I have this tendency not to write when life becomes "intense", which really means when I feel I am spending more time picking gravel out of my knees because I just fell again than I am actually moving forward.
My friend Iona is amazing to me. She can be so completely transparent about her victories, encouragement, discouragement, and failings. Today I was reading a book by Lisa Whelchel (www.LisaWhelchel.com), and she talked about her failings and weaknesses a lot more openly than most folks I know. Folks who can lay their heart out there for all to see amaze me.
Now, the irony is that I have been told repeatedly that the strength of my writing is in my willingness to be transparent and vulnerable. People want to know they are not the only ones who struggle, tumble, and pick gravel from their knees. Of course, I can only speak for me, but I like to know I'm not in this struggle alone, and I doubt I am the only one who feels that way.
As I sat here and thought about that, I think there are primarily two groups of people who like to know they are not alone in the "gravel picking" department. I think the first group likes to point at others' failures and use them as excuses for how they are. Perhaps that is cynical. I tend to think some folks call things cynical because the truth of the statement hits too close to home, but then, I could be cynical about that as well. Anyway, the second group that likes to know they aren't alone in picking gravel are the ones who desire to be the best they can be, to be a good and faithful servant. Sometimes it is nice to know that even those who "have it all together" really don't. It gives us hope that we are not beyond change. It helps us be encouraged that someday we won't trip over that same rock...again. Somehow knowing others struggle make us feel less like failures and more like works in progress.
In theory, we shouldn't need anyone else to help us with that. The Bible says that He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6). Paul says he moves forward to take hold of the prize, not that he already has, but that he is in the process (Philippians 3). In fact, Paul says the following:
8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15All of us who are mature should take such a view of things..."
Yesterday was one of those days that left me lying face down on the path to eternity, and while it involved an abundance of humility, it was not an act of worship that put me there.
Simply stated, things that were unresolved built up to ungodly levels (Note that if things are not addressed and settled to the glory of God, they are unresolved at an ungodly level, so we had long since taken a flying leap into ungodly levels of unresolved issues). The result was an even more ungodly explosion of anger, hurt, and accusations. Beloved Husband is out of town, so he didn't see the full display, but he heard it. By the time the children went to bed, they had ample opportunity to witness Mommy repenting and explaining that even when someone hurts you or makes you angry, voices elevated to high decibel levels are not the way to handle the situation. The children were forgiving. Beloved Hubby understood the root issues and was forgiving, and when the dust had settled, I lay in the floor and cried.
I hadn't just stumbled. I had taken a header, and from what I could see, I was pretty disfigured. I emailed my friend MaryB and confessed everything. She was loving and kind, and then said the most Realistic thing she could. She said, "But I say, 'Get up. He sees your tears. He knows your humanity. He also knows your familiy's humanity. And He loves because He truly knows YOU.'"
Sounds a lot like Paul, in my opinion. Perhaps Paul's words could be paraphrased, "Instead of lying on the floor crying because I blew it, I get up and move on because I know my righteousness is not dependent on my ability because I have none. My righteousness is dependent on my faith in Christ Jesus who has already become righteousness for me. He is already my perfection, and I am in the process of becoming like Him. I'm not like Him yet, and I won't get there by lying on the floor crying. I choose to press on with faith in Him to make me who He has said I am."
So I embraced Mary's directive, and I got off the floor. I blew it yesterday. I blew it some today. I'm in the process.
You know what really makes me stop and think, though? What utterly fascinates me in all this is my real role in this process. Do you notice that Paul never mentions what he can do to overcome all of his failures? Paul has no four-point plan on how to modify his behavior or stop committing a particular sin. To the contrary, Paul says he recognizes that he will never achieve anything on his own, and his solution is not to "modify" the flesh but to let it die. In fact, Paul considers any effort he can make for his own righteousness to be rubbish, and instead, longs to embrace the absolute necessity of righteousness through Christ as the only means to eternal life. Paul is completely convinced he can do nothing for himself.
So where does change come from? In the two scriptures I just mentioned, we find two simple answers:
1. Dying with Christ and taking His righteousness.
2. Letting God do His job and get out of His way. Notice that Paul does not say, "And if you work really hard, you'll finally get there." No, Paul said that the Father, who began a good work in you, is faithful to complete it.
The last thing I want to mention as a necessity is the filling and leading of the Holy Spirit. Romans 12: 1 and 2 say, " 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. "
How is your mind renewed?
1. Dying to yourself and living in Christ.
2. Letting God do His work in you.
3. Letting the Holy Spirit lead you into all truth (John 16:13).
I won't tell you it is an easy journey. It's not. It hurts. If it were easy, every human being would be flocking to it. However, if you want answers, I got those. I have ALL the answers because I know there is only one Answer, and even when I am lying on my face in the gravel where I just fell over the most obvious rock in the world, He is still the Answer, and when I call to Him, He is faithful to answer.
Praying you remeber that even when the questions are hard or you think you might be bombing your test, there is only one Answer, and He is faithful to answer you when you call to Him...