“Do you know how you mess up?
How do you ask for forgiveness?
Why do we ask for forgiveness, if He’s forgiven us already?
As one of the 7th-8th graders said, ‘We ask for forgiveness so we acknowledge what we’ve done wrong.’
Or, as Paul said in his letter to the Romans, ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do…For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I can not carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do-this I keep on doing…I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus can and does.’ Romans 7:15, 18-19, 24-25, MSG
There’s this huge gift that’s sitting right here before our eyes…the best gift we could ever receive that’s called forgiveness. But I don’t receive and get excited about forgiveness until I realize I’ve messed up. What we do so often, instead, is try harder…rather than simply say, ‘I’ve messed up, God. Will you forgive me?’
Instead, we try harder and harder to do better. The good we want to do, kind of thing. We miss the mark, which is the real meaning of the word ‘sin’”. And so we, as a camp, went outside and tried to throw eggs into a metal bucket from about 20 feet away. Most of us missed the mark and made a big mess in doing so. “We mess up and get to the end of our rope, as the verse says. We feel helpless. And, in that moment, we can either try harder, or we can trust God. The end of our rope feels like the worst, but it’s really the best place we can be. The answer, thank God, is that Jesus can and does. Our loss is great, but God is greater. We trust. We’re dependent on Jesus’ love for us, rather than on our perfect love for Him, or for others. We make big messes of ourselves. We miss the mark. But, he never does. And so, rather than continuing to try hard, we get to surrender.
Surrender is hard. Jesus offers us a white flag to wave and, sometimes, the last thing we want to do is wave it. We feel fearful and ball it up in our hands and hold tighter. We feel prideful, like we don’t need the white flag anyway, and don’t really need him. Or, we feel confused and pray for strength, rather than surrender. We grit our teeth and try to get through it…whatever it is. But, he calls us to surrender when we get to the end of our ropes. The answer, thank God, is Jesus. And that’s where the victory is…and the freedom, too.
As CS Lewis said, “The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become—because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be…It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.”
Especially, in these years, it’s easy to feel like you have to blend in. You have to talk like, look like, act like everyone else. But, that’s not what God wants for you. He loves you as you are and wants you to be free to be that person. When you get to the end of your rope, you surrender to Him. That’s where the freedom, the victory, and the forgiveness are…all wrapped up in the cross. Or, in other words like those of Romans 12, take your every day life—your ordinary, sleeping, eating, going-to-work or school life, and place it before God as an offering.
We miss the mark. But, as we say so much around Hopetown, He doesn’t ask us to try harder. He just makes us new. We get to the end of our rope and wave our white flag. We take our every day lives and present them to him in surrender…as an offering. And then, He not only forgives us but makes us more us than we could ever be otherwise. He makes us free. He sets us free through Christ, whether we’re 14 or 40. And that’s pretty good news, for those of us at the end of our ropes. The answer, thank God, is that Jesus can and does.”
We were delighted to share these truths with our 7th-8th graders at Hopetown this past week. And we did so in the midst of our Hopetown traditions of playing on the lake, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a 14-mile bike ride. In the midst of it all, these 7th-8th graders were encouraged by the counselors and each other as to the unique personalities God had place inside of them. And they were bolstered up to walk back into years that can be pretty confusing with a sense of who God is…and all that He longs for them when they reach the end of their ropes. And, also, of a sense of how graciously they are loved, right where they are.