when I'm ugly and God sets me free..again...
I think God is teaching me something and yet again because I am so willfully stubborn it is slowly burrowing deeper and manifesting as a restlessness in my heart. Like all truth that does not suit my preferences it is taking time to actually penetrate my soul. He pursues us and for that I am grateful, even if what I discover is more ugliness He wants to uproot in my life. Again. Because uprooting makes room for new planting and harvesting. As I was following two sweet little girls around the woods trying to capture sweet smiles I looked up at the surrounding trees. Ironic that in fall the death of leaves is actually beautiful and makes room for new life.
I'm the god of my life too often. True story.
I can be apathetic to the hurts and struggles around me because my focal point is smack dab in the middle of my own mess. I think I can control or figure out everything and if I get it just right I won't feel so desperate all the time. I lift others up but make petty and rude comments to my own husband when no one is looking. My selfishness comes out in harsh words or apathy towards our kids. I bend the rules for myself but hold them up for those closest to me. I justify my sins; "I deserve this", "At least I am not doing that", "everyone struggles with impatience or anger or envy (insert sin here)." I make huge what God says is small and I brush off what He says is a stumbling block. I care too much about what people think of me. Moving and starting over has made me realize that I still struggle with this more than I know or care to admit. "...for they loved human praise more than the praise of God." I keep coming back to this day after day. I know this because I serve others eagerly but struggle to serve my husband and kids on a daily basis in the small tasks of butt wiping, sweeping up Cheerios, and packing and unpacking book bags. I want things in return for all my efforts. ick unload.
But God says something different. We are called to invite those to the banquet that can never repay us; not those who will reward us with praise. Seemingly selfless acts done for selfish reasons are ugly, just like the Pharisees who pray loudly so all can hear "they received their reward in full." Jesus even told one he was like a cup that was polished on the outside while the inside was disgustingly dirty. Ouch. But wait...here is where Jesus rocks my world yet again. He said the cure for this is not more polishing; more seminars, more self help books, more resolutions, more trying really hard, more good intentions. I think those all ricochet off the gates of heaven if we don't really seek only Him and His kingdom. He said "give yourself as a gift and then you will be clean." One of the many paradoxes of Jesus; don't hold back, get it together, and try really hard but radically trust God and pour yourself out for others for His glory.
Scribbled in my journal are pieces of what He is showing me.....My heart attitude matters to God, not just my outward actions, especially when those actions are done with a bitter, stubborn, or begrudging heart. My selfishness manifests is all sorts of nasty and robs me of the life God wants for me in the micro moments of everyday. I am realizing that lately it is like I am leading a quiet rebellion in my soul against who God says I am; free, loved, redeemed. I keep trying to do better and be better and then am shocked when I feel helplessly lost when I inevitably fail. And I am always afraid that people won't like the real me; full of paradoxes and hypocrisy and failures. But then as I get to know others; I mean really know them, I am reminded they are too. And I need this mutual vulnerability even when it comes at a cost of vanity or pride. And it always does. So maybe in my mess I am really becoming free. Because it is becoming easier for me to see it as ugliness and not justify it away. I feel the roots being pulled up and the soil being prepared for something new. Again.
I want my life to be defined by blessing; radical gratitude lived in small and big moments of love that spills from me. That requires humility and not the false kind we toss around as if it is meaningful. The kind that believes all we do is for His glory, the small moments we think no one is watching and the bigger moments lived out with others. Good News is not something we just talk about and hope for it is something we live; even in the midst of our messes because in our Creator there is Joy and Hope found no where else.
He has called me His and I am free. But I am still struggling to embrace my freedom. I am really free. Free from burdens and yokes that weigh us down or those we step into and comfortably wear because it is what we know. I am free. You are too. We are free to live and learn and hurt and grow and forgive and embrace and bump into one another and be honest about the journey. God says we are forgiven and loved not because of anything we have ever done or could ever do. There is such relief in that. Not relief to do whatever I wish but relief to surrender and stop trying so hard. Relief and grace to live abundantly. Redemption is powerful and doesn't just adjust my world: it completely interrupts, disrupts, reorders, and remakes my life if I choose to surrender. This journey requires way more sacrifice and letting go than I ever thought when I accepted Jesus' invitation to walk with Him but it also offers way more freedom and life in that releasing than I ever thought possible.