Wretched Woman That I Am

January 29, 2010 | 22 comments

I asked my pastor the question the other day at my kitchen table as I poured him a second cup of coffee: “Pastor, do you think I’m a wretch?”

His response: “Absolutely.”

I neither spit out my coffee, nor threw it at him in disgust.

Instead, I nodded in agreement and responded with this: “And you know what, Pastor? I’d say you’re a wretch, too.”


There was a time in my life when the accusation would have offended me. But that was before I took a good, long look at my heart. That was before I saw myself among the most depraved characters of the Bible.

I almost cringe to read the words I just wrote — which puts me among the worst of sinners. I mean, I barely know some of you and I’m introducing myself as a wretch. For the record, I am an Iowa farmer’s wife, a mother of two, a volunteer, and an adjunct professor at a Christian college. But I am also this: First-Class Wretch.

I am part Pilate and part Peter. I am the doubter, the mocker, the Pharisee.

And I am the criminal on a cross beside Jesus, deserving the punishment He got, but getting a crown instead.

But I am also this: madly in love with the One who would make this wretch His treasure.

There are some Christians who don’t like it when we talk like this. They don’t like it when we say we’re wretches. They say that when we continue to sin daily, we put Christ up on that cross and crucify Him over and over again. There are some who say that after we become joint heirs with Christ, we traded in our wretched rags for robes of righteousness. End. Of. Story.

Yet, I cast my eyes down and
see how stony my heart,
feel how cold my love,
and watch how prideful my ways,
And I know
that I know
that I know
that I am still
a wretch.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” — Romans 7:24


A friend of mine knows it, too. She had a package delivered to my front door a couple weeks ago. I ripped into the cardboard box to find a gray T-shirt with the words: “I am the wretch the song refers to.”

More than 230 years after John Newton wrote the words, I feel them in my marrow: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” So I slip that screenprinted Truth over my head and wear those words as a badge of honor — not because I’m proud of my wretchedness, but because I know the One who covers it.

But to some, my choice of fashion reeks of heresy. The shirt was the source of a week-long debate a couple years ago on a Christian web forum.

One person wrote: “I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing that slogan. I used to be a wretch in need of salvation, but since God has done this, I am not to call myself a wretch anymore.”

Another wrote: “Paul says we’re the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, so which is it? Wretched or righteous?”

As for me, I’m both.

There are a lot high-falutin’ words like justification and sanctification that you could use to describe all of this — words that this Iowa mama is still trying to figure out. The way I see it, we’re called to become more and more like Jesus every day.

I guess that would be a little bit like saying we’re becoming less and less wretched.

For me, that process has looked a little messy sometimes because of my two-faced heart: I don’t want to be bad, but I am anyway. I know the law, but I can’t keep it. I’ve done much wrong — and by the end of today — I’ll do even more.

I am in constant need of a Savior, stumbling my way Home. As my 8-year-old daughter Lydia says when referring to the act that started this whole sin-mess: “I’d like to rip that snake’s eyeballs out.”

Me, too, Lydia. Me, too.

And so tonight, when I go to bed, I’ll bow low once again and marvel at grace. And with a lump in this throat, I’ll whisper my thanks to the only One holy enough to cover my wretchedness. Someone once said that the only thing of our very own that we contribute to our salvation, is the sin that made it necessary.

And that I know very well.

Lord Jesus, I am a sinner in constant need of a Savior — not just once but every single day. Wretched woman that I am, who will deliver this body from death? The answer, thank God, is You. Thank you for your amazing grace, that saved a wretch like me. Amen.

Photo: Self-portrait of wretch in wretched shirt, a gift from Lyla.

(This is a repost from the 2009 archives as I let some other words that aren’t quite ready turn and form on the inside. I’ll be back next week.)

by | January 29, 2010 | 22 comments


  1. David@Red Letter Believers

    This is powerful stuff.

    “Part Pilate. Part Peter.”

    In the modern church we are very good about making people feel good about themselves.

    When in actuality we need a reality check.

    Great post

    David – Red Letter Believers

  2. jasonS

    Yes, I remember this one & it's still true. 🙂 Thanks, Jennifer.

  3. Wylie

    This made me tear up. I hear you sister. I am a sinner saved by the Grace of a Great Savior who keeps saving me…

  4. alicia

    While we are saved I think that we all need that reminder that tells us "Hey, watch out, without HIM, you're still just a wretch" We are still a wretch, but not JUST a wretch.
    Great post, great debates, great shirt!

  5. Lyla Lindquist

    A wretch indeed. And that shirt? Filthy rags.

    I'm right there with you.

    Thankfully, so is He, covering the whole filthy, wretched lot of us.

    Encouraged by this one all over again.

  6. Jackie

    Great posting sister!! I'm fully reliant upon the saving grace of my wonderful Savior…King Jesus!!
    Thanking Him that I am continually cleansed by His precious Blood – moment by moment, day by day. Oh what Love, Mercy and Grace extended to fallen man!!!

    Oh, and I would love to rip that snakes eyeballs out too and then slap sister girlfriend Eve….What was she thinking!!!……I'm just saying!!!

    Sweet Blessings!

  7. elizabeth

    A wretch yes…but as the Bride referred to in the Song of Songs, we are, to the Bridegroom, dark but lovely. We must see the truth about our deceitful hearts, while at the same time see the truth that we are fully accepted, loved and covered by Him. In our weakness, even sinfulness, the very movement of our heart towards His, the very lifting of our downcast eyes to His, ravishes His great heart. He is in love with you, with me, wretches that we are…isn't that AMAZING GRACE!

  8. TUC

    Wretched or righteous… both, yes, that is me. Jennifer, in my last post I asked some hard questions that no one truly responded to… and here you have unknowingly written the answers. Thank you.

  9. Jennifer

    A righteous wretch–such opposites. Yet, that's what we find in Christ–a humble King, all man/all God. All I have to do is get out of bed to know how much I am still a wretch if I don't rely on His power. Very encouraging post.

  10. momto6

    This is so true. Do any of us just go forward? I don't know about you but my life is a series of steps forward and steps backwards. During those backwards times, I am definitely more Pilate than Peter. During those backward times, I need saving again – and a shove forward.

    Wonderful writing. So glad I stopped by from Corinne's blog.

  11. Wife to the Rockstar

    Great post.

    LOVE your blog title. Came over from Joyeful Journey.

  12. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    Only when we begin to fully understand the wretch that we are, can we begin to fully experience the amazing grace that He dispenses to us daily.

    Great post here Jennifer!

    Love you – Beth

  13. Shirl

    I so love this. I love your transparency. I love that t-shirt! I think that one of the problems of the Christian community is its fear to admit its imperfections…those same imperfections that cause us to need God's fresh anointing over us each and every day! The same imperfections that cause us to to look toward our Heavenly Father each and every day with a spirit of gratitude.

  14. Laura

    Yes. Yes. I am all of these things too. We are saved and sanctified, true. But good grief, I struggle with sin every day.

    I love this, Jennifer. And I love the photo too.

  15. ~*Michelle*~

    Loved it the first time….and I am pretty sure I love it even more tonight. This struck something way down deep with me for some reason this time…..

    Great stuff, Jennifer!

  16. Kathy S.

    I have quoted your shirt many times myself! True True! I love truth!

    …who will save me from this body of death? Ah Praise God, the blood of the Lamb…


  17. Arianne

    Great post Jennifer. It is so true that we are still 'wretches' but at the same time been cleared of that title. Everyday is a new day to become less 'wretched' while we are lavished with His grace and mercy!


  18. LisaShaw

    Amen and Amen Sister! You speak truth…I'm a wretched woman who has been saved by grace. I'm so thankful to GOD.

    Thank you for sharing…

  19. Runner Mom

    Wow! This was great, and I love that shirt. YOu hit the nail on the head with yoru statement that sometimes we're part Pilate and part Peter yet we're madly in love with Jesus the Christ!

    Jennifer, if you'll email me at [email protected], I'll send you my phone number. I would LOVE chat with you about running!! I know the good, the bad and the ugly(but I won't share the ugly with you!!)


  20. gretchen

    OK First-Class Wrench…. not just "a Wrench", but First-Class Wrench with INSIGHT.

  21. Jamie

    Hi Jennifer, this is my first time visiting and I love it here. “Wretched Woman That I Am” was amazing. Keep the t-shirt! Love the t-shirt! That quote on the t-shirt is just a reminder of what we are without God. And yes all of us are wretches until we are made perfect and living forever with God. In my opinion, whoever thinks that they are not a wretch is saying they’re perfect. Even if the severity of our sins are different, “a treacherous heart” is a treacherous heart, which we all have.

  22. David

    If you are a born again christian how can you possibly use the word wretch to now describe yourself? Wretch is defined as:


    A miserable, unfortunate, or unhappy person. 2. A person regarded as base, mean, or despicable: “a stony adversary, an inhuman wretch” (Shakespeare).

    … the Word of God states otherwise:

    2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV – Therefore if any man be in Christ …


    Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

    Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we …


    For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; King James Bible

    Romans 8:1-3Authorized (King James) Version (AKJV)

    8 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

    Romans 6:14

    King James Bible

    For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

    King James Bible

    Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

    There are many more passages I could provide. So, *before* we received God’s free gift of salvation provided to mankind through the Cross of Jesus Christ and the shedding of his blood thereof, we *were* wretched sinners, and slaves to sin. But, not anymore… we are saints who do sin, but we are no longer slaves to it. There is a huge difference between the two. that verse from Amazing Grace should rather read like: “…and saved a wretch as I was”.

    We as born again believers are no longer what we once were outside of Christ.. we are under grace, and not the Law, under a new covenant..

    Hebrews 9:15

    For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

    Hebrews 8:13

    By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

    The Law shows us our need for a Savior. Jesus fulfilled the Law, therefore we who are in Christ are under a new and better covenant with God through him. It is a complete contradiction for a child of God to continue to call themselves a wretch. Rather we should know our new identity in Almighty God,and by faith,live it. Stop the devil from tricking you into being double minded before God. You cannot be living under the old Law and the New.. that’s not the Gospel :
    Galations 18-9 KJV
    8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

    9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
    My blessings to you sister in Christ.


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