Another stellar devotion coming to us from Mockingtern, Margaret Pope. 

When I was ten years old, I wrote in an email to my grandparents an analogy that I came up with. The email read something like this (copied directly from the original because of course they saved it):

The other day I thought of an analogy related to God’s love. I thought you might like it: Our hearts are like sponges. When God enters our life, we soak up his love like a sponge soaks up water. When the Devil enters your life, he rings out the sponge. Like he takes over your heart and makes it dry. But if you ask God for forgiveness you can soak up His love again and get rid of the Devil’s hatred.

I have been reminded of this simple childhood faith while volunteering with middle school youth group. The lessons each week are straightforward, even basic to those well-versed in the theology, but they nonetheless carry the powerful message of God’s love for us. As I sit among awkward teenagers each Sunday morning, listening to the youth leader explain the gospel, I am convicted of my tendency to overcomplicate what God requires of me which, simply put, is absolutely nothing.


That’s one area where my ten-year-old self went wrong when writing my analogy. I wrote it to sound as though I could play an active role in the renewing of my heart. As if God required my complete and utter repentance before bestowing on me His forgiveness and grace. If that were the case, I would never be forgiven because my repentance would never meet God’s perfect standard.

This idea is depicted in Mark 2 when Jesus heals the paralytic. In the story, Jesus preaches inside a house that is so packed with people that the paralyzed man’s friends cannot get him through the front door. Instead, they dig a hole in the roof and lower the man to Jesus. Jesus responds to the sight of the paralyzed man by saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).  The teachers of the law who witnessed this wondered among themselves how Jesus had the power to forgive sins.

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”

As Drew Rollins discussed at a recent parish retreat, the paralytic does absolutely nothing to earn forgiveness; he hasn’t even asked for it. The paralytic has nothing to offer Jesus, and Jesus demands nothing from him except that he receives the gift of forgiveness. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

We are so often tempted to complicate the gospel. To add to it with lists of dos and don’ts. But it has nothing to do with us. It has everything to do with God. He doesn’t demand that we clean up our acts or kick the bad habit before coming to him. He already knows we are paralyzed with sin and that our hearts are like dried up sponges. Yet he wants us despite that. So I plead with my twenty-two-year-old self to remember my childhood faith. To live in light of the beautiful simplicity of the gospel. To know that God has already forgiven everything, past, present, and future, with the death of His Son on the cross. To rejoice in the knowledge that God is softening my dried-up sponge of a heart, even when I don’t ask. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).