Colorado Diaries // Episode 4

Monday, August 22, 2016

1 July 2016 // Frontier Trip: Day 8
Yesterday as we hiked in the cold, pouring rain, something inside me felt so alive. I was so numb and so cold a so wet, but I was so incredibly alive. For possibly the first time, I can understand why people chase after pain.

If they don't have Jesus, then they don't have joy, and if they can't feel joy, they have to feel alive through pain. Because even if they hurt, they're feeling something, so that must mean they're alive.

That's what it felt like hiking: I was miserable, but there's a certain kind of rush that comes from being miserable. I was pressing myself to the limit, and it felt good.

I think it's this obsession with pain that makes me run away from God so often. I like the way it feels to press myself because it reminds me that I am alive. Instead, I need to find life in the joy. I need to be so out of my mind with joy that people wonder why.

Later that day:

Last night's club was when Glenn presented the gospel. Afterwards we did our 20 minutes. For the first time in forever, I started talking to God like a friend. I'm sure to anyone else, what I said would probably be incoherent ramblings, but I knew that God understood.

During my prayer, God made the sky light up. He sent two flashes of what looked like heat lightning, but it wasn't hot. In fact, it was cold, and I'm convinced that those two flashes of light were sent by God as a message to us campers. It was probably a different message for everyone, but to me, it was a reminder that God is here. He's with me at Frontier ranch, and He'll be with me when I go home.

He's not gonna leave me when I do something bad, and he's not gonna love me more if I do something good. He always feels the same way about me. He is the epitome of consistency, and as much as I don't like to admit it, I need that.

Do you see it as much as I do? People chasing thrills just to test their breaking point, people abusing relationships just so that they can feel something, anything to make make them feel just the least bit alive...

This recklessness is all over society today. So many prefer pain of joy because they've never really tasted real joy. American Christianity has fallen short of showing what true joy looks like. If we don't chase after the joy, if we don't show people just how beautiful life can be with Jesus, they won't want to follow him. Because if our life is just the same as everyone else's, why should they even want to try out life with Jesus.

I believe that we are called to be the people of joy. Joy, contrary to what the world thinks, is not a shallow emotion. Joy is understanding God's plan even when life is tough and rejoicing because of that understanding. Joy is looking back at everything God has done for you and thanking him for the hardships. Joy is dancing in the rain because you know you'll come out purer and more refined. Joy, contrary to what the world thinks, is not shallow, but is probably the deepest emotion you can ever feel. 

Joy is often quenched by the world, but it also is quenched by something all too real that very often comes from within the church: legalism.

The account you read about in my above journal entry was probably one of the coolest moments in my entire life. At every Young Life camp, the speaker allows at least one night a week when every camper can sit outside and look at stars and pray for twenty whole minutes. In a world that is obsessed with artificial light and never slowing down, this time is truly a treasure. Before going outside, Glenn, the speaker, told us this: You don't have to use any fancy words with God.

For someone who loves fancy words, that really hit home. It was during my twenty minutes that God made something so inexplicably clear to me: God's opinion of you does not change based on what you do. 

So many conservative churches inadvertently teach that we must earn grace after excepting Christ. By imposing unbiblical rules, such as dress code and music preferences, churches are essentially telling teens "Yes, grace is initially free, but to stay in God's favor you must do this and this and this." 

My week at Frontier Ranch made me realize that I had imposed this mindset upon myself. Through a series of events I won't elaborate on, I was convinced that God's view of me changed based on what I did. Long story short, I tried to stay in God's good graces and failed (because I'm human), and I eventually gave up. I soon adopted an attitude of, "If I can never stay in God's good graces, what's the point of trying?"

Legalism does this. Legalism not only quenches joy, but it also kills it. The Christian worldview is reduced to any other worldview when we put the rules at the center. When grace is placed in the center, however, that is what makes us different. If we do not base our very lives on the principle of grace, we are no different than any other religion. 

Contrary to what some churches teach, God's view of you never changes after you accept him, because when he looks at you, he sees Jesus' perfect righteousness and not your sin. Jesus took on your sin when he walked this earth, lived, died, and rose again; therefore, when you accept Christ, you take his righteousness. The very purpose of him dying is so that you don't have to try in vain to stay in God's good graces. Jesus died to give you his righteousness, because he was the only one who could conquer your sin. 

This doctrine of grace should be the very center of our lives and the very center of our worldview. This realization of grace produces the most joy because we realize that we are forever in debt to Jesus Christ. It is this grace that motivates us to please God, whether it is with basic biblical principles or personal convictions. Personal convictions, the ones that aren't necessarily black or white, are not things that should be imposed on others just for the sake of following the rules.  Instead of imposing your rules on someone else, you should ground them in grace, because without grace, there is no point in following the rules.

How do we escape the legalistic trap? Preach the gospel to yourself daily. Remind yourself that, as Jerry Bridges writes in The Discipline of Grace, on your worst days, you are never beyond the reach of God's grace, and on your best days, you are never without the need of God's grace. Every day you need grace as much as you did the day before and as much as you will the next day. You need grace just as much as a reformed murderer or a previous atheist. 

On a bigger scale? It is my personal conviction that church kids must be grounded in grace before anything else. Church leaders need to preach grace to kids so often that it spills out of their ears, and that's why I love Young Life. Young Life has taught me what my sixteen years in church couldn't: it's not about the rules. It is only through glasses of grace that we humbly wish to please God. It is only with God's grace in mind that we will treat others with love and compassion, not discriminating them based on where they are in their spiritual walk. It is only through grace that we can exhibit true, unwavering joy. 

Are you looking for the "life to the full" that Jesus promises in John 10:10? Hop on the grace train, and I promise you'll find it. 



    1. oh but can we talk about how gorgeous you are like that picture on the side is so adorable teach me plz teach me how to have an adorable smile like that

      and also your new blog design is FAB!


    Like your new profile photo my gosh you're the cutest person alive i cri.

    "Joy, contrary to what the world thinks, is not a shallow emotion." This is so relevant. I feel like people try so hard to feel things, they end up completely derailing their lives. I've been lucky enough not to struggle with that specifically, but I know people who have and it hurts to watch.

    Grace upon grace upon grace. <3

    Loved this, Mary Shelley. <3

    1. ahhh thank you so much Grace Anne :)) you're the bomb-diggity

  3. Wow - such powerful thoughts you shared! I really liked reading your journal entries, and explanation of why we pursue pain. It makes so much sense. And yes to God's never-ending grace! xx

    1. Thank you so much, Jessica! And, yes, amen to that!!

  4. okay so I read your blog like 5 months ago and I followed it but for some reason I'm not getting your posts on my dash but I FOUND IT AGAIN HELLO YES I love this post, it's so thought provoking. These kinds of posts are the ones that I LoVE to read.


  5. YAY I'm so glad you stopped by!! And WOW thank you so much you're so sweet :))

  6. Wow, Mary Shelley.... This writing is so true, and amazing. That is the utter truth- God doesn't need to hear a bunch of fancy words. He doesn't want to. He wants to hear us, for us to love HIM- and that doesn't mean we have to have a fancy word plan.... Thank you so much for sharing, this is great. =)
    YHVH bless.
    -Angela |