During his Easter sermon last Sunday, my mom's pastor, Ron, said something that really stuck with me. He said, "You have to understand the bad news before you can appreciate the good news."
Elyse Fitzpatrick, nouthetic counselor, author, and public speaker, states the bad and good news Pastor Ron was talking about. She says the bad news is this:
You are more sinful and flawed than you could ever dare to imagine.
This past February, my mom and I had the opportunity to attend, with her church, a women's retreat in Boise. The speaker, Jill Briscoe, said that when her kids were small, their family prayer time consisted of Thanks Prayers, Sorry Prayers, and Please Prayers. Her explanation of the Sorry Prayers outlined the principle of confession in 1 John 1 -- that if we who know God confess our known sins to Him, we remain in right relationship with Him, clean before our Lord.
When I heard Jill say that, it was still just over a month after Dad died, and I had a lot to be sorry for as I swam through the mud of "if onlys" that might have kept him alive. I had already talked to God about my part in the events that led to Dad's death, and He had forgiven me. However, I am finding over time that I continue to revisit those feelings of guilt and despair and frustration. The mud of "if-onlys". But for each visitation, there is the promise that God is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. When I cling to that promise, I am free.
Which brings us to the good news Elyse states:
You are more loved and welcomed that you could ever dare to hope.
Good news indeed. But good news that is meaningless without the knowledge of the bad news. The fact of my flawed depravity is what makes the fact of grace amazing.
The song doesn't go:
Neato-frito grace, how pretty cool the sound
That saved a mostly okay
not as bad as my neighbors
fine upstanding citizen
No. Grace is amazing because I am a wretch.
Bad news: I'm a wretch. And so are you.
Good news: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." ~Romans 5:8