The Gospel in the Van

By Myra Dempsey

I’ve heard the “big picture” of the gospel- God’s creation, the fall, Christ’s redeeming death and resurrection, the sending of the Holy Spirit, all the way to the second coming of Christ and eternity in heaven- described as “The Gospel in the Air.” 

Conversely, the “zoomed in” view of the gospel, how it applies to me and impacts my life, has been termed “The Gospel on the Ground.” So, as I thought about what to share, in hopes of glorifying my King and encouraging my VGF family, I thought of where the gospel most often intersects with my life… in our family van. 

I was very humbled when I was given the opportunity to contribute to the VGF blog. In the spirit of complete transparency, I’ve battled insecurities about not being formally educated in theology, or being able to include deep philosophy. But then I was reminded of 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 and was encouraged to take joy in being the “member of the body” that God has made me, a wife and mom of three, among other things. I was also encouraged to remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful and all-sufficient, without any addition or embellishment that our human minds may deem necessary. Sound theology and “deep” philosophy are wonderful things, given by God, for his glory and our enjoyment of him! As are all things. Like music, good food, sex… and automatic sliding doors on a minivan. 

I often feel the impact of the gospel while driving my three kids around in the van, because that is often when I most clearly see my depravity and need for a Savior. My sinful grids include a lot of lies about where my value and worth lie, mainly in my own performance. Those distortions, which I all too readily believe, bleed over into so many daily interactions! Our emotions do not exist in a vacuum. What we believe to be true, even in a seemingly mundane moment, directly impacts what we feel and what we do (and say!). So when my anger flares in that trusty, crumb-coated minivan, what is really happening? 

I am a good mom when my kids obey. 

I am a good wife when I’m productive.

I am a good person when I meet all of society’s expectations. 

So when we’re running late for an appointment, are leaving the house a disaster, and the kids suddenly forget how to put on shoes or what a coat is, I feel angry and end up yelling at those precious little ones. I’ve forgotten the Truth. 

I am a blood-bought daughter of the Most High God. 

Jesus alone is the source of my worth.

Life is not about my comfort, convenience or about ME at all.

Everything God has entrusted to me, most especially my kids, are for Him, for His glory alone.

Nothing I do, or don’t do, affects how God feels about me or changes my right-standing before Him

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures…But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7 

Wow! Now that realigns things!

I can breathe. I can enjoy the little moments, even the chaotic ones. I can address my children’s disobedience from a gospel-centered perspective, rather than from angry, personal offense. I am no longer first in my own thoughts and affections. Jesus is. The thoughts and emotions that would normally rob me of joy and inhibit worship of my Savior are replaced with ones that spur me toward connection with Him. So, what do we do when we fail miserably at this, as I so often do? I can tell you with confidence what we ought not do. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, have been given a new, regenerate heart, and have had your mind awakened to the truth of God, you do not do shame and guilt. There is absolutely no rightful place for shame and guilt in the Kingdom of God, because all shame was taken by Jesus on the blood-soaked cross! He was stripped, beaten, and hung naked for all to see. He was shamed. So I don’t have to walk in shame. He took it in my place! All of our sins were future sins when Jesus chose the cross. He is not surprised or caught off guard by your failures, by mine. He operates outside of time, and knew full well every single sin we would ever commit when he hung in agony on that torturous, beautiful cross. And He didn’t stop there… He powerfully and finitely defeated death and the grave! It is finished. So my guilt has been absolved and I am found innocent, ONLY because of the blood of Jesus. What charge can be brought against us, Church? Is our sin more powerful than Christ’s absolution? Are we really so arrogant as to believe that His redemption isn’t quite enough for our mess? No. It’s all been paid for. By the most beautiful, pride-shattering, expensive, free grace. So we don’t do shame and guilt. 

We do repentance. The truth of Jesus’ monumental sacrifice merits one appropriate response. We fall to our knees. Our culture emphasizes independence and self-sufficiency. Our innately sinful hearts rebel against submission to our King. So it is a beautiful, merciful work of the Spirit when we feel convicted and are lovingly drawn toward repentance. Don’t fight that, dear friends. Don’t harden your hearts. Instead bow your knees and enter in to His rest. How peaceful it is to remember that we are not in control, that He knows what is best for us, and that worshipping and enjoying Him is where our best life is experienced!

“I’m so sorry I yelled at you, guys. Mommy has a sinful heart. I need Jesus to forgive me and make me clean again. And he does! Isn’t that amazing?”And we go on. We have dance parties, read The Jesus Story Book Bible, cuddle and laugh. 

And I yell, and pull away emotionally, even spank in anger. And I’m convicted. I’m graced, by God, with the reminder of what’s True. So I bend the knee of my heart and say I’m sorry. God’s inexplicable, completely un-human grace meets me and heals my broken grids once again. I get to worship and enjoy Him, and tell my kids about his mind-boggling goodness. And we repeat. 

I’m far from perfect, and I am no longer a slave to sin. Right there in that old minivan I’m “being transformed into [Jesus’] same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor 3:18). Don’t run from Him, Church, run to Him! Refuse to do shame and guilt. Do repentance instead.All to the glory of God!