I have had the concept of this post for almost a year now, but I haven’t had the words to write it.
I sit here now, in my apartment in Orlando, Florida, trying to sort the words out as they flood my mind. The past several months have taught me more about the grace and mercy of God than I had previously understood.
I’ve always known from an intellectual standpoint that we aren’t measured before God based on our performance. But my time in Orlando marks the first time I have truly been forced to acknowledge that my performance is not enough. Before, I always lived my life in such a way that if we were to be judged on our performance, I might slide through. Obviously that is terrible theology, but I think subconsciously we can convince ourselves that we are right before God based on how our lives look outwardly.
I could go through a checklist and mark off every single expectation I had for my time here. None of them were met. One by one I watched my dreams and goals crumble. Some of the decay was in my power to change and some of it was not.
I had a lot to process during my time here. I watched two of the most Godly people I know lose their first child to anencephaly. I wept at the beautiful celebration of her ten hour life. I became violently ill during my first week and thus missed out on the all-important transition time one craves when embarking on new adventures. I did not get an internship for what I have been claiming is my “dream job” for essentially my whole life. International missions is still out of the question for various mundane reasons. I took over co-leading a bible study and everyone stopped coming. My best friend got married–an event that carries much joy but also requires much adjusting. On top of everything, the Disney College Program was my first endeavor out of college, which I now understand is universally traumatizing.
I came to a point where I was not so much living as I was merely existing. I retreated within myself to a large degree. I felt like a failure. I felt distant from the Lord. I eventually woke up to the reality that without His word, I was withering.
Genesis 3 gives the account of the Fall of Man, when Adam and Eve believed the first lie- that God was holding out on them- and did the one thing God had asked them not to do. What stands out to me most about this story is God’s response. Yes, he casts them out of the garden. Yes, he allows the consequences of their sin to enter into our world. But more than anything, He has mercy on them. One little verse in this story grips my heart more than all the others:
“The Lord God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.” -Genesis 3:21
In the midst of their failure. In the midst of His utter, unimaginable heartbreak. In the midst of their sin, The Lord God clothes Adam and Eve. It’s important to note that the killing of the animal which provided the skins was the first blood shed on Earth. God sheds it to cover them. He gets blood on His innocent hands and he lovingly, kindly, tenderly fashions clothing. To cover their nakedness which now brings shame. To shield their skin from the now harsh conditions. To equip them for their new home east of Eden.
God does not look on my failure with anger. He does not remain at a distance, disdainfully shaking his head. He enters into it with me. He gets down in the dirt and the muck and He says, “Let’s turn this into something beautiful.”
I don’t know what comes next. I have a vague plan and I am trusting that He will light my path and guide my steps. Despite my fears, I rejoice in thankfulness because I know I will be cared for.
I walk forward into the unknown, covered in the beautiful garment of His mercy.