I remember when I first began my journey into the intentional process of formation. One of the first things I came to discover about myself — and it felt like such a revelation — was how wrapped up I was in performing and perfectionism.
I had no idea this was true about me, but suddenly there it was. And it was everywhere.
It was also exhausting. I came to realize how much mental and emotional energy I expended every day — every moment, really — trying to do things right, trying to figure out what “right” even was so I could do it, and trying to be exactly what everyone around me, including God, might need me to be.
In this prison-like existence, the concept of grace became a balm.
I didn’t know what grace even was. My process of intentional formation began with a very honest prayer in which I told God, “I don’t understand grace, and I don’t know why I need Jesus. Can you please help me understand?”
It was through the enlightening (but brutal) experience of getting in touch with my relentless performing and perfectionism that grace eventually became like the very best news I could ever imagine receiving in my life.
Because of grace, there was room for me to not have it all together. Because of grace, I could misstep and the world would not come crashing down around me. Because of grace, God enjoyed me — actually enjoyed me — and didn’t need or even want me to perform. I could just be, and somehow Jesus made up for any ways I might fall short. In fact, because of Jesus, God didn’t see me through a lens of falling short at all.
It ended up being Jesus who made this new experience of life possible.
I needed to be reminded of that truth this past week.
Re-entry into life back home after a month of travel went as gently as it possibly could, I think, but it also brought with it a whole lot of baggage that carried names like loss, exhaustion, disappointment, illness, and grief.
My well was dry, and as much as I tried to give myself latitude due to all these things, I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper under a dark cloud of condemnation as the week went on.
Then on Wednesday night, after midnight, I decided to get up out of bed and try to pray. I came and sat on the couch with all that I was holding from the cumulative effect of the last many months and sought to hold it all up to God.
What came to mind were the words “No condemnation.”
It was a reminder of that journey into grace I shared with you above — that in Christ, I have been given freedom from constant judgment of myself. Before God, there is no condemnation.
That phrase — “No condemnation” — is taken from Romans 8, where we’re told there is “therefore now condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Before my journey into grace, I thought that meant we are simply saved from hell in the afterlife, and I’m not saying it doesn’t include that. But it also includes freedom from judgment in the here and now.
Freedom from judgment. No condemnation. This is God’s gift to us now.
As I sat with those words in that midnight hour on the couch, I could feel my spirit lift — literally lift from the pit of gloom to sun-soaked land. It was such an amazing experience! And I’ve noticed in the days since that I’ve had to consciously remember those words, “No condemnation” — and that when I do, God lifts me to that sun-soaked land again.
Do you struggle with feelings of condemnation and self-judgment, like me? What is it like for you to hear these words?