Monday, March 01, 2010

Try, Try Again

Things were not right with me this fall. I could not get it together. When Christmas and New Year's came around I tried really hard to make things work like I know they should. I resolved to get up early, exercise and read my Bible every day. I was going to make things right if it killed me. It didn't work very well and finally God jolted me enough to show me that I was looking in the wrong place. Try as I might, in my humanness I could not make things right.

I remember having a conversation with my youth pastor when I was in high school. We were talking about how everyone fails and He asked me what I was going to say to God when I got to heaven. I really had to think about that and it struck terror in my heart. The best I could come up with was “I tried?”. I don't remember his answer. I think he was trying to get me to think through it myself but I honestly could not come up with anything.

I couldn't put into words how Jesus paid the price for me. He lived the perfect life I could not and died the death I deserved. Now because of His undeserved gift, I don't have to work at getting to heaven.

As life rolled on, I kept trying. I love God and know that we are all sinners and he is forgiving. But I didn't live like I was forgiven. Maybe because I couldn't face the fact that I needed to be forgiven. I was relying on myself and my goodness. I even memorized classic Sunday school verses like Ephesians 2:8-9.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.

Somehow, growing up in the church, I missed the memo that you can't try hard enough. It's not about training myself to be a good person.

When the rubber hits the road and you realize how lost you are and how many things you do that are sinful, forgiveness and grace take on a whole new meaning. When it's clear that I do not deserve what God offers, I have no choice but to cling to Him. I can rest in His perfect sacrifice.

Now I'm looking at my kids and wondering what they are getting from the church life. Are they getting the message that they need to try harder? That forgiveness and grace are okay for sinners but not church kids? Do they know that in our weaknesses God's strength is revealed?

I don't know. I want them to know and feel the depth of God's love and how it does not depend on us in the least. There is nothing they can do, they can't try harder, or be better to get closer to God or to please Him.

“It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy.”

Romans 9:16

In fact, I think I am learning that the very opposite is true: when you are at your weakest and lowest is when you know God best. When you realize how much you do not deserve his free gift of forgiveness, God is magnified.

There is nothing I want more for my kids than to know that it doesn't depend on them. It is all about God. There is a difference between seeking Jesus and His righteousness and trying to create our own. In our humanness we cannot get there. I want them to grasp that and hold on to it.

There is such amazing freedom in not having to try. And keep trying. And beat yourself up for not living up to what you know should. And then try harder. It's not the life I want my kids to live. It's not the life I want to live. And that is not the life that Christ wants us to live either. I'm finally grasping that. Maybe I'm a bit of a late bloomer.

Now as Christ shows me his unfailing love, it's my job and privilege as a parent to pass that on to my kids. I want them to know I love them and there is nothing they could ever do to change that, but more importantly that He loves them. I want them to know that they are loved for who they are, not what they do. I want them to see that even when their Dad and I fail them, God never will. You don't have to work for something that has already been given.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:6-8


Deb Hansen said...

Thanks Michelle for your post!
If you are a late bloomer then I must be a really late bloomer as I think I am finally getting it at age 47! I'm thinking alot about Faithfulness these days. I know I can't ever be perfect but I can be faithful as I walk this journey with Christ until He says it is time for me to go home. I have won the battle with Christ's help in so many areas of my life but I still have many areas that need changed by Him. I was just praying his morning after my devotions where I read about how we need to be totally dependent on Chris and ask Him to help and deliver us from the sin that we so easily get caught up in. I am slowly learning that he wants to work his best in my weakness as you also shared in your post.
Praying for you friend as you continue on in your journey of faithfulness!

Peter and Nancy said...

I have thought about this very thing so many times -- I don't have a "dramatic" testimony, and I think it can be so easy to slip back into thinking I can somehow be good enough. Until I'm reminded -- by my own failures! -- that I can't.

The last passage you quoted is one of my life verses. It always feels like a big hug when someone else finds it special too!

Anonymous said...

I'm learning to say to my children "There's nothing you can do to make me love you less. There's also nothing you can do to make me love you more." That's what I hear God saying to me as well.

Bonny said...

I have really really missed your blogging!!

mamabear said...

This is so valuable! I grew up in the Catholic Church and definitely missed the message that we are saved by grace, not by works. I've been an evangelical Christian for thirteen years, and I'm still trying hard. Every week or so, God reminds me that I don't have to try. Nevertheless, I get caught up in the same trying the very next week. I think the sin involved is that we want to do it our way. We want to call the shots, try hard, succeed, and feel proud of ourselves, rather than allow God to take the glory.

I am really enjoying your wise words. Bless you!

Steph VG said...

As a "recovering perfectionist," learning this lesson was one of the most freeing things to ever happen to me. I remember the day I read Wiersbe's definition of justification - I just broke down and wept. Suddenly, I understood - my continuing in relationship with God was never, ever based on my performance (though it's still important to confess sin in order to continue growing in humility, and to keep open fellowship - 1 John 1).

Elyse Fitzpatrick defines justification as two sides to the same coin. We often remember the one, "Just as if I'd never sinned," but very few actually know there's another side: "Just as if I'd always obeyed." Knowing that that's how God sees me makes the "trying" less about me being pleased with myself (which is what it ultimately came down to for me) and more about just loving God for His amazing grace! Thanks for sharing your heart with us!