As a child when I tested my mother’s patience, I always knew when I’d crossed the line. The Look could stop me in my tracks. The one that silently conveyed, “I’d like you to stop that.” That screaming, that banging, that whining or whatever was getting on her nerves. Sometimes it was The Tone that I recognized as, “She means business.” But once in a while I’d push it. See the line in front of me, and defiantly step over it, ignoring what I knew was right. Then I heard it loud and clear.
As soon as I heard that game-changing word, I longed to go backward just one tiny step, to the place where I hadn’t yet pushed her to the point of Enough. (Funny, I don’t recall wishing I could go back and make a better choice from the beginning).
As an adult, those lines are still here. Only now The Look and The Tone have mostly been internalized, guided by the relationship I claim with Christ. Yet I still find myself stepping up to (and over) the same line. When a friend tells me she got a huge promotion with a ginormous raise I stiffly say, “Greeeat!” But inwardly I judge her and feed my envy by scoffing that I “know” she doesn’t work very hard.
Then I cringe because I know I have stepped over that line yet again.
When I hurt someone’s feelings with a sharp word (because they hurt my feelings last week too, you know) I hear from within the resoundingEnough! and wish I could retrieve my hurtful words.
Enter God’s mercy.
He promises that I can turn away, seek forgiveness, and move on. Because he will never again remember (my) sins. (Hebrews 8:12b) I needn’t hold on to my guilt until it festers into shame. I can stop the endless loop of one step forward and two steps back. Of trial and error, error, error.
The apostle Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” (John 14:8)
Satisfied for how long? How much knowledge, how much faith will satisfy? The answer in this broken world is always just a little bit more. A little bit more certainty, a little bit more assurance. Just one more miracle, Lord.
Enter God’s faithfulness.
When I fail to seek God’s wisdom and I blindly convince myself that I know the right direction to take, (even though I’ve passed that same pine tree with the broken branch three times now), God remains. When I grow weary and realize that I will never be patient / loving / forgiving enough with the people in my life, God endures. In my following and in my wandering, in my fullness and in my emptiness, I am still enough for Him. He will still correct me but he will not give up on me.
Too often, I have confused my brokenness with my enoughness.
Enter God’s grace.
“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)
What a relief that I don’t have to have it all figured out before I begin. (This, by the way, is not easy for a planner-type person who loves such things as itineraries and day planners). As long as I commit to Him. Commit my doubts, my questions, and yes, I believe even my mutterings of Lord, what in the world were you thinking? God extends His grace each time he nudges me along the path, each time he calls me to the plans he has for me. When I veer from the path, he leaves a trail of little grace-shaped breadcrumbs so that I can find my way back. In my case, that’s a lot of breadcrumbs.
Unlike Philip, it’s hard for any one thing to satisfy in a time when multi-tasking is glorified and the ability to keep countless plates spinning in the air is not only applauded but expected. What happens when those plates come crashing down? I’d rather move than sweep up all those tiny shards of glass, each one reflecting up at me another failure, another mess.
Sure, God satisfies on a Sunday morning; that’s his timeslot on my calendar. Filled with renewed energy during the last song, I determine to begin another week with God as my focus. I vow to read the bible every evening and make it to Small Group this week. The next thing I know, it’s Thursday night, and I’m eating a bowl of cereal at the sink and looking for my other shoe so I can fly out the door to a candle party I promised a coworker I’d attend.
Enter God’s presence.
There is no “waiting” for God’s presence, the onus is on us.
He is right here this very second, waiting on us and that statement is true every single second of our lives. There’s nowhere to go to enter God’s presence and nothing we do to elicit God’s presence. He is simply-and-remarkably here, period. All the time, no matter what, and he promises to never leave.
Even as much as I know that I know that I know that, I will still miss him unless I get quiet and slow down. I will put him off to the side in the loud, busy hustle of everyday life. When I’m confounded by the tissue that went through the dryer and is now embedded into the very fiber of every article of dark clothing I own. I have to slow down long enough to know that God is right there with me at the lint filter.
When I accept the fact that I can only loosely call what I do to a fitted sheet “folding” or when I muster the energy to unload the dishwasher for the umpteenth time, I can do so from my own abilities as I grumble and feel lacking. Or I can press in to God’s presence when my bare feet find another sliver of glass on the floor and know that even during my messes, he sees me as wholly and completely enough.