My heart knows that I cannot measure up to God’s standard of perfection – no matter how hard I try. I know my tendencies to crash and burn in spite of good intentions. This is where I slide into my cocktail of legalism, mysticism, and asceticism. Instead of focusing on Christ, I stray down paths of replaying the past and worrying the edges of every scenario I can think of in the future with the firm intentions of figuring out exactly where I went wrong so I can prevent myself from making those same mistakes in the future.
There is a difference between learning from the past by gaining wisdom from it and the obsessiveness with which I sort through each possible path the future holds. I turn them over and over and over in my mind, keeping my past sins close and raw. What if I make the same mistakes? I put up a boundary and then another. Pretty soon, I’m barricaded into my own heart with only the reminders of my blunders with which to judge others and keep me company.
There are other areas of my life where I strip down to austerity and I approach it like a penance. If I deny myself enough I will make up for what I have done before. If I reject everyone then I will keep myself from again elevating some human I love above God’s place in my life.
This is the hardest part, willing the words to come, forcing my mind and heart to come to some revelation that I can draw out in words on a page. But growth doesn’t always happen like that. Sometimes it’s the long silence in between shooting out a new tendril or leaf or blossom or fruit. It’s holding fast to the Head, a clinging to the truth that needs no further explanation.
Some days I wrestle and analyze and let the Holy Spirit wreck me with hard questions of my motives. Other days I squeeze my eyes shut, wrap myself tight around the Word, and hang on for dear life. There is no fighting a storm, only gripping and praying.
My 20 something self couldn’t bear to hear that growth comes from every day, stacked moment by moment, a cumulative reaction of what is ingested over time. It’s still not that palatable to my immediate desires and impatient heart, but every seeming roadblock becomes a divine marker on my journey with Christ.
Paul reminds me not to let anyone convince me that I need anything other than and in addition to Christ. There is nothing else. He is the culmination of creation. He is the beginning and the end. He is the substance, the reality, the daily existence right now. From him – not my attempts to figure it all out – comes the peace that passes all understanding.
My ability to follow all the rules has no bearing on my salvation.
I spend so much time chasing after shadows, after the wind, when the substance is Christ. The reality, the essence, the goal is Christ. The point of it all is Him. The meaning of life is life in him. I don’t pretend that I always get it. It’s a daily struggle. It’s faith. It’s mystery. It’s closing my eyes and leaping, yet, simply hanging on.
Whenever I find myself caught in an impossible chase it’s because I’m pursuing fleeting results instead of the reality of Christ. I’m striving for a human ideal that appears as wisdom, while forgetting the One who gives it all freely in the great, gaping hole of my undeserving. These things produce a temporary change that hold for a moment. They allow me to feel prideful in my momentary accomplishment and denial but do nothing to restrain my flesh.
I remind myself to clutch on to what I’ve spent weeks, years ruminating on and wrestling with – it is by grace I have been saved. I died with Christ. God made me alive with Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. But God, the power of the risen Christ, through the Holy Spirit, here and now, because of Christ’s death and resurrection – that’s what changes me. That’s what draws me close to the light and melts away the trappings of this world. I fix my heart and set my mind on Christ again and again and again. Till he comes again or carries me home.
We have everything we need in Christ. Right here. Right now.
Based on Colossians 2:16-23
Check out the Identity Crisis message series at Discover Grace (http://discovergrace.com/messages/)1