Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. Ps.84:5.
We chose almost five years ago to stay at our church where I did this. The aftermath was a beautiful and a terrible shattering. I lived frightened as I watched a life scatter away when the sinews of my strongholds were laid bare.
I tried to hold them all, but my hands are weak against the gusting of hot winds. There is a kernal of dying in me – an ambivalence that calls to fragile escapes.
God engulfed me in mercy during my season of sifting. He stooped down to rescue me when I shook with fear that I might be broken beyond fixing. He saved me, healed me, spoke tenderly to me. He invited me to be brave, to live in the Light. Foremost of all, He covered me with an everlasting atonement long long ago, on a Golgotha cross, long before a scarlet L exposed two opposing futures: grace vs. performance.
Grace or performance? Nothing divides the two like facing what grace really means. When Jesus bore the ugliness of my sin, His heavenly father turned away in sickened disgust. As Jesus hung on the Cross, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34. That should be my darkness. Those should be my words, my shuddering loss as God forsakes me in my sin. Have you ever lived the ripping agony of really looking at your lost soul? God, literally, could not for the life of Him leave us in that aching void without reaching for us. He paid the wages of our sin so that we would never feel what He felt in those three hours of darkness.
In Old Testament times, the temple was the dwelling place of God. I have chosen and
consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. 2 Chron.7:16. In those days, God’s beloved had to journey to the temple to be in the His Presence. Pilgrims would walk a treacherous journey to seek shelter under the holy covering of the temple. They offered costly sacrifices and desperate prayers from needy hearts. They knelt at the altar in the outer courts, soaking in the intimate Presence of God for those precious moments. Their sacrifices, of course, did not wholly redeem their sin. They were merely symbols of a Sacrifice yet-to-come, foreshadows of the Cross. Those pilgrims did not come to the temple to buy salvation, but to throw themselves on God’s mercy. They were on a pilgrimage of grace.
Blessed are those who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. Ps.84:5.
Today the temple is no longer a building, but a spiritual presence. For we are the temple of the living God. 2 Cor.6:16.
I am on that same pilgrimage. I do not journey to a temple made with human hands, but to a sanctuary within my own heart. I have firmly decided to live out my days under the shelter of grace. Will you be a fellow pilgrim? As we come out of our seasons of sifting into vistas of peace, there will still be those who appeal to us to prove ourselves, to demonstrate that we deserve a second chance. We could respond with increased effort, but it would be chasing after wind. Simply put, we do not deserve a second chance. I deserved the depths of hell long before my sin was exposed, and I deserve it still. Striving means nothing in the beating heart of Grace.
All my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not very willing to support it, but most people think of these stories as hard, hopeless and brutal. Frederick Buechner.
The beauty of grace is that it transforms. If we walk a pilgrimage of grace, it will change us. We will become more holy, more loving, more courageous, more deeply steeped in the intimate Presence of God. We will develop a face set like flint on our mission and eyes that see only the One who Sees Us. My steps forward in grace have been the safest and holiest I have ever taken. It is the adventure of a lifetime.
Will you walk a pilgrimage of grace with me?