Something got in the way, though, and only recently have I discovered what it has been.
Shortly after that I started reading a book by Anne Jackson, Permission to Speak Freely. The book's official release was yesterday, August 31, 2010, but I've had a copy, courtesy of Amazon.com, since around the 18th of August. This book has hit me square at the core of my being in so many ways and for so many reasons. I have said on Facebook and Twitter that it's required reading for every Christian.
But that's not why I'm writing this.
There's a couple of chapters in the book on the Prodigal Son. It relates to Anne's overall story, of course, but one paragraph just burst through every sense I have. I need to share it here:
Sometimes we've been churches that preach a grace up front for those who aren't Christians and grace at the end for those who follow the rules and are "good Christians," but we've tragically neglected the people in between. The truth is that none of us, even on our best, "holiest" days—the days we don't cuss or look at porn or yell at our spouse or at the idiot who cut us off in traffic—even our best days aren't holy enough to be looked at by God.
That's why there's the Cross. And that's why we all need it for both our brokenness and our righteousness.I cannot express how close to home this is to me. For the past 4 years I've lived in fear that, even though I'd be in Heaven, that I had failed in so many "responsibilities" and "obligations" in life that I'd be the one who was saved "as if through fire" (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). I imagined myself as being the "bum in Heaven." I'd be clean, but where others had great mansions or rooms, I'd have a little shack at the bottom of the hill.
You see, I've blown many of the "responsibilities" I'd been told God imposes on us. I'm not a father, and according to a former pastor and Dennis Rainey, that's not God's will. My wife and I are under heavy debt, which is a bad thing. I could go on, but you get the idea. "Responsibilities" to me were negative things, not positive.
Well, I'm through that now, thanks to a wonderful friend who is closer than a brother to me. As Anne also points out in her book, sometimes the transfer from head to heart doesn't happen right away, and there's nothing we can do to force it. It took my friend to finish that transfer.
But why did it take almost 4 years to get this?
Consider †his: God is never late (2 Peter 3:9), but He can be "slow" by our standards. (See this link to a humerous but heavy article by James Watkins for some further insight.) His timing is perfect. That means that the 4 years it took me to comprehend the truth about His grace in my failures was for a reason! His grace is always sufficient for our failures and our transgressions ... even our open acts of rebellion at times (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). I was covered by His grace all the time! And now, after 4 years of numerous changes, trials, difficulties, discoveries, and finally healing, I can start to share some of this with my Facebook friends and here.
An immediate healing wouldn't have served His purpose, just like the man born blind in the Gospels had to remain blind for an untold number of years before he would be healed by Jesus (John 9:1-41). Even after his healing it was rough, but his faith was secure.
Why does God take His time? Because He knows better! No, that won't be enough for us at times, but that's OK; His grace is sufficient for that, too.