Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Justice vs. Grace

Those of you who know me personally know that I value justice.  It seems that, from the time I was very little, justice has been very important to me (just ask my brothers how often I tattled on them).  I remember very distinctly during a college World Drama class becoming surprisingly emotional when we covered "Phaedra" by Jean Racine.  My spirit rebelled against the lack of personal responsibility from the lead characters and the inevitability of "the fates".

As I grew older and became more aware of how true justice could rip my world apart... that the consequences of my own actions could be serious enough to maim me forever... I found my grip on justice slowly loosening.  I began to acknowledge my true hunger for grace.  The more I craved grace for myself, the less I found it existed in the world at large.  I will never forget sitting in a church as a visitor and listening to the pastor preach grace... I started weeping and could barely breathe as my heart ached desperately for that grace to be poured out on me.  The seed had been planted for the true gospel to began a transformation in me.

Not long after, I led a group of women through Jerry Bridges' study, "Transforming Grace".  I was suddenly convicted that I was withholding the grace that I craved from the people around me.  Grace was great if it was lavished on me, but I wasn't about to show that same grace to others... especially if they had hurt me, were "unfair" or didn't seek reconciliation or forgiveness.  I was am the Ungrateful Servant of Matthew 18:21-35.  Suddenly my quest for justice didn't seem so righteous anymore.

During this time, I was struggling deeply with unrelenting anger toward a couple of people who I felt had abused their position and mistreated me.  My visceral reaction was to launch into a defense crusade for myself and at the same time engage in a smear campaign against them.  I was with a group of local worship leaders who gathered on a semi-regular basis for support and encouragement and as we were praying one of the women looked up and said, "Melissa, I think God has a verse for you."  A little apprehensively I said, "Ok...what is it?"  She sat next to me and had me turn to Exodus 14:14.
14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (ESV)
WHAT?! Be SILENT??!! What about justice?  What about restitution?  What about clearing my name?
 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (ESV)
I had to confront myself... did I trust that God would take care of this situation, the people involved and me?  Did I have faith in His Sovereignty?

I still fight a daily battle against my sense of justice and for the gospel of grace.  Today, in fact, I encountered another situation where I believed I had been misrepresented and subsequently mistreated.  I was hurt, discouraged and livid.  Unfortunately my old nature made the first move.  I sat down at my computer and wrote an angry polite dissertation on my innocence, my worth and how I had been wronged.  Fortunately, that still small voice of the Holy Spirit said, "Don't hit send!  Show it to someone you trust FIRST."  So I did.

My dear friend was empathetic but nevertheless spoke truth into my life (which is what being a real friend is all about).
"Justice is for the faithless." She said.
 It stopped me in mid-send-button.  What she was saying to me is demanding my attention and forcing me to ask those same "trust" questions I've asked before and will probably be asking until the day I die.  Do I trust Him?  I want the answer to be... "yes".

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Save The Date!

Rummage Sale
Benefiting the adoption of Benjamin Li Baldwin

Day:   AUGUST 31, 2013

Time:  7 am - 2 pm

Where: Canyon Community Church 
            610 Paseo Del Rey (cross street: Telegraph Canyon Rd)
            Chula Vista, CA 91910

Donations needed (LARGE or small)!  Contact Melissa at 619-942-0981 to have your donated items picked up!

Sunday, July 07, 2013

This Mortal Life

Lately it seems death is all around... I suppose it's always been.  Maybe now it's just that it's getting closer.  I can feel the darkness bearing down on me and those I love.

Eternity has always been a difficult concept for me.  The idea of it sends me into a spiraling anxiety attack. Consequently, death is something that I have always pushed into the far recesses of my mind where I can bury it beneath everyday normal activities.  Safely tucked away where it can't hurt me. This only works during the day when I can keep my mind busy with the tyranny of the urgent.  At night, when all is quiet except my mind, it haunts me.

What if everything I believe about life and death and time is wrong?  What if death really is the end?  And even if everything I've built my faith upon is indeed true, then how exactly do I wrap my spirit around an unending story?

As death has crept into my circle I've realized that even when I question my convictions, I inevitably return to them and cling to them for strength, comfort and meaning. 

Teresa's mommy saying goodbye
Michelle and Chris Gennaro
In the past few months I have lost loved ones and watched loved ones who have lost.  I've seen a man in his late 90's pass peacefully into the next forever in the midst of a family who loves him and is proud to call him "D-D-Daddy".  I've convened with the hearts of past classmates pleading for the life of a true man of God and sat with silent tears as the news came that he was gone.  I've witnessed his wife, in the center of her pain, cling to the promises of God with a hope that transcends anything I know.  I've entered into the story of a little 6 year old girl... Teresa... an orphan from China... with no hope at all... live a new life, a full life with a forever family.  I followed intensely the process from her first call that there was a new heart available to her to her final moments in her parents arms.  I have fallen head first into the story of our son, Benjamin's, orphanage "sister"... Meisyn, a sweet seven year old dreamer who has compiled her "sand bucket list" of things she wants to do before her soul leaves this earth.  I have held my sweet friend, Heather, up to the skies as she learns to say goodbye to her son, Tyler... a boy who will never grow up.  And I have cried tears of empathy and fear for my own heart-sick son as I read the story from Mary Beth Chapman on the loss of her daughter, Maria.
Me with Heather and her sons, Tyler (left) and Ryan (right) not long after Tyler's diagnosis

Benjamin (center) and Meisyn (in pink) at their orphanage

This is all so broken.  This is not the way it should be.  My spirit cries out for those gone and those left behind.

There is one common thread that weaves itself through these moments of grief and it is Jesus Christ.  In each circumstance, ultimately the glory was His.  He made himself known in the deepest, darkest places.  There were glimmers of hope and glimpses of peace.  Even at the heart of my doubt, I clutch at these moments, grasping for an understanding that will probably never be fully realized here on this earth.  Many lives have been moved to deeper faith, courageous choices and a more realized recognition of redemption.  They are beacons to me.  They are pointing the way... to a place of which I am admittedly frightened but a place where we shall see Him as He is.