For most of my life, I’ve been told I am saved by grace, not by works, but I swear all anyone seems to care about is my works.
Whether I misunderstood what I was being taught (which is a high probability) or was being taught incorrectly, I believed my salvation was due to faith in Jesus Christ as a gift of grace not based on my works. But, in order to keep that gift of salvation I had to keep up my end of the bargain with my works. In the event I dropped the ball, the gift I had been given would be taken from me, from a God who was disappointed I couldn’t keep up my end of the bargain.
For a good part of my life, serving God had more to do with the fact I was afraid if I tried to run he would keep tripping me. In my mind, a vindictive God, unhappy with my mistakes, would go to great lengths to make sure I stayed in line. He would make girls hiding sex with their boyfriend get pregnant. He would have church kids doing drugs get arrested so everyone would find out. That’s what a God who’s watching to make sure I keep up my end of the bargain would do. Flat tires, car’s breaking down, and cancer were all just weapons in the arsenal of God to make sure I didn’t get away. No one ever said it out loud but we all kind of thought it. Bad things happen in my life because I do bad things.
For some of us, this provided enough fear to try to stay in line, but for others it caused us to perfect our hypocrisy. We became masters at hiding our faults and somehow convincing ourselves if we were good enough to hide it from the public, maybe we could hide it from God. I guess that’s the reason 33 years into my life I still find it really difficult to look my Christian brothers and sisters in the eye and admit I’m broken. I guess I’m afraid they will be disappointed in me or even worse God might be disappointed in me- and if He’s disappointed, I could get cancer or the alternator will keep going out in my car.
I know very little about cars. A few years back my wife and I were sharing one, so I started looking to find a dependable cheap car for my family. I called a friend who owned a used car lot and told him to keep his eyes open. He called 2 weeks later with a minivan just traded in and thought it was perfect for me. I decided to give it a test-drive, but, since I know nothing about cars, I talked my cousin into riding an hour with me to the car lot. The van had just been traded in and hadn’t been cleaned yet but the price was right so we took it out for a drive.
As I drove, my cousin inspected every facet of the car. Five minutes into the drive he told me everything checked out and it looked good, so we turned around and headed back to the dealership with every intent to buy the van. On our way back I noticed a light in the dashboard wasn’t turning off, so I asked my cousin what it was. He said it was the door ajar light, so he began to open and close doors to figure out which door was open. As he got around to the last door, he opened the back passenger sliding door and watched as it slid all the way back and off the hinges into the street while I was still driving about 25 mph. He yelled for me to stop, we turned around, went back, and retrieved the door. I called the dealership and let them know we were on our way back but the back door had fallen off. With my cousin holding a van door in his lap, we made our way back to the dealership. After some research, they found out the door was missing screws it needed, and the previous owner had traded it in without opening that particular door. Not surprisingly, I decided not to buy that van, but the image of my cousin, and I standing on the side of the road looking at a door that had just fallen off a van has stuck with me forever.
I realize now, I’m the van. God took a trade in, and while I thought I was tricking him into believing my condition was better than it actually was, He wasn’t fooled at all. God buys junky cars. He bought me.
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