“Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” – John 8:5
There have been many moments in my life where I’ve been overcome by my own failure: a failure of character, a failure of willpower, a failure of discipline. And the more I’ve served in ministry, the more pronounced these inadequacies have become to me. Like the woman dragged out in the midst of her sin, I’ve felt myself thrust at the feet of Jesus in all my wretchedness, eyes lowered under the weight of my shame. And more often than not, I find the face of my accusers to be my own.
Too often, I’ve forgotten about grace.
For some reason, many of us diminish our need for grace after obtaining salvation. When Apostle Paul commissions us to be the lights of the world in the book of Philippians, we hear the call as one to mold ourselves into ideal Christians: perfectly disciplined, perfectly mannered, without sin. And trust me when I say, I tried for too long to achieve that ideal. I thought that if I did enough QTs, served in greater capacities, prayed longer, ministered to more people that I would prove myself worthy of my salvation. Inevitably, I failed. And in the midst of that failure, feeling an incredible amount of self-condemnation, I found it hard to believe that God still loved me, that He could still save me.
But Jesus is exactly who He says He is. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
Our ability to overcome the darkness, to maneuver out of our own brokenness doesn’t rest upon our shoulders. We aren’t called to be perfect ourselves, but to cling to the one who is our perfection. It’s like the wise men who followed the Star of Bethlehem to find the Messiah. They traveled through deserts, through forests, through towns and cities following a light in the sky. And at the end of their journey, they found Him. They found hope incarnate, the promised Savior. And it’s the same for us. Sometimes we’ll have to journey through our own sinfulness, go through the darkness and deserts of our hearts. We’ll be confronted with the most sinful and depraved parts of ourselves. And in those times when we do, what will get us through those places won’t be our own strength or ability. What we must do is look up at our Savior, look towards the Light of the World. And when we do, we will always find Him; we will find Hope.
I went to sleep one night tearful, overcome with the grief of my wretchedness. I was planning on stepping down from leading in my college ministry, no longer feeling worthy of the calling. My heart was heavy and it was difficult to find real rest. But then, God gave me a dream. I was sitting in the slums, in the middle of a muddy field laden with garbage and my own excrement. I was covered from head to toe with the filth, wearing nothing but tattered rags. It was then that Jesus walked up to me. I saw his feet and the hem of his pristine robes. Incredibly aware of my dirtiness and ashamed of my stench, I turned away and hid my head in my knees, hoping he’d go away. But after a while, I felt something soft and weighty fall upon my shoulders. I looked up and saw Jesus’ white robe draped over me. I looked at him, confused, and shook my head, afraid I was making the robe dirty.
He knelt beside me and, grabbing my face, said, “I have made you clean.”
I awoke in a brilliance of white light and, this time, cried out in gratitude. I don’t need to be perfect or strong or self-sufficient. All I need to be is at the feet of Jesus, by His side. When it is too dark to see, when fear grips my heart at the face of the unknown, when I doubt my identity established in Him, when the world condemns me for my continued lack and all I feel is lost, all I need to do is look to Jesus and it’ll be His light that guides me home.
Photograph above by Wallpaper4me.
Rachel Baik is the Youth Pastor at New Vision Covenant Church. She graduated from New York University with a BS in Public Health. She loves books & film, making jam, and arranging flowers.