pondering lately

posted in: on being a captive set free | 0

It’s fitting that my last post was about New Year’s Resolutions. That’s the last time I’ve looked at this blog, and it’s {kind of} what I’ve been thinking about since.

Yes, it’s February 7th.
No, I haven’t started anything revolutionary.
Because I needed a plan first.
And it’s not Monday.

So. I’ve been pondering. How can this year not look like last?

How can I be less:
desperate
depressed
exhausted
irritated
grumpy
{you get the idea}?

How can I be more:
joyful
hopeful
patient
gentle
gracious
kind?

Unfortunately, I am deeply aware that no plan or number of Mondays is going to fix my problems. Even all the Vitamin B12 and exercise in the world can leave me snapping at my kids and harboring resentment. I’m starting from a faulty premise to just make a list. I don’t get to conjure up the fruit of the Spirit. Maybe I can try really hard for awhile, but eventually I will burnout in anger and frustration.

Only God changes hearts.

What’s the line between God’s work and my work? It’s not His, then Mine. It’s His all the way. There actually is not a line, I think.

So I can rest in the finished work of Christ on the cross. I can fix my eyes on Jesus and trust Him to do a work in me that only He is capable of.

But I still have to walk, right?
To put on love?

“Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3)

I want to walk in a manner worthy of my calling! Not because I am worthy, but because I know I’m notThis has been the sweet truth whispered to my heart as of late:

You are not worthy.

(Yes, I said sweet.)

I am not worthy, and yet He loves me!

Oh, glorious truth, that nothing within me makes me worthy! I have nothing to maintain! No facade to keep erect, no faking, no trying so hard I collapse in a pile of failure. I am loved! And so I can live as though I’m loved.

I can walk worthy of my calling as I live out of God’s great love for me in Christ.

This isn’t new or profound, and yet somehow, it always is.

I think I’ve been stuck on this pendulum: First, I try really, really hard. Then I realize I can’t try hard enough and maybe even scold myself a bit and stop trying. Then I’m frustrated by my perceived lack of growth so I try really hard again.

Is it possible to be simultaneously “trying” while “resting”?
I wonder.

I want to be different, but I don’t want to be obsessed with being different. I want to be obsessed with Jesus. But the more obsessed I become with Jesus, the more unrest I feel over my persistent sin. The more I long to make strides toward a life of obedience. The more convinced I am that sacrificial obedience holds the secret to experiencing true joy.

I read a helpful article by Rod Rosenbladt from an old issue of Modern Reformation (shared by my husband). He writes:

“[Many Christians] tend to think that their standing before God–now that they are Christians–is based on their own obedience and their own righteousness. They have forgotten the fundamental fact that the gospel is “outside of us.” It was “outside of us” when we turned to Christ for salvation and it is “outside of us,” now, as we progress in our sanctification…Christ’s death was outside of me and for me. It is not primarily something that changes me. After one has been declared righteous by grace through faith, this grace will begin to change us (sanctification). Nevertheless, its changing us is certainly not what justifies us…

Any righteousness that we have, even in the Christian life, is a gift to us…

Anybody who is in Christ is sanctified, because Christ’s holiness is imputed to the Christian believer…But, some may ask, why should we be called to holiness if we are already perfect in Christ? That question has been asked before, and Paul’s answer in Romans 6 is because we are saved unto good works, not unto licentiousness. Good works are done out of thankfulness of heart by the believer who has been saved, not by one who is trying to be saved by following the law.

As I walk through life resting in what Christ has done, is it okay to still try really hard?

I want to try because I’m deeply grateful.
Grateful that He would save a wretch like me.
Grateful that, though I am unworthy, He loves me nonetheless!
Grateful that my “progress” doesn’t actually depend on me. Because He is faithful! And He’s promised to do it! And so I can trust Him for the grace and the growth.

But then I shouldn’t be surprised when I fail in my “trying.” Instead, I can just hold fast to Jesus. Fingernails in, clinging hard. Trusting Him to show off His sufficient grace in my mess and weakness.

I want to stand up as a trophy of His grace and scream from the rooftops, “If He can save me, He can save anyone!” He makes all things new! That truth is new and fresh and real and I can taste it as I write it, sitting here wanting to laugh and weep in the middle of Caribou Coffee.

I feel leery to write about it. There are bloggers on both sides of the pendulum: blogs about how to try really hard, and blogs that stick to straight theology. Surely one leads to the other. Trying must flow out of our resting and bring us back to it again and again. Some have figured out how to write with that balance. Greater yet, some have learned to live in it. I’m not sure I have. But I want to try.

I can’t believe I just said I want to find the “balance.” (See #7)

I guess we’ll call that growth.