Thursday, June 29, 2017

I'm pretty much a horrible human being...

I've spent the last couple days basically being a horrible human being. Or at least, trying really hard to stop the horrible human being tendencies in my heart from popping out in my actions. Unfortunately, behavior modification only works so well - with children and adults - and eventually the heart issues have to be addressed.

During this season, God has been focused on a lesson I'm starting to think of as the "Do" vs "Be" dichotomy. I almost wrote that God is focused on teaching me to "be," but it is even less defined than that because "teaching" would imply a lesson I could conquer and learn and then move on from. Rather, it is a more subtle call to simply pull back from doing and accomplishing and achieving and just rest in relationship. It's a call to find my identity in relationship with Him rather than in how good I am or how much I do for Jesus or how impactful my limited time on earth was for His Kingdom.

And I hate it. If I'm going to be totally honest, I like finding my value in what I do. It's tangible and it's something I can hold on to. It can define me to others. I can say, "I do these things therefore I am." I lead Bible studies, therefore I am spiritually mature. I tell people about Jesus, therefore I am on mission for God. I give to the poor, therefore I am generous. Ugh! I see the pride so clearly in these things, but I am realizing as I'm meeting new people that Jesus is just going to have to shine through ME and not my resume of good deeds for Him - and I'm struggling with that. I've always wanted to be a missionary, but I'm starting to think it is, in part, the ultimate culmination of wanting to find my spiritual identity in what I do. A missionary is a professional christian in so many ways and being a missionary must mean that I really love Jesus - or at least that's what it says to others.

And while I know in my head that it is SO good for God to strip me of these things and show me this ugly pride and the identity I found in "doing," I hate it. Because it shows me who I am without these things and how I don't go to Jesus unless I need Him to help me "do." I don't just choose Him for His sake. I choose Him for how He can help me be and do the things I think I need to do. These last couple days (weeks?) have been me just wrestling against this thing in me that wants to rise up and do - to find value in working for Jesus. Join a ministry. Lead a bible study. Start a church. I want something to work towards. I want something to define me. I don't just want to hang out and love people.

And here I am dumping my sin and pride and ick on all of you, dear friends, and the tears come to  my eyes as I write these words because, in confessing it all out loud, I can see just how broken I am inside. Just how truly desperate I am for Jesus. Just how much I've been deceived to think that my doing is the definition of who I am. If I do the right things, I must be godly. If I act the right way, I must truly be surrendered to Jesus. And friends, I so needed to learn how to act the right way and do the right things at one point in my life. The Bible says the law is a tutor, and it is, it breaks us so fully of our ability to rely on ourselves to have a relationship with God. It leads us to see that it is truly and completely His grace that allows us to draw near to Him. But now His grace is letting me see, as if in neon signs, that I come to the foot of the cross needing grace and mercy not just for my "bad" deeds, but even for my good deeds.

All these years, God has faithfully loved me and allowed me to draw near to Him, even knowing my heart and my motives had some self mixed in. All these years, He saw my inabillity to just "be" and patiently bore with me through it all - never critical, never pulling back, always faithful, always there.

And somehow that breaks my heart even more. That while I was using Him, even unintentionally, He just stayed true and kind and good to me. He blessed me and loved me. He spoke to me and even told me He was proud of me.

And friends, that's grace. "It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began - to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus." 2 Tim 1:9

He says that He sees us with Christ's merit  - undeserved favor from Jesus' accomplishments. And that blows me away because I want God's favor for my accomplishments and yet to Him, our good works are "filthy rags." How can this be? How can we have a God who calls us to live a holy life, but then views our goodness as "filthy rags."

I'm finding the answer is that God isn't as interested in our "Do" as our "Be." He's more interested in who we have a relationship with than how we have an impact on the world. I was the reading the Bible to the kids the other day, and read these words:

"And this is the way to have eternal life--
to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth."
John 17:3

That's it. Real life is just knowing God and Jesus. And somehow I make it so complicated - I get caught up in all the details and all the nuances and all the practicalities - but Jesus keeps it simple: know Me.

I want to know Him. But how often do I get distracted in doing for Him that miss out on just being with Him? How often do I choose distraction over just sitting in His presence?  Before Indiana, I wouldn't have seen it because I went to Him frequently because I needed his help. I had my hands in so much doing, I couldn't do it all without Him jumping in too. But now, with no doing, I have to go to Him because I want to be with Him. The difference is subtle - one I haven't  paid close attention to - but it is there.

I wonder how many of us would slowly drift away from closeness with God if we never needed Him to show up. I wonder how many of us would spend time elsewhere if we didn't have places in our life that needed His intervention?  If everything was perfect all the time, would we still choose Him?

Jesus says that it is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than a camel to go through the eye of the needle and maybe this is because we shy away from relationship with God unless we need Him for something. Jesus follows this statement with, "All things are possible with God" - which gives me hope that God can give us hearts that want Him for His sake and not for what He can do for us.

Thankfully, His love for us isn't dependent on our performance, it is simply dependent on who we know. Do we know Him? Jesus says MANY will come to him in the last day saying "Lord, Lord, didn't we do all these things for you?" and Jesus will say, "Depart from me, for I never knew you."  That's scary to me, especially consider this lesson that God is teaching me. He's more interested in just hanging out with me than He is in what I do. He's more interested in spending time getting to  know each other than in how much I read my bible or whether I am a good parent or whether I give all my money to the poor. He's more interested in a love relationship with me than whether I live as a missionary or are martyred for His name.

"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing." 1 Cor 13:1-3

Without love - His love for us and our love for Him - we are nothing.

I am learning that my love is small, and that while I do love Him and have loved Him all these years - that I have much to learn about love and it what it means to live in love. I have much to learn about setting aside my doing and striving and achieving to humbly be and sit with Him - soaking Him in and not just receiving His help.

I don't entirely know how to go about this, but He's always been such a faithful teacher, I'm confident He'll lead me in the paths of love and relationship. And when I struggle, His grace is there for me - catching me up in the winds of His love because ultimately, He chose me and nothing can snatch me from His hand, not even my own mistakes and failures.  Even if I continue to struggle against finding myself in what I do, He has hold of my hand and is leading me in these paths of identity.

Who am I? I am loved by God. I am His daughter. I am His friend.

And I definitely don't deserve those titles, but they've been given because of grace and love and His persistent desire to have a relationship with me and with all people since the dawn of time.

Maybe you've been defining yourself by what you do or have done or are yet to do - but I would encourage you today - to stop and sit at His feet, put the "Do's" aside and let Him tell you who you ARE - who He has made you to be. It might surprise you, but I doubt it will have much to do with what you will accomplish for Him and will have everything to do with what He has accomplished for you.

"You didn't choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever ask you for, using my name. I command you to love each other."

Let's remember this - we didn't choose Him, He chose us. The fruit that lasts is just a result of us living in Him and Him living in us.

"God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect." John 4:16b

Listen to His words - as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. Not as we learn more. Not as we do more. As we live in Him. As we love Him and receive His love for us.

Father - live in us and let us live in You. Let us draw close to you with pure hearts, and know the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Let us know You and draw close to You - allowing you to make our love more like Yours.

"He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul."

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1 comment:

Alia said...

Beautiful lady!! I miss you so much!!