Quick Update: I am on the first leg of a 40 hour voyage to go help a couple of my best friends in the world serve some folks in Liberia right now. I really can’t describe how thankful I am. I just got laid off on Monday, which I thought could never, would never happen to me. Everything is in flux. There is more change than I can handle. In the midst of all this, I have the chance to go to a beautiful country and serve with two amazing dudes. Here I am, jobless and facing other severe life challenges, and I cannot stop spontaneously smiling. Swoon. I. Can’t. Even.
Thank you to everyone who helped support me and make this trip happen. If you’d like to support Partner Liberia (and me, while I work with Partner Liberia and look for more permanent work), please go to www.partnerliberia.org and give. Thank you!
Most times, a post named like this one is a Tony Robbins-esque motivational piece. It will tell you all you’re capable of and how nothing can get you where you want to be apart from hard work and determination. This is certainly not one of those posts. This is a post about relinquishing your powers, abilities and determination and allowing yourself to be washed over by the beautifully terrifying flood of grace.
A couple of years ago, I decided I had no need for God. I can’t say that I stopped being a believer. At my furthest, I called myself a deist. I was confident that there was a Creator. Someone who not only set this world into motion, but who kept it all bound together. This god was a living embodiment of love and a common thread flowing through all of humanity. He was the mold from whom we were built, leaving his imprint on all of us. Despite those qualities, I ceased to believe in his sovereignty and his concern for us. I thought of him as disconnected and disinterested. He was someone who set this cosmic plate spinning and subsequently set off to tend to other things.
I still believed Jesus existed as well. I believed he was an amazing person who set the standard for how we were meant to live. I wanted to to be like him. The thing is, without believing that I had God’s help, it was on me to be like Jesus, to be the man I was meant to be.
The result was a tremendous amount of disappointment and frustration. I tried to love others despite myself. This is what that sentence means to me:
I had very low opinion of myself. My self worth and confidence were in shambles. Massive cognitive and emotional dissonance existed between who I was and who I perceived myself to be. I found myself to be, in short, a stupid asshole. This type of perception led to two separate results. First, perception became reality. Most people probably didn’t notice, because I still fought to be good to others, but I was growing decreasing tolerant and caring inside. I could find a way to be bothered about nearly everything. I became short tempered and constantly anxious. Criticism was my language of choice. Next, I projected my view of myself onto others. I thought myself selfish, intolerant and irrational, so I assumed everyone else was the same. I approached every situation with this contextualization.
The example that most easily comes to mind is the terror I was when driving. The insulation of being in a car freed me to feel okay about treating people terribly. If someone cut me off, there was no way it was an accident, there was absolutely malicious intent. They got the finger. If I was at a four way stop and a driver proceeded ahead of me out of turn, I tailgated them as long as we were headed in the same direction, to make perfectly clear that they were in my way and inconveniencing me. In some situations, I managed to behave better, but I had to fight my initial instincts. My first thought was always that others were trying to do me harm and I would fight against that instinct and try to treat them well. It took so much effort to be good to others. The cycle exhausted and defeated me. It drove me to the end of myself.
About two months ago, I realized I just couldn’t live in this world as I desired without help. I found myself screaming into an abyss. I desperately wanted to love myself and my fellow adventurers on this beautiful, spinning ball of chaos. I wanted to help restore Shalom. I invited God back in. I chose to believe that He is a good, loving father and that he made me beautifully. I chose to let his grace, steeped in folly, drown and kill the striving, unhappy man I was. As Aslan did to Eustace, He’s peeling back the layers of a tough, hardened monster. He is leaving me with the truth that there is nothing I can ever do that is so great that He will love me more, there is nothing I can do that is so reprehensible that He will love me less. I now get to live in the freedom of being His beloved son.
Being the son of the author of the universe is a freeing experience. Accepting His unconditional grace is transformative. Now, rather engaging in the Sisyphusian task of digging up and displaying love for others, I get to let His flow through me. It’s far easier and more effective than I ever could have hoped. Turns out, Jesus’ yoke actually is easy and his burden actually is light. There is nothing you can do to earn and display this transfiguring grace. All you can do is accept it. And that starts with you.