Growing up, I attended a Catholic school for the first eight years of my education, went to church each week, and I felt comfortable and in control. The first real shock to my comfort was right before high school when I was diagnosed with a condition that took away my ability to control my health and how well my body functioned. Facing a situation that I couldn’t fix on my own, I began to battle for control over my life. This battle carried over into all aspects of my life: academics, appearances, and friends. I wanted to control what others thought of me by being who I thought they wanted me to be. I felt completely self-reliant, so when something didn’t go my way I took it out on myself, causing great anxiety and unrest. My idea of God aligned with these ideas, living as if God had a giant balance scale weighing my good deeds against the bad. If the scale tilted towards the good deeds, I was content. This scale seemed to work well for me since I did well in school, didn’t party, and hung around other “good” kids.
However, my senior year, the “good” kids I once hung with started to participate in activities that I saw as “bad.” Wanting to control their image of me, I started to do the same. My balance scale was completely tilted in the wrong direction and seemed to be impossible to keep up, so I let it go. This was the first time that I saw myself as a sinner.
My first year of college, God placed a girl in my life who attended a Christian ministry. We quickly became friends and she started inviting me to some of the ministry’s weekly meetings. Feeling the meetings were too weird for me, I just hung out with her and her friends at other events, like bonfires and bowling. I became friends with the other students who were in the ministry and stopped partying, but only because I thought this was the image they would want. So, when I went home that summer, I returned to my previous ways. Upon returning to college that fall, I thought that my friends involved in the ministry would not want to hang out with me, knowing how sinful I was during my summer at home. The same friend, who first initiated towards me the previous year, kept inviting me to activities and after many rejections said she would never ask again if I just attended a fall retreat with the ministry. So I gave in, fully expecting to be shunned because they all knew how much of a sinner I was. However, when I arrived at the retreat they welcomed me and loved me. They didn’t treat me like a “bad” person, but didn’t ignore the sin at the same time. Through their actions God made the gospel clear to me. That while I am still a sinner, God shows his love for me by sending his only son to give his life for me, fully acknowledging that I am a sinner and simultaneously justified at the same time (Romans 5:8). Remaining in control and saving myself was never going to work. I needed the free gift that God offered through Jesus.
The gospel shows me that I am not in control of my life, so I don’t have to worry about the balance and that I have always been a sinner and can’t ever be good enough; Jesus frees me from these things. Jesus changes everything.
While control is still a struggle, God reminds me that he is in control and I can say, “… you are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” (Psalm 16:2) Knowing that God is in control as he works in and through me to reveal his glory, gives me a peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and allows me to rest more than I ever could on my own.