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Once we’ve found The Room of Grace, why is it so very tempting to stray back to the Room of Good Intentions?
You’d think I’d NEVER want to go back to that place again, that place of striving hard and harder. That place that leaves me with the disheartening realization that even my very best, on my very best day, is nothing but filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)
But the truth is, I do find myself straying back to the Room of Good Intentions, without even intending to! Because living in the Room of Grace is not how we’ve been conditioned in this life.
How many times have we heard, “You only get out of life, what you put into it.”
And it follows, the lie that I’ve told myself and lived on through the years: that if I DO enough – if I DO and DO and DO some more, then perhaps, maybe, God will finally be pleased with me. And though I would never say this out loud, and might even deny that I believe it, there’s this little place in the back of my mind that thinks that maybe THEN, if I’ve been good enough, then I’ll have done enough to have earned my little spot in His affections. Oh, I won’t be like Paul, or like Mother Theresa, or one of the biggies, but if I can just somehow sneak through the cracks between the rungs of the Pearly Gates, it won’t matter. It’ll be all good: because I’ll be IN! So, if I’ll just buckle down and strive a little harder, study the Bible a little more. pray with more fervency, give a little more self-sacrificially, work at the Soup Kitchen over the holidays… Something. I just need to do more. I need to be better.
Because I’m not good enough.
And I’m pretty sure He’s secretly, sadly, a little disappointed in me.
Do you know the Robert Frost “Mending Wall” poem, that talks about the tendency of things to fall apart? There’s a well-known line in it that says, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”?
I think for us, almost the opposite is true: Something there is that loves a law.
Laws make us feel safe. So we build them up.
And once I’ve stacked up a bunch of laws around me, I can feel “safe”, if I’m meeting their requirements.
They give us a spot whereby we can measure ourselves, and our achievements.
Where do I stand in regard to this standard?
Have I done enough? Have I been good enough?
Check yes or no.
If I have, then I’m all holy and stuff.
Because I’ve got to convince everyone around me (and myself, primarily. And if I convince myself, then maybe I’ll convince God) that I’m good enough.
But all the while, if we have any amount of introspection, fear and doubt nibble away in the back of our mind, like a little mouse nibbling on the edge of the cheese that’s bait for the trap: “You know…God knows about that evil little thought that you just toyed with. ”
And so there we are, stuck with ourselves and our own lack of holiness.
It’s a never ending process of futility.
This chapter makes two bold statements:
- Until we see God right, we will keep going back to the Room of Good Intentions.
- Your view of you is the greatest commentary on your view of God.
In regard to the first statement, the god I’ve been describing in the earlier part of this post is not an accurate picture of God. He’s just the god I’ve created out of my own sense of shame.
Now, guilt and shame are different.
Guilt comes when I’ve sinned. Guilt is appropriate. It acknowledges the fact that I’ve done something wrong.
But shame says “I AM something wrong. Shame says that there is something inside of me that is so inherently broken that I can never be fixed. I can never measure up. I can never be made right. I can never be good enough.
And when that little mouse of shame is nibbling around inside the back of my head, I turn to that god I have created inside my head. That god who knows the same tragic thing about me – that I’m broken and irreparably damaged. So when he looks at me, all he sees is one messed up chick. The girl who brings a wrinkle to his brow, and a slow, mournful shaking of his head. “What a disappointment!”, he must think.
How did I get to this awful place?
I got here, because, in my messed up view of the world: it’s all about me.
It’s all about how I do. And how hard I try.
And quite frankly, I know I ‘m messed up.
How is this kind of thinking, to anyone, anywhere, good news?
If this is the gospel, we’re all hosed.
But in the Room of Grace, I learn that I’m a new creation. That God, and only God, has done what is necessary to atone for my sin, and He did that 2000 years ago, on the cross. That there is nothing I can do now that will in ANY way make me any holier. I’ve got all the righteousness of God I’m ever going to get. I am, in fact, already righteous, with only one command to obey, and that is the command to love. That once I was born again, all that remains is for me to love, and to mature into who God already says I am.
So, if my focus is on my failures, Jesus has already dealt with those.
Nothing remains for me to do.
But if my focus is on who I NOW ACTUALLY am, united with Him, (I in Him, and Him in me), I am free to no longer focus on ME and my sin. Because that’s been dealt with. I am free to focus on not only enjoying the relationship I have with the One who loves me unconditionally and who has lavished me with His grace, but also on loving others. My focus changes from an inward, navel-gazing striving, to a freed-up-to-love, outward-gazing focus. And that’s why my view of ME is a commentary on my view of God.
Do I trust Him and His power to deal with my sin enough that I can quit focusing on my own dang self?
Do I trust His love enough to believe that as much as the Father loves Jesus, that’s how much Jesus loves me?
Am I trusting in my disciplines to make me strong (self-effort), or in the indwelling of the Spirit, who alone provides the life that springs up from within as a never-failing source to refresh and strengthen? And who alone provides all the love I need to fulfill that one and only command that Jesus gave: that we love each other.
Hope you’re enjoying this series.
Share it with someone who might like it.
This post is the third in a series of posts that I’m writing as notes to myself, to remind me of the things I’m learning from reading, and re-reading a book called The Cure. I have tried really hard NOT to “spoil” some of the most poignant parts and vivid images of the book, in hopes that these posts might drive others to read it for themselves. The link I gave you will take you to their store, where you can purchase it. Here are links to my posts on Chapter 1: Two Roads, and Chapter 2: Two Faces. But the books says things so much better than I ever could.
Reading this book has brought me a tremendous amount of freedom.
It’s my joy to pass along what I’ve been given.