I am reading a wonderful book, Changes That Heal by Dr. Henry Cloud, and I feel as though my eyes have been opened to the reality of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ all over again. Almost six years ago, when I began my journey to know God and to walk with Jesus on a daily basis, the verse I had to remind myself of over and over again was Romans 8:1—“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” “No condemnation” was a concept I struggled with daily back in my panic days, and sometimes, I still find myself struggling with it—until I remind myself of who I am in Christ Jesus—loved, saved, forgiven.
Before I experienced the freedom of no condemnation, I had built a very strong foundation for my life fortified with perfectionism and legalism and pride. I knew just enough of the Bible to get by and remembered the sermons of sin and hellfire so that I was determined to “be good” and “do good”. That fit in with my overwhelming desire to be everyone’s everything so that they would be happy and I would be accepted and loved—something I didn’t experience enough growing up. However, each day I played the recordings of self-condemnation over and over in my mind because I had failed (either that day or some day in the past) to live up to my (and my church’s) high standards—the ideal “me”. I lived in such guilt. To hide the guilt of my self-imposed failures, I placed a mask on my face every morning to show the world that I could deal with my life.
I could just ignore all the traumatic events of my childhood and “get a grip, for Pete’s sake!”; I could handle the stresses and strains of raising children just like other people; I could bear the heartache of a depressed husband who was losing his eyesight, and assist in caring for parents and parents-in-law whose health was failing; I could adjust to the increasing demands of teaching 2nd graders, remastering the ever-changing curriculum, and wisely counsel overprotective or negligent parents. I could serve on faculty committees and train student teachers and teach at inservices—no problem. I could sing in the choir and perform in the Christmas pageant and concert--Pile it on! I could take it without any help from anyone and do it with excellence, I might add.
But then I began experiencing panic attacks and that foundation of perfectionism, legalism, and pride imploded and the false “me” was stripped away—leaving that same scared little girl I remembered from childhood who still lived in fear, condemnation, and shame from past mistakes and past traumas, and who had not learned the tools to grow up and succeed in life as an adult.
“There is now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.”
But there was condemnation in me. For two years I scrambled, trying everything I could find to get “back to normal” so I could be seen as who I wanted to be seen as—the ideal “me”. Nothing I tried worked. I kept failing. I kept being exposed. I couldn’t stand the fact that now everyone knew what I had always known in my heart—I was defective, I was not perfect, I was unacceptable, I was unlovable, I was unworthy, I was still a sinner—even after I tried so hard not to be one. I believe that’s when I fell into deep depression, and it was at that point—when I was in the deepest pit of self-loathing and self-pity that God shed His light of grace and love on me. The real me. The ugly me. The me I hated.
I will never forget the feeling of freedom when I realized after spending time with God in desperate prayer and studying the Sciptures that God truly loved me—the real me—and that He did not expect perfection from me. That requirement was met by Jesus Christ—who was “wholly” man but without sin and “wholly” God, and who died for me. Because of Him, I could give up my ideal of who I should be, and I could commit the real me into His care. I could look to Jesus as my ideal—Jesus, Who is filled with grace and truth--not condemnation.
Since those days, meeting Him daily in His Word and listening for His still, small voice has been the focus of my heart. And when I’m convicted of sin, (convicted, not condemned), I come to Him and confess my sins so that I can continue on in unbroken fellowship with Him. Condemnation makes us run from God. Conviction makes us run “to” God. Praise His Name for the Holy Spirit who convicts us so that we will run to our heavenly Father Who will supply all our needs.
“I love you, Lord. You are my strength. The Lord is my Rock, my fortress, and my Savior. My God is my Rock in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” (Ps. 18:1-2, New Living Translation)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.