I had only two errands to run yesterday when I got home from substitute teaching:
1. Pick up my Chinese order for dinner.
2. Run by Walgreens.
It was a long day and my husband was working a night shift (thus the take-away dinner). The pollen in South Carolina/Georgia is actually outrageous at the moment - I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite like it, actually. The flowers are in full bloom all around us, thus I have had a pretty intense sinus migraine for days now. Not fun when you are teaching art to elementary students all day!
My plan for last night was full-proof: Pick up dinner, grab some sinus relief tablets from Walgreens, come home and eat dinner, and since my husband was working I'd be in bed reading by 7:30pm.
I WAS PUMPED.
The route from my house is really easy. A few thousands yards over a train track, 1/6 of a mile further and that's the Chinese restaurant. Then another mile to the turn off, up the street and over a bit and there's Walgreens. Another few miles home but a much straighter shot - easy peasy.
"Easy peasy." Famous last words, right?!
There was a train....On tracks where trains only come early mornings or late at night, there was a train blocking the road at 5:30pm on Tuesday. After a 12 minute wait, I got to the restaurant, where a giant bus was taking up the entire parking lot. I grumbled under my breath, parked down the street, grabbed my now-lukewarm food and headed to my next stop....only to be pulled over because of a funeral procession. A 15 minute funeral procession, might I add (don't worry....I ate my spring rolls and prayed for the family while I sat in the car). I finally get on the road, almost to Walgreens when I see that without notice the main road to Walgreens has been fully blocked off due to road works. No previous signage, no detour signs, just blocked off.
At this stage, I'm more than hungry (have you heard of the term "hangry?"). I have a headache that has clung to me for about 5 hours that for some reason God has not healed, I am exhausted from the day, I feel overly-emotional because of our big transition overseas and NOW THIS STUPID ROAD IS BLOCKED OFF AND I CAN'T EVEN GET TO MY SINUS MEDS!!!!!
Apparently there are some winding back roads to Walgreens that I had never seen before, and just like God these roads happened to have lovely cherry blossoms lining the streets. There were heaps of cars and my travel was slow, but at least I had gorgeous scenery to enjoy. This allowed me to take a deep breath and re-gather myself (and remember who I am) before turning up at Walgreens with the slowest checkout clerk in history and a line ahead of me.
I have never been so grateful for a microwave (or for beef and broccoli).
So if you know me, you know that there's always a lesson to every one of my crazy stories. Dream, visions and my crazy adventures - that's how God speaks to me most of the time, and I get to use them to teach others. And this one really hit home for me.
I was just this weekend teaching that as a born-again Christian, we only sin when we believe lies. The Bible calls us new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) who have been made just like Christ because we have been crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20). Romans 6 says that we are dead to sin, and therefore we do not need to give in to its power over us because it is actually POWERLESS now. The power of sin has been broken because our "old man" was completely obliterated at the cross and resurrection. Therefore when we choose to sin, it's no longer coming from WITHIN us because there is now no longer any darkness in us (Ephesians 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 5:5). So sin for the born-again Christian is just the uncharacteristic moment when we choose to believe a lie about ourselves. "Sinful" is no longer who I am in Christ.
So here I am yesterday - exhausted emotionally and physically, hangry, in pain, annoyed - yet dead to sin.
There was a moment when I saw the road blocked when I almost lost my cool. In the near past, I would have gone ahead and had a full-blown temper tantrum because of how I felt and I know that God's grace covers my tantrums (truth), BUT this was different. Although God's grace may cover my sin (yep, I said it...a tantrum is SIN), it's NOT who I am and NOT where I was created to remain. I am not a sinner. That's not my nature anymore. I have the capacity to sin, but only when I choose to believe lies.
There IS grace, but we were never meant to go through the sin --> guilt -> find grace -> repent cycle. Grace covers but it doesn't REMOVE. Only Jesus removes completely, and He did that when He died and we were crucified with Him (Romans 6:6 - "We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin."). When you KNOW that your sinful nature has been completely removed, you begin to walk in true freedom.
Sounds too good to be true? It IS. That's why it's called the "Good News."
So when I saw the big, nasty "NO ENTRY" sign, I felt the Holy Spirit say to me gently, "Who ARE YOU, Mandy" before I could melt down. And it was at that moment that I had to remember my righteous nature, and the fact that I am indeed DEAD TO SIN.
You know what ended up happening? I DID remember who I was. God gave me gorgeous cherry blossoms to help me calm the thoughts and feelings that the enemy was trying to put on me. So by the time I got to Walgreens, I remembered that I was a righteous, holy carrier of His Presence, and I was able to bless that slow checkout clerk. I was a blessing to her and even got a huge smile out of her - despite my headache (which had now left, by the way). Despite my emotions, despite my busy day and the cold Chinese food sitting in my car. I didn't even have nasty feelings toward her that I would have had if I had still been forgetting my identity. Because those FEELINGS are not really who I am (PRAISE JESUS)
Free indeed. I'm starting to really believe it!
Next time, I think I will choose to remember the truth quicker. I think I'll also eat my beef and broccoli in the car in the Walgreens parking lot, first. :-)