I’m not in the right state of mind, I just
wish I had strength to admit it.
This is the chorus to one of my favorite songs by the trio folk band The Arcadian Wild. When I listen to the song, I think of grace. Why?
Because one of my favorite theologians wrote “grace restores nature”. What he meant was, grace restores things to the way they really are – it restores us to who we really are.
You see, we live in a world that has been shaped by brokenness, pain, death, emptiness, deceit, conflict, and abuse (just to name a few). As such, each of us has learned how to live and exist in such a world. The only problem is we weren’t originally made to live in a world shaped by all this death and brokenness.
So we adapt.
As we learn how to protect ourselves or do what we need to survive, we often develop parts of ourselves that aren’t really who we are, but we feel that they keep us safe, so we keep them around. For some it’s obvious, like with addiction – sex, work, booze – we feel safe as long as we know we have something to ease the constant since of unsettledness we live with and distract us from the pain we’ve experienced. For others, it may be more subtle as we learn to hold everyone else at a distance, afraid that letting someone in would mean being hurt all over again. Or we rely on anger or control to avoid being disappointed or get the outcomes we want. Some of us remember words that were spoken to us that devalued us or minimized our worth – so we spend our whole life pursuing perfectionism in order to prove them wrong. If we were to ever slip up in our careers, relationships, public image or parenting then those words spoken to us may have been true we fear. To avoid that, we cling to perfectionism, hoping that when we achieve perfection, and as long as we remain there, it will somehow reverse how we really feel about ourselves or how others approve of us.
The challenge is that many times these parts of us can also become self-detrimental and self-destructive. As a pastor, I often have a chance to sit with others as they process the consequences of their self-destructive tendencies. And I know if they were ever to listen to mine, the list would be long.
The good news is that grace restores us to who we really are. Who we were before all of this happened. Before we learned to protect ourselves. Before we knew shame. Before we knew fear. And what freedom there is!
I’m not sure who the words of this song were written to, but I often allow them to frame how I pray for the grace of Jesus to restore my own life —
“I need you to see through my act, to tell me I’m wrong, to take off the mask, or else I’ll be left in the lie.
I’ll deceive my way straight to demise. ‘Cause I’m not in a right state of mind. I just wish I had strength to admit it. My stubbornness will put up a fight, but I don’t deserve to win it.”
In fact, in 2 Peter 1:4, God gives us His own “great and precious promise” that the grace given to us through Jesus will restore us to become “partakers of the divine nature” and “escape from the corruption that is in this world because of sinful desires.” Meaning when grace restore us, instead of living a life shaped by the shame, fear, wounds and pain brought about by a broken world, our hearts become shaped by the things of God – love, peace, compassion, humility and grace. We become who we were really meant to be – the beloved of God, precious children in His image, worthy of love, respect and dignity.