I have reached an age where I like to believe I know myself pretty well. I think that’s largely true, but my husband often comments that he continues to learn something new about me all the time after more than 50 years of marriage.
It reminds me of a line from a favorite movie series. The line is from The Lord of the Rings when Gandolf tells Bilbo Baggins, “There is more to you than you know.”
I love the trilogy of The Lord of the Rings. My husband and I actually enjoy it so much that we have the “expanded edition” of each of the movies in the set and at least once a year we watch all of them through again. Each time we seem to discover something new in a scene or dialogue or insight.
One clue to not knowing ourselves perfectly happens when we might hear ourselves describe an action or comment we made and then add, “It was so unlike me.”
Intersections of times and moments such as that can often trigger a discovery of something within us we had not noticed, dismissed, or denied. It reminds us as C.S. Lewis has written; “We live in a constant tension between the lofty side of our nature and the lowly side…part of us rooted in the soil and part reaching for the sky.”
I think we see Paul’s recognition of that in Romans 7. You know the passage in all likelihood. It begins in verse 15 and continues from there with Paul talking about the struggle within him when he does what he would not want to do and doesn’t do what he would desire.
It’s easy to relate to that passage, but it can also expose a part of us (despite a relationship with the Lord through grace) that can fall prey to viewing ourselves through the lens of the law.
We never should use grace as an excuse to knowingly sin, but maybe we have forgotten that we are not just saved by grace, but we are to live by grace as well.
How do we respond when we discover a truth about ourselves we had not known? Perhaps the choice is to go to the Lord for His direction, His mercy, His forgiveness, and His grace. Maybe condemnation is the path we choose as a result of this weakness, failing, or sin.
The choice may also be to offer excuses and explanations for the existence of the issue. Others might decide they were not accurate in what they sensed, saw, or heard so they brush the thought away as untruth versus truth.
Only one choice is the best. It begins with recognition of our need for God’s grace and that we are to live by grace as well as be saved through grace. With that as a foundation, the writer of Hebrews 4:16 clarifies the best choice: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in time of need.”
A few years ago I also read a great book that I keep in the forefront of my mind regarding this subject. The author writes about a principle that provides the truth I need when I discover something negative or sinful I had not seen in myself.
Jerry Bridges writes these good words about the principle in The Discipline of Grace:
“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your good days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.”