I walk across the lawn to the neighbor’s house. It sits behind the house my mother and I rent, the one with the uneven floors and cockroaches coming out the wall sockets. A single mom lives there with a young son. She sunbathes in baby oil on a towel in the dandelion grass during the summer. She has something she wants to show us.
When we walk inside the tiny living room, she reveals all the clothes she successfully stole that day. She holds them up to her with tags on as if she won the lottery. I feel like I want to throw up.
Later that week I’ll pass classmates walking the halls of high school that left my house in the early morning hours of marijuana haze, while I lay frozen awake in a bed of worry. We’ll act like we don’t know each other.
I grow up learning how to live by watching people make bad choices and decide the way to earn the nod of God is to be good. To make good choices, do the right thing. I mean surely I will make it to the front half of the line to heaven because God grades on a curve. Right?
I think of this when I hear the pastor say, “Nowhere in the bible does it say that we have to be good to be in relationship with Jesus. There is no curve. And you are comparing yourself to the wrong standard because what standard is good enough?”
Is it Mother Teresa, the Pope, Martin Luther?
I feel good when I compare myself to the lowest common denominator of humanity, guilt-ridden when it’s great men and women of faith. But the standard isn’t goodness, its righteousness and God is the standard. (Romans 3:10)
I’ve grown up a window watcher to understanding life, learning from the actions of others on couches of noble conversation, pleading silent for them to show me what to do to live happy free. And in my quest for understanding on the cushioned seats of worship, I miss the fine print. Religion is spelled DO. Christianity is spelled DONE. (Romans 3:23-26)
After I grasp the diploma, land the first job, move across the country, and join a church, all my good girl doing ends stretched out around a pool face down in Co-dependent No More. Tears of surrender stream hot behind sunglasses, down sun-kissed cheeks.
At the point of my greatest bankruptcy, right there on a lawn chair altar, he marks my debt: Paid In Full. His life in exchange for mine. I didn’t have to do anything at all, just accept it.
And perhaps this is the hardest lesson of all, this undoing the message of doing to be acceptable. Because the power of salvation isn’t my faith, it’s in the object of my faith. I can’t add to or take away from the gift of eternal life.
What about you, do you have a hard time believing you don’t have to do anything to earn favor with God?
· For the gift of eternal life, because it’s free and I don’t have to do anything to earn it.
· The way my boy returns from camp happy and walking tall like he grew in years of wisdom.
· A quiet Sunday to read and rest.
· For doctors who make house calls on a Saturday morning.
· Sore muscles from working in the yard, the good kind of sore.
· A gorgeous day at the beach for H’s birthday.
· A pastor who reads my blog and says, “Keep writing.”