Tuesday, July 1, 2014

However long & hard I strive, I will never arrive.

I listen to podcasts almost daily while I do chores or drive.  Sometimes, I have to pause, dry my hands, and take notes.  But lately, with blogger Edie Wadsworth's new "Grace Talks," my notes turn into full on self-evaluation sessions.

In Edie's "The Life You Love Manifesto," she describes our Life of Faith as a life of receiving, not of doing.  She lingers on the point that "we bring nothing to the table except sin and despair" and every good thing at the table is from God.  I look back on each guilt-generating seminar and self-help book that I have raved, craved, and prayed over and am finally comforted.  Truth that I already knew rings truer.  Peace sweeps over me.  God brings grace; grace leads us to hope because it grants righteousness.  On my own, I am not righteous.  Nothing I could ever do will ever change my status- neither of my two statuses:

1) I am totally bad.
2) He makes me totally good.

Edie shares her personal experience (I hang on the wise words of older godly women) of trying trying trying for years and years to get it right, stuck in the endless cycle of spent energy and guilt.  I am so there, my friends.  I have created and renovated self-improvement lists, habit-breaking strategies, and personal schedules for which there is not enough time in the day.  No matter how long and hard I try, I will never arrive.  The more likely scenario is that I will spend another decade striving, failing, and guilt-ridden, possibly bound for the stress that beautiful and redeemed writer Ann Voskamp once felt when she wrote,
“I wake to... the wrestle to get it all done, the relentless anxiety that I am failing. Always, the failing. I yell at children, fester with bitterness, forget doctor appointments, lose library books, live selfishly, skip prayer, complain, go to bed too late, neglect cleaning the toilets. I live tired. Afraid. Anxious. Weary. Years, I feel it in the veins, the pulsing of ruptured hopes. Would I ever be enough, find enough, do enough?"  
We can spend our lives on earth lamenting that we cannot reach godliness not realizing that, when we see Him in heaven, we will more so lament not having fully experienced the freedom and rest that He offered while we were still on earth.  Oswald Chambers so beautifully describes the "delight of despair" you will feel at the moment when you fall prostrate, as John did in Revelation 1:17-18, and Jesus touches your shoulder,
"You know it is not the hand of restraint, correction, nor chastisement, but the right hand of the Everlasting Father... it is an ineffable peace... full of sustaining comfort and strength.  Once His touch comes, nothing at all can throw you into fear again."  
In this mortal life, we should not expect to continually feel the utter fullness of His patient love- for we cannot remove ourselves from the context of our earthly circumstances and daily conditions constrained by our mortal needs and faults, surrounded by the devastating faults of others, and filled with sympathy or sorrow (Bernard of Clairvaux). But, when we see Him, we will be given understanding.  We can delight here and now in believing that moment will come.  I choose to fall into that happy rest that he offers now.  I will put forth effort, but I will not put my hope in that effort.  I will never "arrive" or be "enough," but He is enough and His grace is sufficient for me.

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