The kiddos and I were out this morning spreading mulch around the front flower beds, taking trips back and forth with a borrowed wheelbarrow wagon. These little ones love to work hard, especially if every trip back and forth is rewarded with a ride in the wagon! We’ve all come in now to find refuge from the crazy heat (does it feel terribly hot to anyone else for May??) so I have a minute to put up a quick little knittery post.
Over the weekend I cast on a baby gift item, so I can’t share too many details here, but it is really a fun knit so far. More about it once it has been gifted!
Also, I finished The Awakening of Miss Prim (enjoyed it!) and began reading From Good to Grace: Letting Go of the Goodness Gospel by Christine Hoover. Friends, this one is meeting me in a very profound way. There are some things my husband and I are working through, praying over, laying before the Lord, and this book is speaking directly to it. I bought it back when it was a new release with some saved birthday money last year and its funny how I haven’t felt like it was the right time to read it until now. The author is addressing her own tendency and battle with legalism/moralism, what she is calling her “goodness addiction,” which is basically whenever we try to earn our way to God, whenever we think we must be “good” for Him, in order to earn His love or favor or grace or salvation. This is one of my most deeply rooted battles, something I struggle with every single day, and something the Lord must be working to free me from. Of course, He began speaking to me of this back in my early college days, and its amazing to see the progress He and I have made, and yet sometimes it startles me to see how my “goodness addiction” creeps back in. I love how the author quotes:
“The Gospel was not my working theology: Mine was moralism and legalism–a religion of duty and self control through human willpower. The goal was self-justification, not the justification by faith in Christ that the gospel offers. But, as many people can tell you, moralism and legalism can “pass” for Christianity, at least outwardly, in the good times. It is only when crises come that you find there is no foundation on which to stand. And crises are what God used to reveal my heart’s true need for him.” (Hoover, quoting Rose Marie Miller)
Yes, when life is working for us, working hard to earn God’s favor or to stay in His good graces flies under the radar, and looks an awful lot like Christianity. We’re productive! We’re doing good things! We’re happy-clappy and strong! We can feel pretty good about ourselves, even a big smug about our work for God. Maybe a tad reproving of other believers who aren’t as productive as we. In fact, I believe this heresy is still terribly prevalent in our current church culture, at least here in America. I feel like since I battle this so deeply, I see it easily in others. But our crises sift us. It’s one of the few beautiful gifts that come from a painful trial.
One of the hardest things about this whole past two-year journey dealing with all the ups and downs and life changes that have come with Phoebe’s diagnosis has been the way it has wiped me out. It has made me feel emotionally and mentally weak. I don’t know much else how to describe it beyond a feeling like I can’t breathe. On the hardest days, I’ve literally felt physically short of breath. An old heart condition of mine began to flare up, and I was back on a heart monitor for a month and seeing a cardiologist. As far as we could find, there was no physical problem, so the cardiologist told me it must be stress.
I’ve had to pare down a lot of my commitments and focus most of my energy on caring for Phoebe’s particular needs. I have felt pretty lame as a Christian in the sense of how “small” my circle has been drawn, how very small my efforts seem, how very unable I am to serve in some of the ways I used to and desire to. Guilt comes easily. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that the Christian community isn’t terribly great at letting each other go through seasons of weakness and unproductivity. The great injustice of suffering something is that not only are you bearing the burden of your ordeal, but then you feel terribly guilty for your weakness in it. You feel guilty that you aren’t being “a better Christian” in the midst of it. You feel like you must hide your suffering and struggle and questions. As Ann Voskamp said in her book The Broken Way, “When the church isn’t for the suffering and broken, then the church isn’t for Christ.” We can say until we’re blue in the face that we are a place for the broken, but if the broken don’t really feel welcome? If the broken don’t really feel safe to just BE WEAK and be seemingly useless for a season?
I am just now, just now after almost two years on this journey, just now beginning to surrender to my uselessness before the Lord. I can’t even describe in words how He has been ministering to me and speaking and carrying and meeting me in ways I do not deserve and can hardly receive. I have learned that I must ask Him and HIM ALONE what He wants from me. What does faithfulness look like, Lord, in this season? What do you want from me? Not: what does the church want from me? Not: what does my family want from me? Not: what do my friends expect of me? But what do YOU want, Lord? And His answer:
“Worship. I desire your worship. That is all. In everything you do, in whatever you put your hand to–do it as unto me. Do it for me. Find me in it. Enjoy me. Receive from me. Do the hard work of receiving all of me. I gave myself for you, to you. I am split open, broken, blood-spilt for you. Take and drink. Take and eat. This is your holy hard work. This must come before you do any endeavor in my name, and this must be the place from which you continually abide.”
And I believe I am finally learning to rest in Him. To receive Him. To be weak before Him, as much as I despise that weakness in myself and wish I could be a star pupil. I am learning to stop earning what has already been DONE for me. I am learning to stop trampling His precious blood underfoot as I run about in all my human efforts (Heb. 10:28). I have tried to do great things for God, when all along He has wanted me to see what great things He has done for me. I have had my eyes turned inward, when He has wanted them turned upward.
Laying down all this striving? It feels a lot like a death of sorts. Death to a way of thinking, a way of living, a former identity. That old flesh of mine keeps resurrecting, it would seem. And death feels terribly counter-intuitive and painful to the flesh. It is plain unnatural. But it is the upside-down way of the Kingdom of God: whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matt. 16:25). Sometimes we have to lose everything we’re clinging to in order to see and know and experience how held we are.
We get to be weak, friends. We get to be the weak that we are. He receives us just like this. He wants us to drink our fill of Him again and again and again. Maybe His goal isn’t for us to eventually move from our place of weakness to being strong again. Maybe His goal for us is to remain here. To remain terribly, painfully aware of our inability and weakness so that we are dependent on Him for every thing. Maybe thats what He means when He says He uses the weak things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27) rather than saying He transforms the weak into bastions of strength. If that feels a bit scandalous for you to say (as it does for me) than maybe we’re really not walking in grace like we think we are. Maybe we really need to revisit the scripture and take a good hard look at what the Gospel is.
Anyway.. My little yarn along post turned into pouring out my heart. I hope it resonates with someone out there just a little bit. I hope if it does you’ll consider reading Christine Hoover’s fantastic book, From Good to Grace.
(And just so you know, I don’t get any kickback for promoting her book. I just share good books because I believe in the power of the written word as a tool for change. I do always link to amazon and technically am an affiliate with them, but I have never made a single dime off of that affiliation. Just so you know. 🙂 Because I know I’m skeptical of people like that. #skepticforlife)
I’ve written about this theme many times. If you’re interested, here are a few of those posts: