Roughly three years ago, I began a journey. The journey was losing weight. I've mentioned it in writings here, and other places. I've even had my pastor use the example of my struggle to lose weight as a picture of what the true face of Christian growth looks like, which is a lot of failure, but with a slow steady often crooked thread forward. I mentioned that I had too many defeats, and false starts to count, yet I still lost 60 lbs. The process often doesn't look as pretty as the eventual results.
As I write this, I can tell you whole-heartedly, I squandered it all. All the restarts. All the sweat and pain. It was wasted on a failure of a man, who couldn't keep his butt in the gym on a semi-regular basis. Or at least keep his mouth closed to food a little more regularly. It is squandered — all of it. I'm exactly where I was when I began, and my motivation to begin again is at zero.
I'm not saying I'm done, but when you have something and let it go, it's hard to get back. Sometimes it's impossible.
I have a friend who's going through a divorce right now, not of their choosing. Their spouse wanted it and couldn't wait for it. They thought there was something better waiting for them on the other side. I can tell now; they have some buyer's remorse. They're beginning to see and hear how great this person they had been married to was. But all the bridges are burned, and they can't go home again. This person squandered a good spouse, and a long relationship for what they thought would be a better experience, a better life.
Squander. What a great word. It so perfectly captures the pitfalls of backsliding in all areas of life. It's the utter self-ruination of good things. Lost weight ruined. A good relationship wasted. A good job lost. That word emphatically places the blame squarely on one person and one person alone. Ourselves.
No one else made that happen. You did. We all do it to varying degrees because life is complicated to varying degrees. It's a reminder that we have flaws, big flaws. Flaws we don't always see until after we squandered whatever it is.
And we know what follows next… Guilt!
A large dose of grade a self-condemnation. It's an unavoidable consequence. For us religious types, we add a little more to it. We feel bad because we know how disappointed God must be. You might think, "Is God really going to be angry because you couldn't stick to a diet? Isn't that kind of minor?" But gluttony is still a sin, even if it's a more "respectable" one is some eyes. I am perfectly guilty of that sin, and it weighs on me, no pun intended.
If I had to create an analogy for my current predicament as it relates to someone's Christian walk. Sometimes, Christians fall. Sometimes, they fall bad. Sometimes, they fall so bad that it takes them all the way back, and it feels like they never made any progress. They feel like they squandered it all.
In those times, it is important to remember the one thing that's impossible for you to squander, God's mercy and grace. For the Christian, it is overwhelming and everlasting. It is new every morning.
That's important, because when we squander what we have, even a little, it can still feel like we squandered it all. Does anyone really think Paul could hold the title, "Chief of Sinners" all by himself? On our worst days, we all feel like we can challenge him for that top spot.
That's why we can't squander grace, because even the smallest fraction of sin in our lives can make us feel like the chief of sinners, unworthy of it, but it's in that unworthiness that God deems you deserving. It's quite symbiotic to think of it. We don't take verses like Romans 6:1, and say, "let's sin all the more, so grace may abound," do we?
Paul leads us in understanding further on in Romans that the grace found in the shed blood of Jesus covers our current earthly struggles with the flesh. It is Jesus who saves from this body of death. That's why in the end he can call himself "chief of sinners", because it's an honest, acknowledged, sinner, that knows the depths of his depravity, the lengths he might go to squander it all, but also know the width, depth and height that God's grace goes to cover it all.
Here's the honest reality of life; we all eventually come to a place where we fall short of something. We all get a sense of squandering things that were good for us, blessings to us, whether, jobs, money, family, friends, … time. How many people in their older years wish they had more time to make something better or right? I know I do.
The one thing we don't have to make right is our relationship with God. Sixty pounds heavier or lighter, single, married, divorced, married, divorced, new job, old job, no job, whatever it is, if your hope and trust is in Christ and his finished work, you have squandered nothing in God's eyes. You are perfect, you are beautiful, you are loved, and you are His.
I just thought someone needed to hear that today, maybe it was you, perhaps it was me.
God's Peace to you.