The Art of Undoing
"I Come to the end
Face down in my fear
You have led me here"
Before they were my song lyrics, these words were a desperate scrawl, penned, through tears, in that "valley" place that David so often wrote about, where we find ourselves completely undone, dethroned, the chair kicked out from underneath us.
The shadow the mountain casts is cold. We long to be in its warmth again, but haven't the strength to pull ourselves into it. The air in The Valley is thick with the stench of our own sin and decay. We are bruised and hit with the reality that we are so utterly NOT in control. Perhaps it's a valley of depression, or loneliness, or doubt, or grief, or a broken marriage, or wayward children, or cancer. Whatever it is, when we're there, we're reminded of our brokenness and our utter need for God.
Years ago, I found myself there, utterly perplexed and struck down by my own weakness and sinful shortcomings. I felt so ugly, so dirty, and so powerless to change my foolish ways. I was angry and felt stuck in that place. I sat one afternoon, downcast and ashamed of the lack of kindness I had toward my own children and husband. I wallowed in self-condemnation for my anger and impatience toward them, and my inability to rid myself of the idols of comfort and control. I was exhausted. I was so tired of failing to hold it all together and be the "perfect" wife, mom, church leader, artist, daughter, etc. I was unraveling physically, spiritually, and emotionally, and I just wanted to run away from it all.
But then, my 3 year old, whom I had recently sinned against (read: lost my temper BIG time), suddenly abandoned her play, dashed across the room, and dove into my lap. She laid back in my arms, looked tenderly up into my face, which was swollen with sorrow, put her tiny hands on my cheeks and said, "Mommy, I love you SO much." Then, she stared intently into my eyes, which brimmed with new tears, and recognizing her own reflection she said, "Mommy! I see me! I see me in your eyes!"
Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2 ESV)
In that moment, through my child's profound act of love and forgiveness, The Lord revealed Himself, silencing the Enemy who was greedily at work whispering lies of condemnation. The rickety throne I was teetering on turned suddenly to dust beneath me. And I was free.
I remembered again, the joy of my salvation (Ps. 51:12), which is my freedom from the burden of trying to "save" myself. Freedom from the Law of having to somehow earn favor with God or be crushed when I fail. I remembered that I am His child. He longs for me to run to Him with no other reason than to fall into His hold, safe and secure, surrendering to His will. He longs for me to fix my eyes on His face to see myself through His eyes. And amazingly, how He sees me is as His pure and clean. He does not see a tattered garment of condemnation. He does not hold me to the impossible and ungodly standards of the world. Because Christ has won the battle for my soul, The Lord of Creation sees me clothed in Christ's righteousness. What peace and joy are found in this truth! Oh, how I need to remember that when the voices of condemnation come calling! I need to remember Who has my heart and will not let it go.
"Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)
I am learning that it is indeed a mercy that God allows us to experience The Valley. God does not leave us ensnared in our suffering, or in the false hope of self-reliance. Nor does He let us flounder in self-condemnation, meritorious legalism, or ungodly ways. He brings us low, intentionally, through His grace undoing us bit by stubborn bit, to remind us that the burden is NOT ours to carry. We cannot will ourselves out of the mire and into "perfection." In The Valley, the rod of our Good Shepherd is to correct, and His staff is to guide. Not one without the other. And together they bring comfort and freedom from the Law. Together they guide us back into the light of the truth, which is that Christ has already carried the burden and perfected the Law (Romans 10:4).
This is His perfect work. And it is finished. The throne is His and His alone. The Valley points us again to that truth.
In this we are completely and utterly undone by His grace.