Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Wretch Like Me (by Jennifer Lee)

I read a lot of blogs. I comment on a lot of blogs. If you want to increase your traffic, leaving comments on other blogs is a great way to do that. Increased traffic has never been my goal when leaving a comment, it just happens to be a by-product of said practice. And let's face it -- I am rarely at a loss for words.

I realize that part of the blogging experience is getting feedback from your readers, but sometimes I simply want to savor the words I've just read and reflect on them.

Jennifer Lee has a blog that leaves me speechless on a fairly regular basis, and she has graciously agreed to write a guest post for me.



I asked my pastor the question the other day at my kitchen table as I poured him a second cup of coffee: "Pastor, do you think I'm a wretch?"

His response: "Absolutely."

I neither spit out my coffee, nor threw it at him in disgust.

Instead, I nodded in agreement and responded with this: "And you know what, Pastor? I'd say you're a wretch, too."


There was a time in my life when the accusation would have offended me. But that was before I took a good, long look at my heart. That was before I saw myself among the most depraved characters of the Bible.

I almost cringe to read the words I just wrote -- which puts me among the worst of sinners -- for this is the first I have met some of you. For the record, I am an Iowa farmer's wife, a mother of two, a women's Bible study leader, and an adjunct professor at a Christian college. But I am also this: First-Class Wretch.

I am part Pilate and part Peter. I am the doubter, the mocker, the Pharisee.

And I am the criminal on a cross beside Jesus, deserving the punishment He got, but getting a crown instead.

But I am also this: madly in love with the One who would make this wretch His treasure.

There are some Christians who don't like it when we talk like this. They don't like it when we say we're wretches. They say that when we continue to sin daily, we put Christ up on that cross and crucify Him over and over again. There are some who say that after we become joint heirs with Christ, we traded in our wretched rags for robes of righteousness. End. Of. Story.

Yet, I cast my eyes down and

see how stony my heart,

feel how cold my love,

and watch how prideful my ways,

And I know

that I know

that I know

that I am still

a wretch.

"Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" -- Romans 7:24


A friend of mine knows it, too. She had a package delivered to my front door a couple weeks ago. I ripped into the cardboard box to find a gray T-shirt with the words: "I am the wretch the song refers to."

More than 230 years after John Newton wrote the words, I feel them in my marrow: "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me." So I slip that screenprinted Truth over my head and wear those words as a badge of honor -- not because I'm proud of my wretchedness, but because I know the One who covers it.

But to some, my choice of fashion reeks of heresy. The shirt was the source of a week-long debate a couple years ago on a Christian web forum.

One person wrote: "I wouldn't feel comfortable wearing that slogan. I used to be a wretch in need of salvation, but since God has done this, I am not to call myself a wretch anymore."

Another wrote: "Paul says we're the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, so which is it? Wretched or righteous?"

As for me, I'm both.

There are a lot high-falutin' words like justification and sanctification that you could use to describe all of this -- words that this Iowa mama is still trying to figure out. The way I see it, we're called to become more and more like Jesus every day.

I guess that would be a little bit like saying we're becoming less and less wretched.

For me, that process has looked a little messy sometimes because of my two-faced heart: I don't want to be bad, but I am anyway. I know the law, but I can't keep it. I've done much wrong -- and by the end of today -- I'll do even more.

I am in constant need of a Savior, stumbling my way Home. As my 7-year-old daughter Lydia says when referring to the act that started this whole sin-mess: "I'd like to rip that snake's eyeballs out."

Me, too, Lydia. Me, too.

And so tonight, when I go to bed, I'll bow low once again and marvel at grace. And with a lump in this throat, I'll whisper my thanks to the only One holy enough to cover my wretchedness. Someone once said that the only thing of our very own that we contribute to our salvation, is the sin that made it necessary.

And that I know very well.

Lord Jesus, I am a sinner in constant need of a Savior -- not just once but every single day. Wretched woman that I am, who will deliver this body from death? The answer, thank God, is You. Thank you for your amazing grace, that saved a wretch like me. Amen.

Photo: Self-portrait of wretch in wretched shirt, a gift from a friend.

To read more from Jennifer, visit her at Getting Down with Jesus


Bina said...

She is quite a writer! Thanks for sharing this blurb from her. I needed it...very badly! I am always amazed at how God works!

Blessing to you today,

Heather Sunseri said...

Amen. I will definitely be visiting Jennifer Lee's blog. Thanks, Katdish.

Annie K said...

Great post Jennifer and admitting to wretchedness is calling it like it is(speaking from much experience). There is a lot of wretchedness on the way to righteousness...

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

Jennifer is a solid writer. I've read her blog for months and agree, I am moved every time.

I have difficulty with others having difficulty when I call myself a wretch. I know who I am and what I need and so does God and thankfully He continues to answer that need.
~ Wendy

RCUBEs said...

I'm glad you invited sister Jennifer here. I enjoy her posts not because she just writes them, but because she lives those words. Just seeing the title of her blog, makes you not want to leave her site.

I was thinking of the "Cinderella" story when I was reading this post, sister Jennifer. From rags to riches. Thank You Lord!

Sarah Salter said...

I think that Jennifer has a great balance here. It's a balance that is often hard for me to find. It's a balance that often has me quoting myself scriptures like, "If I confess my sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness." Or "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Or "You foolish Sarah! Who has bewitched you?"

I used to despair about not being able to find the balance. More lately, I'm just rolling with it. And I think that when we see and admit our wretchedness, it allows the world around us to see the grace of Jesus on us in a way that can never see it on a Pharisee.

Candace Jean July 16 said...

Love this, Jennifer. Whenever I hear the word "wretch" I think of both the verb and the noun, and how sometimes I'm both. And that is an awesome shirt! (Where in IA? Me too!)

Billy Coffey said...

I think you've outdone yourself here, Jennifer. That was truly wonderful. And I'll gladly proclaim my wretchedness, too.

mari mayborn said...

Jennifer, 'Savoring...and reflecting here this morning. If I'm real with myself and step out of the positive pop Christian aura, it certainly knocks the wind out of self and pride long enough to lay me out with a healthy sense of compassion for others on this road. And compassion keeps me real. I need that. Thanks.

Monica Sharman said...

There's a cool old Accapella song, "Criminal on the Cross" that goes:

"I'm a wretch, I'm a worm, I'm a no-good sinner but He said, 'I'll save you anyway!'.... I'm saved like the criminal on the cross."

Helen said...

I get what you mean. I truly do. I believe I have to repent of ALL of my sins, and not remain attached to them. That means a constant rediscovering of my own wretchedness, and wonder that God could love me so much.

Tony C said...

An amazing post that strikes home...

Thank you Jennifer, and thank you Kathy. I find so much hope and encouragement when I read what other Christians have to say.

I'm very elated to be in God's family with you.

jasonS said...

First off, I read Jennifer's blog a lot too & don't always know what to say!

2nd, I hear you and have to agree. I remember hearing a radio program once where a caller started off by saying, "I'm an alcoholic." The host said, "how long have you been sober?" The man replied something like "23 years."

I marveled at that because I thought most people if they had no "problem" with something for that long would say it was gone, but this man knew what was inside him. I think it's the same with sin. I'm a sinner saved by grace, once & always until I'm perfected in Him. It's when we fail to recognize this that we get our focus on the wrong place...

Thanks again!

Deidra said...

Amazing Grace has always been one of my favorites. I think it's one of the best ways to say who I am, who He is, and why grace is amazing.

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

So nice to "see" you here -- new friends and old.

Thank you for your encouraging words -- and for walking by me in my own wretchedness.

It seems to me that the closer I get to Home, the more aware I become of my own wretchedness.

How can it be that we -- both saint and sinner warring within -- get places at the table? It's one of those crazy, upside-down Kingdom things. It's part of the irony of our faith.

I don't want to wallow in my own depravity here, but I'm buckled to my knees by it all, you know?

Once upon a time, I thought I could make some sort of decision for Christ and then that was it. Yet I find myself constantly in need of a Savior -- not just once but daily. Dare I say, hourly?

But I'm curious: What do you make of those good questions that people raise about the fact that we're joint heirs with Christ, so our wretchedness is canceled out. Is that truth? Or do we remain wretches until we get Home?

Can we be both wretched and righteous? Or do we have to claim one or the other?

(Katdish -- are you ready to kick me and all my questions outta here yet? You already gave me space for a whole blog post, and now I've entered Part II here in the comment box. -smile-)

katdish said...

Jennifer - You are more than welcome to write a post for me ANYTIME. And as far as the long comment goes, you really should go back and read some comments from previous posts. It's like the twitter, only more random. At least you stuck to the subject matter. Thanks again for such a fantastic post.

Lyla Lindquist said...

Better believe you're a wretch. Welcome to my world...

He is my righteousness, my holiness, my redemption (1 Cor. 1). What I have is only what He has credited to me because of His finished work on the cross. Were I not such a wretch, perhaps I'd have something of my own to boast of.

But I've got ... nothing.

You can be both.

Awesome -- I mean wretched -- shirt, by the way.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I think we'd all do well to re-visit our wretchedness from time to time; not to wear it as our badge of honor but to give our God the honor he's due! He traveled a great distance to find me; a walk that didn't belong to him, yet the only One worthy enough to step that path. I am forever grateful for his painful embrace of my wretchedness of his baptism of grace therein.

You're so wise, my wretched friend, and I am grateful for your presence in my life.


Beth said...

Wow this pretty much blows me away.

Doug Spurling said...

"I am in constant need of a Savior, stumbling my way Home."

Wow, now I don't feel like the only wretch. Thanks Jennifer, it always feels like I've been in prayer when I read your posts. I can tell you really are in love with Jesus. He loves you too. Alot.

~*Michelle*~ said...

I'm with Katdish on this.....

your words leave me speechless.

except for two.

Thank you!

Julie said...

Once again your insight is amazing. I think it is so important to remind ourselves that yes, we are wretched and it is only by his love, and his grace that we are redeemed.

Reminding ourselves of our wretchedness keeps us humble and appreciative of the His "gift that keeps on giving!"

Much love,

Warren Baldwin said...

Jennifer, you never disappoint. Wretched and Rigtheous ... powerful juxtaposition of words, and so appropriate. wb

Maggi said...

Thank you, I needed a reminder that even tho' I'm a wretch,God extends Grace to me!