My Ideal Life Exercise has me take one day each week to look at how my Spiritual Life is going, in addition to my daily Bible reading and prayer time.
Right now, I am a little less than half-way through a reading plan which is a nicely-paced Bible in two years program. I’ve done the Bible in one year several times, but in this season in my life, I needed to not feel the pressure to race through my reading just to make sure I got it done…I wanted the freedom to stroll a little and smell the flowers along the way.
Let it never be said that I only cherry pick out of the Bible what I like. Right now, I am smack dab in the middle of the part I would most like to radio for an emergency helicopter out of: Kings and Chronicles.
Naturally, it would be in the midst of this thicket of evildoers that I would find God speaking directly to me, in a most convicting and humbling of ways.
Getting a little heady are we?
Remember yesterday when I mentioned that I had the privilege of sitting down this week with a friend who is struggling through depression? She is being followed with a therapist to deal with many of the deeply rooted issues. Nonetheless, we are friends, and my Ideal Life Exercises have me doing some pretty strange things (taking photos of my food, for example, and putting jars of buttons around the apartment) which warrant explanation. So I did explain, and she said she wanted to know more.
The conversation came so naturally. I was actually feeling pretty proud of myself that I had been able to listen to her without taking on her worries and concerns. This problem of drawing healthy boundaries for me has always been an issue, and people who are struggling are my kryptonite.
But I felt oddly safe as we sat together. I got out paper and a pen and started asking her about her Ideal Life. And she talked. I asked questions. I took notes. She laughed that I was taking notes, but also cried that I was taking notes. She kept asking to see them.
It all felt so right. I watched her articulate who she wanted to be in her Ideal Life, and I saw her, all by herself, articulate small steps she can take to get there.
It felt so right. In spite of the heavy rain, I felt like a little ray of sunshine was shining directly on us for just a split second. She was in the direct beam of God’s attention, as she handed over these little steps for his guidance.
It would stand to reason…
So after that meeting, I felt pretty darn good about myself. After all, God had been the one who got me out of my own depression. The little steps that he and I had committed worked on together were the building blocks of everything I was now working on so diligently.
Not only did it work for me, but this could work for others, too!
I was genuinely happy. I was genuinely moved to see how powerful the act of casting a vision for our Ideal Life, dedicating the details of it to God’s care, can be.
It would stand to reason that as I was floating somewhere on Cloud Nine, that my pride would start rearing its ugly head.
“Look at what I did!” it started whispering. “Aren’t I so faithful? Aren’t I so patient? Aren’t I so holy?”
Naturally, I know that none of this has anything to do with me. I was just a catalyst. I was just there at the right place and the right time. But my pride? My pride isn’t so well-informed.
Naturally, I let my pride talk me into something thinking that I was something pretty darn special. Naturally, I followed my pride down a garden path where we went sunbathing together. Naturally, in the course of just a few days, the words, “faithful, patient and holy” would become words that sounded more like jeers than anything else, as “unfaithful, impatient and unholy” started taking their place.
Dwelling in my little spiritual high, listening to my pride tell me “what a great job I did” caused me to close my eyes to some of the little ways in which I can be tempted to step outside my guardrails. And I stepped. Boy, oh boy. I stepped.
Caught in the act
It’s rarely anything visible. But I know my thoughts. I know the impatient tapping of my foot. I know the places my mind can go if I prevent it. I know when I have been tempted misstep deliberately. I know when I have crossed the line.
I know it’s bad when I don’t even care.
Being that person who can deliberately do wrong and still read my Bible in the morning might make me a hypocrite, but I am a hypocrite who wants to be holy. I am a hypocrite who does, at the very deepest core of my soul, want to please God.
God knows this about me, but he also doesn’t overlook all the ways in which I overstepped my guardrails. That wouldn’t be his style. So instead of letting it slide, this is what I found in my reading:
“He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit… The Lord had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. And since the Lord had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash.”
2 Kings 14:24, 26-27 NIV
This is the story of a king of Israel, who apparently was a pretty rotten king of Israel. He was awful, but the people of Israel were suffering and there was no one else to help them. So, in spite of how awful this king was, and because of his promise to his people, God saved Israel using this bad guy.
What spoke to me first was the “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away…” Those words felt like they were directed at me. Like, as though the eyes of the Lord discreetly flashed on me at the moment I read it. I started to read more carefully.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know I didn’t “save” anyone. But for a few minutes one day this week, you could be forgiven for believing that I thought I did.
God’s faithfulness is what saved that person. In spite of me, in spite of my pride, in spite of my errancy, God’s faithfulness worked through me. And that is very, very different.
Using flawed people…
The Bible is riddled stories about flawed people being how God chooses to work his plan. It is literally a major theme of the Bible: where sin abounds, God’s grace overabounds. I guess I just don’t like to think of myself as one of those flawed people that God would want to use.
I’m a perfectionist, after all, right? Being flawed is not part of my Ideal Life. Just exactly as I was coming to grips with how very flawed I was, my Insta-friend Kim posted this quote from a sign she saw:
Flawsome: adjective. An individual who embraces their “flaws” and knows they are awesome regardless.
I am just going to propose one little tweak and make it my motto for this week.
Flawsome: adjective. An awesome individual who knows their flaws and embraces God regardless.
This is the very essence of grace to me. I know. I know. I know my flaws. If I were to let my flaws be what keeps me from continually pursuing a relationship with God, then I wouldn’t have a relationship with God.
If I were afraid of reprisals and fire and brimstone, I would be afraid to return to my quiet time on the couch early in the morning, examining how things are going in my Spiritual Life. As it stands, what I got was a flash of his eyes as I read, which was all the correction I needed to be put back in my place. Forgiveness asked for, forgiveness received. Problem dealt with. Guardrails are back. If there are consequences for my overstepping, I won’t be defensive about it.
A relationship requires persistence. A healthy relationship means that there are boundaries and limits and when we step outside of them, we don’t ignore it, but we deal with it. I genuinely did not expect that God would use 2 Kings to deal with me about how I had stepped out of bounds, but I am grateful he did.
In my Ideal Life, I am a person who will never be perfect, but won’t stop trying.
How are things going in your Spiritual Life?