the line

Posted: July 17th, 2012 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , | 19 Comments »

When a person messes up and does something selfish and stupid, it’s hard for them to accept grace. Most people live as though grace is stored in the petty-cash box and needing it means you are being impulsive or you made some bad choices that put you in a tight spot. It’s not a good thing to have to get into that box. It’s embarrassing.

People divvy it up like a budget and reserve the option to stipend. If you look at grace like it’s inherited money, then you can see a point when someone needs to be cut off or they’ll ruin. You block a trust fund based on the best interest of the money.

Benefactor, who has set themselves up as your trustee? Your inner circle? A distant leader? What does your church say about what you’ve done? Can petty-cash-grace cover it, or has a line been drawn in a meeting with your name at the center?  What happens behind closed doors and whose best interest is the focus? Why do they want to keep it so quiet if they’re not doing something that people won’t agree with?

The sinner is forced to disappear and the rest of the people have nothing but questions and gossip to figure out why. No wonder nobody reaches out to the broken, married man isolated in a bachelor’s condo trying to figure out what he has to live for. If his church family knew what had happened and what he was going through, he wouldn’t be alone. I bet he’d have an army escorting him back to his spot of worship. But, the board room secrets and the stone-hearted grace-fund trustee hide the truth by keeping them distracted and hyped enough to not realize they’ve been part of an old-fashioned shunning. Ask them if they want that. The good one’s don’t.

There is a woman who just landed on her knees because she was told that her church felt sorry for her children because she was their sinful mother. The stress of having unconditional love taken from her threatens to kill the child she carries in her womb. The medicine that stops the stress-abortion also sedates her. She’ll make it, but for what purpose? Does her church know that their name is on her sentence?

There is a man who wasn’t allowed to see his daughter after he left because “divorce is too confusing for children”. He sinks inside himself in June and retells the story of her birth every September. Landmarks are full of questions, like heirlooms with missing jewels. It’s been so long, that now it would be confusing for her. Is someone going to help him make sure his daughter knows she’s wanted and loved?

The man sits in his apartment surrounded by guns and whiskey. He had one avenue to God that his damage couldn’t block and it was through his music. His church unplugged his guitar and put the microphone in front of someone else when he came to them for help. They set the rules and changed them so many times that it was clear they never had any intention of getting out of the way between him and God. I guarantee that his church didn’t know that’s why he left. That’s why the entire worship team left.

The heroes are the nobodies, but the nobodies need to know they’re heroes or they’ll never try to scale the walls.

The ocean of guilt and condemnation has a storm twisting above it and it threatens to claim the dry land as ocean floor. You have nowhere to go and not enough fight to save yourself.

Then, finally, comes the voice:

“Even then, as bad as it will be”—God’s Decree!—”it will not be the end of the world for you.” -Jeremiah 5:18 MSG

How is it possible to recover from your own sin when you can’t go back? How is it that good people can say one thing, but God says another? They tell you you’re beyond restoration and God calls you His beloved. They won’t talk to you, but He says He died for you.

“Yes, me, who made the shorelines to contain the ocean waters. I drew a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. Waves roll in but cannot get through; breakers crash but that’s the end of them.” -Jeremiah 5:22 MSG

You’re standing in the sand and the ocean breathes salty. The only line that was drawn in the scripture was drawn with you and Him on one side and the rest of the rock throwing world on the other. And that line cannot be crossed.

It will be bad, but it won’t be the end.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt.-John 8:6 MSG



19 Comments on “the line”

  1. 1 Melanie said at 12:01 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    Whew… That one took my breath away. Thank you.

  2. 2 serenawoods said at 1:06 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    Cool, Melanie. 🙂 thanks.

  3. 3 Melissa Jennings Newell said at 12:05 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    wow girl….your gift for words comes from above! XO wishing you a great Summer and praying you and the family are well 8)

  4. 4 serenawoods said at 1:07 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    Thanks, Melissa. 🙂

  5. 5 pourcettetemps said at 12:17 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    as usual, hit me right between the eyes and i wonder how many times i've been one to think that i've got any right to portion or dole out grace, when its abundant and not supposed to be in anyone's control but His. how often hearts are broken an wounds are ripped open in the name of 'grace' and yet grace is so far removed.
    thank you for the reminder. there is such refreshment for me in your blog. you're not afraid to talk about the hard stuff, and that is so refreshing for me. thank you Serena for being used.

  6. 6 serenawoods said at 1:10 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    🙂 I think that there's no point opening your mouth if you're not going to talk about something that matters.

  7. 7 exegete77 said at 2:22 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    The Church has been lax in the restoration of sinners. Yet, Jesus addressed it head-on because it is critical to the Church and its survival as Church. Matthew 18:15-20… the goal is to restore the fellowship.

    Serena, God has blessed you with insight and wisdom to address the unmentionables in public. Restoration isn’t people bound or church bound, but rather hinges on confession and absolution. And absolution is just that, taking away all sin and its effects. We pray that the Church comes to grips with restoration. Without that the church is only a clanging cymbal.

    As I helped start a mission church (from a distance) 2+ years ago, the issue of restoration came up. I told the leaders that this very issue will make or break you as a church. If you forgive and restore, you have set the pattern for how you will live for Christ in the future. I am pleased that they chose the restoration path. What a blessing that has been!

    Thanks again, Serena, for your words.

    My recent post Ephesians 1:3-14 rearranged

  8. 8 serenawoods said at 4:24 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    Matthew 18… the final step is usually left out: the jury of peers; the whole church. It may sound really scary, but I don't think it would be. You have people there who don't stand to lose face by what happens to you. It becomes a body instead of a head disconnected from the body. A head disconnected from a body is a monster and that's why many don't want to come near the chruch. they don't trust it.

  9. 9 exegete77 said at 4:31 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    Yes, indeed. Look at points 1 and 4 in the following article:

    I’m glad you mentioned trust. Without restoration, trust can be a tool for manipulation and control.
    My recent post Ephesians 1:3-14 rearranged

  10. 10 serenawoods said at 4:46 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    Even number two! I see that ALL the time. It's a sense of identity and branding to the point of being a great business model, but completely cut off from the bleeding and needing.

    In response to #1: The people I come in contact with are way more polished and packaged. Their words are so sanitized that it's hard to find anything real or definitive in them. It can feel passive aggressive, and you practically need an attorney to decipher what they're saying and what you're nodding your head to. It's hard to tell who's who when they're all wearing the same suit and using the same language. You usually only find out when something bad happens and how they handle it according to their 'god'.

  11. 11 exegete77 said at 4:51 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    Have we walked in the same paths? Amazing how much our stories and paths are the same.
    My recent post Why do we exist (as a church)?

  12. 12 Heather Kirtley said at 4:13 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    Always so relevant. Thanks 🙂

  13. 13 serenawoods said at 4:24 pm on July 17th, 2012:

    🙂 Thanks.

  14. 14 Karan said at 5:39 am on July 18th, 2012:

    Thank you so much. As someone who is all to familiar with failure, I have learned that there is accepetable failure within the church – that can be restored, and unacceptable failure – which cannot be restored. In case of the latter category, you may come to church and sit on the pew, but only as a spectator. No participation of any kind, no matter what. I believe in the restorative power of grace, not just grace for salvation from hell, but grace for salvation from ME. Thank you for being the voice that is crying out in the wilderness.

    In His grace alone,
    PS Is there any way I could contact you through email?

  15. 15 dphenix said at 11:21 am on July 18th, 2012:

    Serena, I have always been the one who sees the other or different side of everything. I hardly ever share my thoughts because they are rarely understood or accepted. But I want to take a chance here. I want others to be be healed and free just as you do, and I have only my experience to share, just like you. I also hear Abba's voice, like you.
    I found myself telling the story of what the "enemy" had done to me and my husband to a friend this weekend. She asked some questions and I answered, spilling all the dirty secrets that happened so long ago, because the situation hadn't changed. The "enemy" still acts the same. Later I realized that I didn't love the "enemy", because I didn't cover their sin, I exposed it. I realized I was not walking by the Spirit of grace. I repented, because I don't want to be "under" the situation, but rise above it and be the one who is free. As I was walking in the park this morning I realized that when I rehearsed the offense either in my mind or out loud I was inviting pain through sin. I saw that if I wanted Abba to forgive me and erase from His book my part in the offense, I would have to stop rehearsing the enemies part. I need to cover their sin, not expose it if I want to be covered.

    I hope this is useful and freeing for you. It seems like you are still rehearsing the offense. It hasn't changed, but you don't have to be a part of it. You can move on, be free, cover their sin instead of sharing it.
    Please, do forgive me if I have taken a liberty I was not allowed. I do care about you. And if I am way off and this doesn't apply, please, forgive me again. I'm not always right and I stumble often. I love you and I'm thankful that you shared your story in the book.

    Don't post this comment, it is between you and me sister.

  16. 16 serenawoods said at 9:40 pm on July 18th, 2012:

    I think this posted automatically, so I'll leave it and post my response. 🙂 All thoughts are valid.

    Thank you for your kind words. Please remember that my website is not a live journal of current issues or personal life events. Most of what I write is inspired by things I have seen or hear about from others. I write for people who are still in that painful, lonely place. I write from their perspective, or from my own, I've even written from the perspective of a hound dog and a burning house. My writing is art to me. Sometimes poetry, sometimes it comes from a song I heard, a movie I watched, a woman I saw…. Notice that I don't write about my children, my husband, my day, or my friends. This isn't about me, but it's my voice and my experience that puts my blood in the work. 

    Thank you for reading and always take my art with a grain of salt. 🙂

  17. 17 matthewlogan said at 10:37 am on July 19th, 2012:

    Encouraging and inspiring. I can relate to this really well throughout periods of my life. My wife and I went through a tough time in our marriage that involved some major confession on my part a year and a half ago, and we were so outcasted by our closest friends and church we invested years and years in… we were actually told "well they aren't a part of our church so if they want help they can come talk to us, but it's not our job to reach out". It was such a blow to what I knew the church is supposed to be, and that's much more than lip service and coffee….

    I wrestled with and still wrestle with the fact that God speaks one thing to me, and I hear another from people. I am shunned, I am looked at, I am ignored, and I am gossiped about. But God speaks such wonderful love to me when I'm alone, He tends to me in worship when I'm on my knees, and He embraced me so powerfully when I ran back to Him… and I wish that His people did the same for me. My wife and I have faught a rather lonely battle picking up the pieces, with few by our side. But the Lord spoke to us so tenderly, so clear, and has been the true Shepard that leads and comforts.

    Years ago I wrote a song about this issue, how God spoke on thing to me, yet those who surrounded me spoke the opposite, and I really wrestled with the fact that both can't be true, but they both seemed so right. If your open to it, I'd love to send it your way 🙂

    Thanks for this encouraging post… it's so refreshing to be reminded again that God stands with me through the accusations.

  18. 18 Heather said at 11:22 am on July 20th, 2012:

    I love the analogy of the benefactor and the trustee. This clicked for me. I struggle with allowing others too much power over my estate, or any power for that matter. Frankly, some of the trustees need to be fired. Jesus is the only authority. He paid the debt for my soul, my mind and my heart.

  19. 19 a dismayed soul said at 7:55 am on July 23rd, 2012:

    oh my! This post brought tears to my eyes. A rushing flood to be exact. Oh boy, if I could only share with you what I've gotten myself into. I still can't believe that I find myself here. I went to my pastor, my friends, even my husband for help. No one heard me, nor did they believe me. The one who had been entrusted by the church to care for me…the one who had always been there for me, at that time it was 12 years. He heard me. Sadly, I never knew…never knew that there were predators in the church just waiting for weak women like me. He had always been my friend. My deacon. My friend. Six years later I struggle to get out. Knowing that he's no good for me. It's so bad that I can't even remember part of my children growing up. I have no one other than God to talk to and I want help. I want out.

Leave a Reply