I walk with a limp.
Well, a figurative one. I was sitting next to my almost-husband during our wedding ceremony when I heard our pastor say that I had been bruised so badly in my life that I would forever walk with a limp. The words took me by surprise – there I sat in the most beautiful dress I had ever worn with flowers delicately woven into my hair, and he wanted to focus on my imaginary limp? But the phrase has been a gift to me since that day. I do wear the scars of past brokenness, and from our society’s perspective, I have the right to hold on to bitterness and resentment. In this world, a child who endures neglect, abuse, and abandonment can choose to be hardhearted and unforgiving indefinitely. But this is not true for the Christian. As our pastor continued, he made his point: my limp will always call me back to grace.
I stumbled through the aftermath of my childhood as a young adult. I grew cold and distant towards others, feeling validated by my experiences. I understood that the Bible said to forgive others, but I believed that didn’t apply to my situation because my experiences were unforgivable. When I considered all that had happened to me, everyone else was in the wrong. I was simply the recipient of the brokenness of others. So I let bitterness run rampant in my heart. I wrapped myself in “if onlys” and cast judgment in all directions.
If only you knew what I’ve been through.
If only you understood the harshness, the pain.
If only you felt this alone, betrayed, and unwanted.
In the pages of scripture I found another person with an unforgiving, judgmental heart. There was a servant who owed a king a great sum of money, but the king graciously forgave him without collecting payment. When the servant left the king, he returned home and demanded payment of little from a fellow servant. He was merciless and full of condemnation. He sounded like me. When I read this parable, my world flipped upside down. Rather than positioning myself as the judge and jury in my life, I realized that I sit as the defendant charged with a lifetime of sin before a holy and perfect God. I was not offering judgment, I had been judged – and I was the guilty one. For the first time, I truly understood that I wasn’t in a position to condemn those who hurt me. What they owed me paled in comparison to what I owed God. I was demanding payment for sins when God was not demanding payment from me. I had forgotten my debt was paid only by Jesus.
During the season of Advent, I think about the people who waited eagerly for the birth of Jesus. I think about everything that happened to them: the years of battles, displacement, slavery, wandering, barrenness, and pain. The Israelites held a long list of grievances against the many people groups that enslaved, exploited, and hurt them. I imagine they felt the same pains of sins that Adam and Eve experienced as they left the garden of Eden and we still feel today. If we look through the story of scripture, what do we know of God’s people? They were the broken-hearted, the bruised, the overlooked, the forgotten, the desperate.
They probably had limps.
I feel a kindredness with that lot. Maybe you do, too. It’s hard to suffer at the hands of others. It can be something as heavy as years of harsh words or something as seemingly light as an ungrateful child, but it still hurts. And yet, we’re not alone. Jesus knew the ultimate suffering. His body was physically broken as he hung on the cross while the full wrath of God poured onto him on our behalf. The baby born in a manger was sent to suffer so that we might be taken from our suffering and be made whole. The plan was never to leave us broken-hearted or bruised. We were always supposed to look at Jesus; God’s plan was always grace.
I’ve been married for a while now, and we have a sweet daughter. The years of my most obvious suffering seem like a long ago distant dream, but we live in a broken world, so I still face unmet expectations, worldly stressors, loss, and lack. If I don’t return to the cross daily, I let bitterness well up over things like the who-slept-less-and-who-changed-more-diapers scorecard. If I don’t return to the cross daily, I find myself holding both grudges and the hoop through which one must jump to earn my favor. If I don’t return to the cross daily, I forget my place at the foot of it.
When we’re made aware of how deeply our own sin runs – like the unforgiving, debt-ridden servant standing before the king – it refocuses our eyes on the only one who can offer us forgiveness. Seeing the sinlessness of Christ will always reveal how starkly different we are in our sinfulness. When we get to the root of our own hearts, we begin to see how much grace was given to us by God. He never asked us to earn our salvation, but rather he gave it to us as a free and undeserved gift. We deserved judgment but received grace. Friends, our lives are abundant only because of God’s goodness. It’s from this humble position before God that we see one another in need of grace too. He gave to us, so we can give to others. He cleared our scorecards, so we can clear others’. He’s healing our wounds, so we can love others.
And when we forget this truth, it will be the limp that calls us back to grace.
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/ REFLECTION:
1. Before we can look at others’ sins, we have to look our own hearts and our own debt before God, our King. Take a moment to think on the many times you’ve sinned against God and others. Now take a moment to think of Jesus’ payment for your sins on the cross. What does it mean for you to be called forgiven because of Christ’s death and resurrection?
2. Walking as a child of God means walking in grace. Since we are free and fully forgiven, we can offer grace to others. Are you holding onto bitterness towards someone in your life? What would it look like to offer that person forgiveness?
3. We all have limps because our world is fractured by sin. But in his goodness, God works all things together for our good and his ultimate glory. In what ways has your limp called you back to grace? How does your limp bring God glory?
Autumn Kern is a wife, mother, and forever student. She is passionate about teaching women to see how God’s grace bleeds into every moment of their lives. She serves as the Blog Editor at Risen Motherhood, writes and photographs for Deeply Rooted Magazine, and – when not creating elsewhere – leaves a smattering of thoughts on her own blog, Carbon Ribs. Autumn likes early morning walks that end at coffee shops, jovial conversations, and simultaneously reading at least four books.