“Our approach to the Christian life is as absurd as the enthusiastic young man who had just received his plumber’s license and was taken to see Niagara Falls. He studied it for a minute and then said, ‘I think I can fix this.'” ~A story retold by Brennan Manning in The Ragamuffin Gospel (p. 13)
I think I can make this problem go away. I think I can sway the circumstances this direction. I think I can produce in myself all of the fruits of the Holy Spirit…and then God will be pleased.
I can’t tell you how many times this has been the refrain stuck on repeat in my head. I pray for miracles, but I work insanely hard to make them come to pass on my own. I strive, and I strain, and I push, and I pull. And, I somehow think that is going to make the walls of Jericho fall down.
According to Brennan Manning, “We want ever-sharp spirituality – push, pull, click, click, one saint that quick – and attempt to cultivate a particular virtue at a given point of time. Prudence in January, humility in February, fortitude in March, temperance in April. Score cards are provided for toting up gains and losses. The losses should diminish if you expect to meet charity in May. Sometimes May never comes. For many Christians, life is a long January” (p. 22).
Have we been living in a long January?
I know that I get lodged there. Lodged in the muck of my imperfections, the muck of my failings. I was told recently by someone that I respect that a group of people who I love apparently think that I “make everything all about me.” That stings. More than I want to admit. I’m so far from perfect. So far from the polished saint I want to be. Apparently not close to the selfless character I crave.
Sometimes I’m just about ready to give up. Do something crazy to vindicate my imperfections. Rebel a little. Live on the wild side. If only to make my failings a little more pleasant to live with. Embrace the fact that I just can’t win.
Then I read something like this: “Grace substitutes a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our need, a joy in total dependence. The good man is sorry for the sins which have increased his need. He is not entirely sorry for the fresh need they have produced” (C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves, as quoted in Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel, p. 17).
I’m in fresh need. I believe if we are honest, then we could admit that we are all in fresh need. Maybe me more than you. But fresh need indeed.
I haven’t even wanted to tell anyone that I am struggling with a diagnosis of infertility. Why? Most would say because I’m private (not really). Many would say because it hurts too much (maybe). But, the real root of my quiet is my fear of other’s judgement. I hear their unspoken thoughts, echoing my ever-deepening questions…
“Who is she to try to get pregnant when her budget just barely balances?”
“Who is she to want a baby when she knows that daycare of some sort is in that child’s future?”
“Who is she to go to all this trouble when she is still so young? Doesn’t she know that she has lots of time ahead of her?”
“Who is she to focus on herself and her desires when so much is going on in other’s lives?”
Legitimate questions. I still hold my breathe and wait for the “I told you so” responses that I believe are coming.
I admit. I’m struggling to make out the forest or the trees right now. But, like Hansel and Gretel, perhaps my trail of broken kernels will lead somewhere.
Please forgive me if I have ever made a conversation or a relationship all about me. I am truly repulsed by that image of myself. Sometimes I run from your hurts because I feel them so deeply. Sometimes I run from them because I am pre-occupied and selfish. Guilty as charged on all accounts.
As I’ve said, I’m in fresh need.
Today, I behold the gift of grace. I run toward it with open arms because I am and will always be a mess. Messy faith. Messy prayers. Messy relationships. Messy desires that don’t make sense.
But, a God who does. Grant grace. Grant forgiveness. Grant tears when the soul had shriveled. Grant miracles because He loves us. Grant answers when the logistics are impossible. Grant friends and family when we don’t deserve them.
Let me share with you the embrace of our Savior, who…
shared a drink with sinners.
healed bloody diseases and wounded hearts.
put a dirty child in our midst and compared that to the kingdom of heaven.
hung out with stinky fishermen.
sings and dances over His children.
Let’s take, eat…grace…broken for us.