To be entirely honest, I wanted to give up on blogging this week just because I feel busy and I haven’t been consistent with anything this whole summer. However, I can’t get this week’s message out of my mind. I felt the need to sit down and do the hard work I want to avoid: hear and do. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Matt 7:24)
Sometimes “doing” is preaching the gospel to myself. Sometimes it is sitting down and reading a passage in the Word again and again and again until it sinks into my bones and flows through my veins with its cooling peace. Sometimes it’s gritting my teeth and looking for the positive in the stressful situation and consciously focusing on doing it all unto God – not just writing that phrase onto a cliché meme or hash tagging it on social media.
The storm falls on me this week in sheets of disappointment and crashes in with waves of unexpected and extra tasks. Then it circles around with physical exhaustion and subtle suggestions that I’m alone and overwhelmed and nothing will change.
It’s always the lie that we are alone, isn’t it? That no one else could possibly know what we face or carry? We feel ourselves on the outside looking in at the carefully mortared house walls that others construct for social media and surface conversation. We apologize to unexpected visitors at the state of our lived in home – as if no one else dirties dishes and towels and kitchen floors.
And how many false prophets preaching good things also scream for my attention? How easily I get carried away by their assurances of salvation by works! Relationships, body image, career success, social status, extracurricular memberships, hopes and dreams, a healthy lifestyle, future goals all demand my focus. If it’s good I must say yes and fit it in. But what fruit grows out of my investment in them? What are my motives? Of what does my foundation consist? How thick and unshakable does it reach down to keep me from blowing away on the fickle winds of today’s priorities?
I tend to get so caught up in building and busy with good things of life that I don’t make time for the hard work of abiding. I rush ahead in worry and haste. I start comparing myself with those around me and grab and slop together and ache for where I think the next phase in life should lead me. I take others’ goals and standards of measure and try to achieve them as my own.
I’m ever tempted to build my stuff higher and reach out wider to do more to keep up with some impossible and shifting standard. It’s easier for me to grab another stone and check off another box than it is for me to sit here and let the lesson of grace harden and cure.
But what do I sacrifice in depth and lasting fruit just to place a hundred stones above the surface for others to see? “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matt 7:20) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” (Gal 5:22-23) My focus must be Christ instead of growth or even others. The foundation must be first and all-consuming.
The foundation is the Gospel.
The Gospel is grace.
Grace is Christ meeting the impossible standard of perfection in my place. The foundation is living there. In grace. Sinking down into words of life and arms of forgiveness. Focusing on Christ. Only then rising to reach out with hands empowered by the Spirit.
The hard work of doing starts in the heart, mind, and soul. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace with be with you.” (Phil 4:4-9)0