let it go we'll sink.
That's the same image Paul makes when he talks about throwing overboard the stuff he used to hang his religious faith on. All the "stuff" that made him righteous. He talks about it as cargo how that will drag us down in a big fat righteous sinking ship if we let it.
We have to toss it overboard because if we try and keep it, hold onto it, we'll go down in a sinking ship, thinking we're saving ourselves but forsaking the triumph of the cross.
So I go back to my original story.
It was only in knowing how ugly I looked that John's thought that I was beautiful meant the most.
I mean, there might be times when I've spent one and a half hours (pick your jaw up off the floor, I have done it!) putting on makeup and fixing my hair and I have on a killer new dress and when he tells me that I look pretty I'm more apt to agree with him.'s nice, but it doesn't mean quite as much.
But at a time like that, when I'm painfully and uncomfortably aware of my hair raising ugliness, the thought of someone seeing me as beautiful shatters all my defenses and leaves me sobbing.
It's the same with God.
He doesn't want us to cling to our goodness, lest we might get fooled into thinking for a moment that we deserve a little bit of the grace He lavishes. He wants us ugly. Sharply aware of the unmerited favor He gives. Because it is about Him, and His grace, not us and our goodness.
For that reason I'll pray fervently that I always keep an accurate view of myself, my sin, and my ugly hair, just so I can always cling desperately to the cross I so love, and so little deserve.


Chris Stein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shanole said...

Gosh, Jen, that brings a tear to my eye. I wish we would have been in church today. I love reading your blogs!

Amber said...

Let's just call it a unanimous vote for best most encouraging truth-ringing blog of the month. Seriously. Sometimes I like to read your blog for a devotional. Hmmm, maybe you should write one. even if it's only for me. Because I would buy it.
Love you!