Many years ago as a very young believer, I asked God to be made like Jesus. I wanted to understand Him; to become as loving and understanding as He, not realizing that this might involve some difficult and even painful times.
The Father has been training me toward that goal at my own pace, which has been unfortunately slow.
I think I am having one of those difficult times now, and it has taken an unusual form. It involves the saying that at the time of death your whole life flashes before you so that you can see yourself with the eyes of God.
A strange thing has been happening in the past few weeks as I approach my 90th birthday. After many years of writing and tweaking, I have finally finished a lengthy memoir for my children, and so I have been dwelling in the past quite a bit. What I have seen has shaken me. In the course of remembering I have seen things about myself that have grieved my heart. I see someone who has been selfish, stubborn, insensitive, acquisitive, and many other unpleasant characteristics which I had never seen in myself before with such clarity. I have not been sure of the source of these thoughts. It could be the enemy trying to discourage me, but it also could be God letting me see what He has seen as He has observed me over the years. I seem to be having that flashback of my past life now, in slow motion, as I have reached extreme old age.
Whatever the source it has been painful; yet there has been a positive outcome to my seeing myself so transparently. In all my life I have never before felt such gratitude and wonder at the depth of God’s mercy and grace. Those words look so bland sitting on the page ~ they don’t come close to the strength of my emotions as I realize at a new level how little I deserve either His mercy or His grace!
During my lifetime I have had many ideas about the nature of “sin”. When I was very young I thought it mostly had to do with the sins of the flesh: murder, thievery, sexual sin, and so on. Since I didn’t do any of these things, I was a little smug about not being such a terrible sinner. I knew I needed a Savior, but not as much as some others, I thought. After all, I led an ordinary life not marked by overt sin, and tried to be a good, kind person.
As I began to grow in the Lord I began to see that spiritual sins were perhaps even more important than the sins of the flesh: pride chief among them. I couldn’t deny pride ~ it popped up in a thousand different ways. It showed up in my feelings of judgment toward others (whom I privately thought not as conscientious as I about obeying all the rules that set Christians apart from the world). It showed up in my concerns that I sing well (I was a singer) so that I could serve the Lord in worship (but also be recognized for my skill). It showed up in my desire for my children to excel; for our home to be seen as tasteful and gracious; for me to look appropriately well-dressed. After all, my husband (the doctor) would need a stylish wife, wouldn’t he? It showed up in the secret gratification I felt in being seen as a good, Godly woman. Over and over in my thinking it was subconsciously about me and how I appeared to others, in both physical and spiritual ways. I had genuine love for the Lord and wanted to serve Him, but my pride often shaped the way I went about my life and in the ways I chose to serve.
At the time I didn’t recognize this… but in these past few years, the Lord has been answering my early prayer to let me understand what it is He sees when He looks at me.
It has not been a happy revelation, but it has gone a long way in taking me toward understanding the perfection of Jesus and the realization that I will never be like Him while I still carry the millstone of my old nature around my neck. It has been painful to realize just how far short from the glory of the Lord I fall. It has been humbling to recognize just how little I deserve the mercy and grace of God, and I have recognized how much I need to learn that gift of humility!
It isn’t that I didn’t see glimpses of this in the past. I read the pieces I have written for Christian Women Online and can see that I understood these things to some extent, and felt comfortable in sharing my insights with others. I thought that I was integrating my insights into my own life ~ and to some extent, I was. However, in these past few weeks,
I realize that what I saw was only a limited understanding of the depth of my own sin. I am beginning to understand the truth of Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
The more I see myself through the eyes of God, the more my heart breaks as I see the depth of my pride; the many times I could have done a kind thing and didn’t; the opportunities to tell others about the Lord that I ignored; the ways I chose to protect myself and my interests first. I cringe, and want to hide ~ but there is no hiding from His penetrating gaze into the deepest corners of my heart. How much I need His mercy! How much I don’t deserve His grace! How deeply He must love me to bear with all my foolishness and still call me His child!
I don’t know how much more time I will have on this earth. It could be seconds; it could be years. I do know that physically I am no longer able to be out and about in ministry. I am pretty much housebound and isolated. The only voice I have is through my writing. I can’t change the past. However, you, my dear sisters, possibly do have time and the will to make changes for your futures. May all of us pray for God’s eyes to see ourselves clearly so that we may recognize the masks that we all wear; that we may be open to going ever deeper; to appreciate the depth of love poured out for us on Calvary. Blessed be His Name.