In the movie “The Princess Bride” there’s a wonderful line that I’ve always loved: “Life IS pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” That rang as truth to me. I knew that magic wasn’t real, and TANSTAAFL looked to be right on the money. Yet when I approached the salvation of my soul – the redemption of my very life – I applied a kind of magic spell unreality to it all.
I shared part of my salvation experience at the recent Shulamite Conference, and I’ll recap briefly. I desperately needed saving (my life was a mess, I was hurting everyone around me, and I was so deep in depression and self-hatred that waking in the morning was an agony), so I was willing and ready for a Savior, but I wasn’t interested in surrendering the entirety of my life (my heart, my mind, my thoughts, my opinions, my right to determine anything and everything) to Jesus as my Lord. So I said the words, but I was utterly unbowed in my heart.
The result was Isaiah 50:11 in the Amplified Bible. I had determined to work out my own salvation – everything was on my terms, not God’s. God’s gift to me (and anyone else under the impression that they dictate the terms of their souls’ salvation) was “grief and torment.” It is a torment to try to live a Christ-like life when you are not saved and not in fact a “new creation.” I had moments, sometimes days of peace, but it never lasted. And the internal striving and fury needed nothing to be stirred up. It was God’s love that sent me grief and torment until I couldn’t bear it any more. Then Martha gave me an article to read that changed everything and set me on the path to true salvation which is surprisingly (ha!) held by God and God alone.
I don’t think I was alone in twisting the gift of salvation and turning it into a ticket I could punch for heaven while changing not a THING in my life where it really counted. “Salvation is free! It costs me nothing!” Well, true enough. Salvation cannot be bought; it is freely bestowed . . . in God’s time and when He is satisfied. Only God knew the unbowed state of my heart when I first claimed my salvation, and only God knew the moment that I fully and truly surrendered, making Him true LORD of my life, thus receiving the gift of salvation.
God is sovereign. He sets the terms of every interaction we have with Him – salvation, repentance, surrender, hearing Him, serving Him, loving Him, ALL – the very universe answers to the laws that He put in place. I was saved when I met God’s conditions: receiving the Blood of Christ as payment for my sins and believing on Jesus, the Son of God, my Savior and LORD. I marvel now that I had so convinced myself that I could tell the Lord God Almighty what was acceptable to ME in terms of salvation. That I’m not a smoking pile of ash is testament to our Father’s enormous mercy and patient endurance.
Tuesday I’ll tell you about how I learned the hard way that you can’t just chant about the Blood of Christ and make it clean you up like some enchanted mop in a Disney film.