When I was in nursing school, I carefully studied textbooks, listened to lectures, and memorized material. I would spend hours practicing skills such as inserting an IV, foley catheter, or changing a dressing for a wound. I would memorize the procedure and practice on mannequins. However, there was no amount of studying that could supersede actually taking care of real patients in the hospital. The textbooks gave me a good base of knowledge, but without the experience I still couldn't fully grasp the concept or procedure. The textbooks lacked power in a sense, because real life scenarios can be complex and do not follow a textbook.
Every person is unique with their own history and needs, so many times you have to think outside the book and bend the 'rules' in order to actually give people what they need.
Well, similar to nursing school, I've spent years studying the Bible. It gave me a good knowledge base, but I lacked the full experience. I knew God was with me many times throughout my life, but I doubted He really loved me. Though I wanted to believe, trust was hard. I tried to emulate the Bible but it was difficult and heavy. I attempted to do everything just 'right' and not do anything 'wrong'. I was afraid of slipping and falling and feared God was watching, ready to punish me and that His patience would run out.
I disciplined myself to read, study, memorize, and be as perfect as I could. But without the foundation of God's love and acceptance, I was susceptible to lies and confusion. Despite all my efforts, I couldn't muster up love and forgiveness when it counted. I knew the Bible says that if you don't forgive others, God won't forgive you. I knew my heart was ugly and I believed I was damned if God didn't save me. I wanted to forgive, I just lacked the power to do it.
Disillusioned and discouraged, I sunk into a deep pit - hiding from God and people, burying the pain, and just trying to move on. But the pit grew deeper and deeper and I couldn't stand the darkness. I was so afraid, alone, and desperate for help. I doubted Jesus could rescue me. But even when I was hiding and running away, God pursued me and captured me in His gentle embrace.
Despite my mess, my unforgiveness, my pride, my self-righteousness in trying to do it on my own, He didn't let me go. He gave me mercy when I deserved judgement. He forgave me. He showed me His intense love for me and I believed Him.
He took my calloused, unforgiving heart, and gave me His heart of love and forgiveness for those who hurt me. And now God's voice is real to me. I'm no longer just trying to follow a book, I'm actually living what it says through the power of God. I'm actually experiencing His grace and love, His goodness and forgiveness, His kindness. And it is changing my life.
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." While I was still running from God, He found me and loved me despite my unworthiness. He called me His own and accepted me as I am. His love is the foundation. "God loves us as we are, not as we 'should' be." His love is what changes us, not our own diligent efforts.
Instead of trying so hard to make His word true in my life, God is making it true in me. "My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love — so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God." 1 John 4:7-10.