I was a child of the flannel-board Jesus — two-dimensional, always smiling, take Him down, and slap Him back up. This is the God who saved you, children.
I held this truth to my tender heart and carried it like a fallen bird. It was special, fragile. Though I didn’t fully understand it, I worked to protect it. Moses and flames and floods and fishermen were scattered through my history, along with chocolate cookie crumbs and ribbons for my Sunday hair.
More than anything, I was scared to death of burning.
I’d stare up at my cracked plaster ceiling, waiting for sleep in the dark that I feared. Instead of counting sheep, I lined up angels, hand-to-hand, around the full perimeter of our old farmhouse. They’d keep us safe until morning.
I always said my prayers. “Forgive me of my sins.” I went with blanket statements, because when you’re seven or twelve, you can’t trust yourself to remember, or even to recognize every failing. One of my greatest worries was dying in my sleep on a night I’d forgotten to ask forgiveness. What then?
Depravity made sense, but grace was dicier.
I saw myself as both the problem and at least part of the solution. I didn’t know it was never meant to be that way.
Decades away from that little girl who’s afraid she’ll narrowly miss the window to heaven, I’m acutely aware of my sinfulness and my need for God. It’s a part of me, this loose cloak of greed, selfishness, mean-spiritedness, and mistrust.
I also know I’m forgiven.
Sanctify me. Nudge my heart ever-closer to yours, God. Show me every day the depth of your love. Show me where I’m wrong.
Late on a Saturday night, God responded to my blanket prayers with a very specific instruction. There was a show in our Netflix queue that does not belong there. It needed to go.
I heard, but didn’t listen.
I like to think of God shaping me as a potter shapes a lump of clay. His hands sweep over my rough places and soften my edges. I abide in imperfect communion with Him and He keeps loving me, keeps making me new.
When He gets really specific, it jars me a bit. I’m no lump of clay. I’m Shannan Martin, and He loves me enough to notice my particulars.
Sunday morning, in the presence of our fumbling body of believers, He told me again. In an instant, my heart was made heavy. I say I rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but it’s so much comfier when the directions are, well, less direct.
I spend my life with hard-scrapping people whose dialect is often salty at the rim and I’m not one to split hairs. The reality of this world plays out on our television screen in ways some might oppose. I make no apologies, because I answer only to One. Now, I was faced with a distinct opportunity to be refined, to rejoice that God’s voice was near me, and to obey.
I sat in the pew under God’s heavy grace — an invitation to simply walk His way.
What if I kept watching the show?
What if tonight rolled around, the house was quieted, and we settled in on the couch, knowing the worst had passed and the damage had already been done?
What if we knew it was wrong, but we went back for more?
Would God cast me out for this? And at what point? Where is the threshold of his mercy? Is this sin any different than the others?
I don’t know. At almost forty years old, I still have questions. What I do know is that His grace is big enough, and He cares about the details. He’s always scrubbing us up with His love and mercy, and He’s willing to get extremely specific when it comes to our souls.
May our ears remain pressed against His heart. May we never forget the power of His voice.