Mind the Gap
I’ve had the humble privilege living in the beautiful, venerable city of London for an entire academic year during my undergraduate career. As a little girl, I remember dreaming about the archaic and classical architecture looming above me, strolling down the medieval avenues, and experiencing the magical atmosphere that only exist amidst a city that is almost as old as the land itself. My experience didn't disappoint my childhood expectations. The city is gorgeous with new nooks and crannies to explore every day. Travel to the continent was not difficult, but during the weekends, I found myself merging with the London foot traffic and wandering along the old familiar paths of the city. I wanted to know everything about the city, its history, and its people; I wanted to be able to find my way around it blindfolded and to leave no stone un-turned.
One characteristic of the city that many visitors will point out is the overhead intercom voice that comes on every time the underground train comes into station. A crowd of hurried, frazzled suits wait impatiently behind a yellow line painted on the platform as that throaty, female voice calls out, “Mind the gap.” I heard that phrase so many times a day I began to hear it in my sleep. There is a reason for this cautionary warning as there really is quite a large gap between the platform of the station and that of the train. Gaps can be dangerous, whether they’re manifested in the material world or if they exist within our hearts.
When I gaze upon the cross, often I see only a large gap; a vast, gaping hole between who I am and who Christ is. It is said that the truth will set you free, so why do I feel as if I am constantly striving to catch up to some standard of goodness and holiness just to fall short time and time again? Todd Pickett, the Dean of Spiritual Development at Biola University, spoke to a group of Christian leaders about this “gap” that is usually exacerbated by our own faith. Morality and holiness become not an expression of love and grace but a standard to which we feel obligated to hold ourselves to. Our faith, as it is expressed through lifestyle, action, and words becomes debilitating because we are trying to climb over a mountain of guilt, shame, and good intentions gone bad; even with dutiful prayer it seems backsliding is inevitable. We want so desperately to be what Jesus wants us to be that we become caught up in all the ways in which we are not what he wants us to be. It’s a terrifying prospect to harbor a deep love for someone and not be able to satisfyingly express that love so that it becomes real.
Paul goes into great depth about this subject in the book of Romans. What does it mean to receive grace? What do we do with it after we have received it? Paul claims that we do not reach righteousness or holiness by observing the Law; in other words we are not made like Christ because we are morally upstanding or because our lives paint the picture of suburban, white picket-fence Christianity. It is through this consciousness of morality that we know we are in desperate need of a Savior; we know right and wrong but we always find ourselves somewhere in between. Paul says that we all fall short of the glory of God, we all sin, we all experience the gap, but there is hope for us. We are justified freely by grace; grace has been given as a gift, no strings attached, no quid pro quo, and no exchange of goods necessary. We receive grace as a token of God’s love for us knowing that the next day we will continue to fall short (Romans 3:20-24).
Something is not intuitive about receiving the grace of God just to squander it the next day. It is here that we must abandon ourselves to the power of God. This journey and quest of redemption is not all about us as individuals or how we measure up to the standards of an arbitrary benchmark that at the end of the day does nothing to pronounce the transforming power of God. The world looks not to our ability to do everything right in order to know God but looks to our humility in the face our sins in order to know God. In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Paul boasts about his weaknesses because it is there that the power of Christ is most profound. Our imperfections and downfalls give opportunities for the redemption of Christ and carve out space for the grace of God. Christ resides in those dark places of our soul and our beauty as God’s creation comes from our dependence upon Him; a sweet submission to perfect love.
Our imperfections do not create the gap between our hearts and the cross, but serve as the bridge between Christ’s healing love and our own desperate desires. Our wounds and shortcomings bring us closer to Christ and closer to the cross for Christ came not to condemn the world but to save it. What use is there of a savior who has no one to save? So be quiet little heart, and know that God’s grace is sufficient for you. May your God go before you in all things and cover you with a saving grace that fills you with a quiet, still love.
Written by Sarah Dannemiller