I used to envy the thief on the cross. He accepted Jesus and was immediately told he would be in the kingdom of God. He didn't have to figure out this Christian walk, this path of discipleship.
Growing up I didn't understand the concepts of righteousness by faith or the power of grace. Having been a "good little kid," I also found my moment of conversion a bit hard to pinpoint. But with a good bit of guilt, repentance, prayer, devotional reading, and more guilt, I plodded on--a battle and a march and a use of "will" (as I understood it).
Another concept I only vaguely comprehended was that there are ditches on either side of the path of discipleship. I could slide into the ditch on one side by giving up the walk because of guilt or apathy. But the more hidden gully on the other side was reached by way of the slippery slope of pride and self-righteousness. The optical illusion on that side was that I could be in the gully and still appear to be on the road.
That leads me to my first green plastic frog: Will.
I named a plastic frog Will because of a book that intrigued me called Eat That Frog: 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating (Brian Tracy). I thought that maybe it would provide the answer to the dilemma posed by Paul in Romans 7:21. In my discipleship walk, when I wanted to do good, old habits seemed to be right there keeping me from doing it.
The book made the point that if people knew when they woke up in the morning that they needed to eat an ugly frog that day, if they just ate it first thing, they could enjoy the rest of the day. Will power! Just do it!
And I could sanctify this concept with one of my favorite verses: "I can do all things through Christ" (Phil 4:13, KJV).
So I bought a small, green, plastic frog and named it Will to remind me.
But even with the reminder, life was still a good bit of guilt, repentance, prayer, devotional reading, and guilt as I plodded on--a battle and a march and a use of "will" (as I understood it...).
Then God faced me squarely with the concept of grace.
At first He hardly got my attention. I already knew about grace. It was what brought Jesus to the cross to pay for my past sins, and what would cover even future ones that I repented of and confessed. But I often went for spells of being too embarrassed to look Him in the face and admit that I had "done it again."
It was then that I came across a line of "Christian" trinkets. Everything from bookmarks to lapel pins were being offered with pictures of frogs and the letter F.R.O.G. printed across them. The letters stood for "fully rely on God," and they attached themselves in my mind with John 15:5--without Him I could do nothing.
Pieces of the puzzle began to slowly come together. I needed to be reminded of both things at the same time. I could do anything with Him, and I could do nothing without Him. And thus began my study of the power of grace. Grace was not just what brought Jesus to the cross to forgive me. Grace was also what freed me from the power of sin and filled me with everything I needed to live a productive, non-procrastinating, being-transformed life of discipleship.
I found another small, green, plastic frog; this time I named it Grace.
Will and Grace. The boundaries between which I follow Jesus on the path of discipleship; the fences on both sides of the road to protect me from falling into the gullies; the nothing I bring to the process of salvation, no matter how many frogs I eat, and the everything that God is committed to doing in me that will fit me for the life in the hereafter as His child forever.
The power of grace: Now that I get it, I don't envy the thief on the cross anymore.