Up the steep driveway and into the garage she pulled the car. Shifting into Park she turned off the ignition. She removed her glasses and sighed in exhaustion pressing above her head the automatic garage door button. The rumbling of its closing harassed her ears like a construction site. Her head fell against the leather head rest.
The ladies’ luncheon was finally over. And its denouement tasted bitter on Sally’s palate. Gravely disappointed with her own thoughts and actions at the meeting, she moped in heaviness judging and condemning herself.
How could these same vices still have a place in my life? she wondered. How can they be so insurmountable when I try so hard to be a good Christian?
Resentfully reviewing her personal list of violations at the luncheon, Sally remembered clearly:
1) indulging in high-calorie bread and butter before the meal
2) losing control over a full serving of strawberry cheesecake
3) gossiping with Maggie Peters about the new pastor’s rebellious son
4) repeatedly comparing herself enviously with Alice Jean Lutzenberger who recently began her residency in medical school, and then
5) failing, again, in impatience to come to a complete stop at the neighborhood stop sign for which her cousin had been ticketed on his most recent visit to her new townhouse
Underneath the heavy blanket of guilt and shame, she managed to drag herself through the kitchen door. She dropped her purse on the counter, the brass tabs on the underside hitting the marble with a clink.
“Oh, God-!” she cried out loud to herself staring longingly at her newly empty living room wall, the space where her stone tablets once dominated.
Where are my stones?! Sally continued in self talk. I must relieve my heavy burden!
Condemnation and guilt that she for years carried, held her spirit stubbornly while the opposing jaws of striving in vain and fear of failure seized her in a choke hold. She held her head in her hands as an endless crescendo of panic spiraled in her heart desperate for relief from the pressing darkness. Until finally, her soul collapsed.
As she sank heavy into the sofa, her hands filled with tears. After years of suppressing her emotions, Sally grew in overwhelm as they now demanded her full attention. First in sputters then in waves, condemnation and guilt cascaded forcefully out of her heart. After the condemnation and guilt spilled out, behind them appeared a dark parade of shame, fear and pride dressed in all of their appealing garb. They marched out before her in mockery of her inability to meet the standard.
Sally could fight the demons no longer. She sobbed deeply for over an hour and every tear squeezed out from her core. Her longtime compulsion to perform to the standards of the law streaked her face repeatedly with darkness. In grief and agony she mourned the loss of her longtime habit of confession before the stones.
All cried out, with her soul feeling like an empty bucket, Sally opened slowly her swollen eyes. All she could feel was desolation in her heart. Her soul felt small and helpless. Unknowingly, she faced head on the end of self-effort. Grabbing a tissue, she blew her nose and let the tissue fall from her hand to the floor. She passed the minutes staring blankly ahead. And then the bare wall gradually came in to focus.
Unexpectedly, a tiny ray of hope dawned within her as the memory of the little mirror graciously stirred. She had forgotten all about last Saturday morning. That day she had opened wide, for the first time in years, her heavy living room curtains allowing sunlight to spread throughout her apartment. That wonderful and mysterious day she would never forget. And the penetrating words she heard that day lay hidden in her heart as a buried treasure, “Remember who I have made you.”
The sweet gift wafted through her mind and the distinct memories of that day wooed her back. She wiped her eyes and gazed at the sun’s rays sparkling through the branches on the leaves of the Magnolia tree outside the window. A bright-red cardinal landed on a low branch as if to greet her.
Sally surrendered her soul to the piercing memory and the gift of little mirror. Her heart welcomed the gracious relief it offered. At that moment something significant occurred to her: while she focused on the stones, she became blind to the reality of the mirror…as if it had never existed.
How could it have hung there so sweetly right in front of me, she wondered, yet my eyes were unable to see it?
Bravely she rose and walked over to peer into the delicate mirror once again. She took a deep breath of surrender and allowed the image to speak to her. In humility the immaculate face stared back at her. As it did, Sally recalled distinctly the strong and loving countenance of the Gentleman who had revealed her true identity that spring morning.
She pondered reviewing how this truth was cleverly stolen from her during the luncheon. Meanwhile, the calming peace she had longed for gently cascaded back in to her heart.
Sally remembered all the gloomy years before the Gentleman had rescued her. Could that monotonous routine actually have held me captive? she asked herself.
The insidious idols to which she had fallen prey for so many years lay exposed now in light of the mirror. For the first time, she saw them for what they were in all their nakedness and lost the compulsion to associate herself with them any longer. A twinge of excitement fluttered in her heart as she realized that ahead of her could lie much more to her spiritual life than she had been aware.
“Hello?” she answered, fumbling with the phone.
“Sally, it’s Jenn. How are you?” Jenn, Sally’s neighbor, had attended a Boundaries seminar with Sally several years ago and they had kept in touch since then.
“Yeah, I’m good,” she replied, clearing her throat and wiping her nose with the back of her hand. “What’s up with you?”
“I wanted to let you know that Tania and I are starting a small group next month and we need to know if you’re interested. You know, a Galatians 6:2/James 5:16 kinda group. Just connection and support for everyone, but no more than five so let us know by next week. We’d love to have you! I’m next in line to pick up Sam, so let me know by next week if you can.”
“That actually sounds like something I could use, Jenn. Count me in. And thanks for calling.”
Okay, I’ll be in touch. Bye.”
“Bye.” She hung up.
Wow..that was easy, she thought and returned the phone to her pocket.
Sally took a deep breath and gave her attention once again to the immaculate reflection in front of her. Unbelievable it was. Her heart desired some serious traction into this liberty that beckoned her. The support of the small group will provide an appropriate place for unburdening my heart, she reasoned, and that will definitely help me to make tracks.
Staring longingly at the mirror, she desired to surrender old habits. And consider the possibilities of new ones…
“If Christ really came to live inside me as He promised,” she reasoned out loud while crossing her hands protectively over her heart, “then this purified reflection could be the actual manifestation of that truth.”
Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings,
these have become altars for sinning
Then they sweep by like a wind and pass on, and they load themselves with guilt, [as do all men] whose own power is their god.
For this is what the high and exalted One says— he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and blessed quiet) for your souls
30 For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good—not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne.
The next day John saw Jesus coming to him and said, Look! There is the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world!
The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).
For no person will be justified (made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable) in His sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law. For [the real function of] the Law is to make men recognize and be conscious of sin [not mere perception, but an acquaintance with sin which works toward repentance, faith, and holy character].
For the Law results in [divine] wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression [of it either].
But then Law came in, [only] to expand and increase the trespass [making it more apparent and exciting opposition]. But where sin increased and abounded, grace (God’s unmerited favor) has surpassed it and increased the more and superabounded,
Therefore, [there is] now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus, who live [and] walk not after the dictates of the flesh, but after the dictates of the Spirit
2For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus [the law of our new being] has freed me from the law of sin and of death.
3For God has done what the Law could not do, [its power] being weakened by the flesh [the entire nature of man without the Holy Spirit]. Sending His own Son in the guise of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, [God] condemned sin in the flesh, [subdued, overcame, deprived it of its power over all who accept that sacrifice]
So then [God’s gift] is not a question of human will and human effort, but of God’s mercy. [It depends not on one’s own willingness nor on his strenuous exertion as in running a race, but on God’s having mercy on him.]
For Christ is the end of the Law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him] as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him.
Now if the first handful of dough offered as the firstfruits [Abraham and the patriarchs] is consecrated (holy), so is the whole mass [the nation of Israel]; and if the root [Abraham] is consecrated (holy), so are the branches
And this will be My covenant (My agreement) with them when I shall take away their sins
1 Corinthians 11:24, 25
And when He had given thanks, He broke [it] and said, Take, eat. This is My body, which is broken for you. Do this to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance
Similarly when supper was ended, He took the cup also, saying, This cup is the new covenant [ratified and established] in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink [it], to call Me [affectionately] to remembrance.
2 Corinthians 3:15-16
Yes, down to this [very] day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their minds and hearts. But whenever a person turns [in repentance] to the Lord, the veil is stripped off and taken away
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come!
What then was the purpose of the Law? It was added [later on, after the promise, to disclose and expose to men their guilt] because of transgressions and [to make men more conscious of the sinfulness] of sin; and it was intended to be in effect until the Seed (the Descendant, the Heir) should come, to and concerning Whom the promise had been made.
Nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts] and among you [surrounding you].
Having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note (bond) with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us (hostile to us). This [note with its regulations, decrees, and demands] He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to [His] cross.
For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.
Furthermore, every [human] priest stands [at his altar of service] ministering daily, offering the same sacrifices over and over again, which never are able to strip [from every side of us] the sins [that envelop us] and take them away
For by a single offering He has forever completely cleansed and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy.
Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it].
Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].
But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience).
1 Corinthians 13:12
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 John 3:5
You know that He appeared in visible form and became Man to take away [upon Himself] sins, and in Him there is no sin essentially and forever.
Ephesians 1:13b-14 When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.
2 Corinthians 1:22 [He has also appropriated and acknowledged us as His by] putting His seal upon us and giving us His [Holy] Spirit in our hearts as the security deposit and guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise].