Man on the street yells at the three passing girls something unintelligible with an intense stare. Three passing girls half smile and keep walking. Other man with a McDonald’s coffee cup that may not contain coffee says, “All right. Pull over. Let’s see some ID,” but three passing girls aren’t driving and have no reason to oblige.
It’s a regular day in Chicago, walking home from church and encountering real people.
It’s a regular day, and I’m realizing again that Jesus didn’t die so that I could be a good person. The gap between me and God, created by me and my sinful nature and my inability to make myself whole, isn’t bridged by my strivings. If that’s the gospel I’m living, then I’m chasing the wind, and I’ll get tired.
I’ll get tired if the lamp I’m burning doesn’t have any oil. I’ll get frustrated if I think that I have to fix myself and fight to be good. Because, try as I might, I can’t fix myself, and the gospel doesn’t say, “For it is by your best attempt to live a holy life that you are saved, through works, so that you can boast about how hard you tried.”
I’m washed clean because I can’t wash myself. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t. It’s a message of inability, seemingly not empowering. You can’t save yourself. You can’t be good enough. You can’t. You can’t. You can’t. All my good grades and nice smiles and kind words don’t make me whole. All these little things I do because I think I’m making up the difference between me, a sinner who is saved by grace, and God, who has never needed anyone to make Him look good.
I am a failure. And as long as I think I’m succeeding at cleaning up my life, I’m going to continue to fail. Because it is by grace that I have been saved. It is God’s work, His holy transformation inside of me that I get to watch and be a part of but not control so that I can’t boast about how hard I tried.
I sit in the passenger side, along for the mission but not the driver. And definitely not the engine. Just a humble companion that gets to help and be healed. I’m healed by letting go of my need to make myself acceptable and letting Jesus make me more than acceptable.
This is why I need to give up. Because I can’t, but He can. And He will. And He wants to.