“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” -Romans 8:1-2
The promise is of forgiveness, of acceptance, of unmerited and unconditional grace. It is this promise that frees us to live…joyfully and freely. Sometimes we struggle with this freedom, telling ourselves (and others) that “you must do this, and this, and this, and that, so that God will truly love you.”
For all of us the this, this, this, and that is different. But I think that many outside the church hear a clear message of, “you don’t measure up and until you do God will not accept you.” In fact some hear the message, “God will not accept you until you actually invite Jesus in to your heart, which also means changing your behavior.” When I was younger I heard the message from Christians that my life was not one that Jesus would approve of. They didn’t approved of me either…so I wanted nothing to do with Christians or church.
Maybe that distorted message has its roots here, in Paul’s letter to the Romans. I say distorted, because to focus on what we must do, or on what others must do, distorts Paul’s words and makes the invitation to bask in the grace of Jesus unrecognizable. If we are required to do something to receive it, grace is not free and it is certainly not a gift.
But grace is a free gift. And because it is free and unconditional, we don’t have to believe the right thing. We don’t have to do the right thing. We don’t have to be anyone other than who God created us to be. This is the truly good news. It was when I began to understand this that I truly began to live.
Do I live perfectly? Far from it! But I make my mistakes knowing that none of them have the power to condemn me. For this I am grateful.
And this brings me to my tattoo. I told the story of why I got it last week (We Made a Pact!). Today I share what it means to me.
4 words: gratitude; breathe, live, run. A girl running.
Gratitude. The foundation. It is what grounds me, allows me to live, and sustains me through difficulty.
Breathe. When I think of breath, I think of the Spirit’s breathing over the waters of creation. I remember that without breath there is no life. To breathe is to live.
Live. We have one life to live here on earth. Let’s make the most of it. It’s easier to do when that life is based on gratitude.
Run. This is what I do…joyfully…except when it hurts in a hard race or a hard training run. Then I’m joyful at the end because I proved to myself that I could persevere.
The words form a hill, a visual reminder that we must do the hard work of climbing. The color swash also forms a hill, this time reminding that life is not all an uphill struggle. It is up and down, hard and easy.