Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Mess of Grace.

I regularly own up to the fact that I'm a mess. My friends probably tire of hearing my longing for order in my life, in my heart. So often, I feel that I am not representing His glory well because of my messiness. I trample on His grace daily, whether or not the world sees it. It's like I found this perfectly made bed with clean white sheets, a bed that was definitely not mine...and then I tossed and turned in it until it looked like this:

On some level, I suppose you could call me a perfectionist. I want so badly for my life to be a mirror reflection of Christ. I don't want to rumple the sheets of grace I've been given. I want to lay down in them and be completely still. No tossing. No turning. No nothing.
But without movement, there is no life
Even if I lie completely still, I'm still breathing, still moving, still marring the perfection with my humanity.

I recently read an article by Jill Carattini about this, our longing for complete reflection of Christ. Jill likens our desire for perfection, our labor towards His glory to Beethoven's work on his "Grosse Fuge," a work that is known as a monument of classical music. This piece was one of his last works, one that was composed during Beethoven's time of complete deafness. However, this piece looks just like other pieces he has previously composed, full of markings and corrections.

Unlike other great composers who produced works in an almost complete form, Beethoven was constantly honing his work, cancelling out groups of measures, smudging away the ink, attaching in new measures with red sealing wax. A genius, a master of music, was obsessive over his music, trying to make it perfect, attempting greatness...and somehow succeeding, even though he probably never knew it.

And we are just like him, struggling to make ourselves live up to the grace we've been given, laboring towards perfection, a goal we can never reach. But when we consider ourselves in the light of Scripture, we see the finality of His grace, the definitive stamp of His blood over our sin. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone and the new has come." Jill states, "Before we have even tried to live well, before we have even labored as disciples, the marred and muddied scene of our hearts has been shaped into something else. The Father sees the masterpiece of the Son." Even before I had this appetite for perfection, this passion for glory, the Lord saw me as wholly perfect through the grace of His son.

My favorite part of the article says, "I imagine God handing me a clean paper and asking me to hold it in a world full of ink and dirt. And I immediately wish I would have been more careful. I picture the white page given to me and think of all of the smudges and eraser marks I've added to it, some of it from lessons learned the hard way, others merely from bumping into life as I walk along." This is it. This is how I feel. I feel like I've taken the perfection and acted as if I don't care. And that's not true.
Grace is why I live. Grace is what the Lord sees. Grace is what I should see.

In the final lines of her article, Jill talks about how we view Beethoven's scores. Some could see them as disasters, paper that is practically worn through with erasing and blackened with ink. But those who truly look can see them as masterpieces, three-dimensional art to be praised. "There is a texture and a character to his manuscripts that display an artist who went beyond merely writing the notes, but compelled himself upon the page, in order to make a symphony."

The same is to be said of the Lord, the Greatest Artist, the first three-dimensional Creator. He compels Himself onto the page of the world. All the more, He projects the image of His Son, the very being of Perfection, onto us, sinners who are the farthest thing from flawless. And the glorious part is not only found in that God views us through the eyes of grace, but also works and labors to shape us into the image of grace and perfection, a reflection of His son.

"All the more, a life in Christ is fleshed out in us. Scuffs and blotches are wrought with the work of one who descends into the mess of life to shape us. Like a composer willing to labor over his pages, the potter's hands are not afraid to get dirty. Our lives, in multi-dimensional splendor, are marked with the signs of a Master at work."

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