IT NEVER FAILS. I go for a stretch of time where my spiritual life grows, and it’s awesome. I discover new aspects about God, or maybe things I already know get more profound. These periods of time typically peak when you feel like you’re walking on clouds. You’re on top of the world, and nothing can take you down.
Then it happens. I get ahead of myself. I start to think it’s all about me, and my chest gets puffed up with pride. I get over-stuffed and over-confident.
I imagine God saying, “Okay, here we go. Time to start over again.”
It’s important for me to keep tabs on my spiritual reserves. Cultivating this part of my life must be a vigorous process. The paradox here though lies in the concept of strength. As a man, I want to be strong. I want to be capable, and seeking God does this for me. Still, it gets to a point where I gain enough knowledge and experience that I depend less and less on the Spirit to guide me.
I’ve heard it said that a sanctified life means always hearing and immediately obeying the motions of the Holy Spirit. How simple, yet how difficult.
Eventually, in this process of growth, I always seem to arrive at a point where I get blindsided. Or more accurately, I blindside myself. It might happen that I feel so confident in the Lord, that I take on more than I can chew. Or maybe I get lazy and distracted.
Typically what happens next is a big mistake on my part. I may lose my temper, or assume an authority I don’t have. The worst might be that I overlook the needs of my family or someone in need. Like the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, I step over the wounded man on the side of the road.
Masculine myths and legends usually include a moment when the hero has a fall. He’s left weeping in the dirt, and it all seems lost. I’ve felt this way so many times. After a period of robust spiritual growth, these falls are even harder.
What I think happens here is that God wants to work on me at a deeper level as my relationship with him grows. He doesn’t start with the most painfully hard things for me to deal with first. When the time comes though, he throws me down again and breaks me. A lot of people don’t like that kind of talk about God, but I don’t mind. If he wants to whack me to the ground to build me up better for him, so be it.
I can’t say I enjoy the process, but I value it.
I remember in high school taking calculus. It was the hardest thing I ever did up to that point in my life. At the time, I was a disrespectful delinquent, but I got good grades since I wanted to go to med school. My calculus teacher, Mrs. Lynch, was super strict. She never let anything slide. Why should she have? Math is exact, and you can’t ever make 2+2=5.
Even though I joined in the fun of mocking her behind her back, my heart showed me something else about Mrs. Lynch. She cared. Sure she was tough. She never really joked or gave us a break. When you were wrong, she didn’t try to sugar coat it. Her correction was unbending. But I learned math.
She helped me do things I could never do on my own despite my weakness and reluctance. Even my immature, selfish teenage mind saw that somehow. She knew we made fun of her. Still, she persevered and stayed faithful to her mission. She was a tough person – not just in being strict – but as in durable and strong. Remembering it now, she was a Christ-like figure in my life. Thank you Mrs. Lynch for caring. You made me better than I was on my own.
God cares too. If you walk with Christ, he’s not going to let things slide just to make life easier. Yes, he forgives it all, but in the process he wants to make you better. So he’s going to break you. It’s the only way to rebuild you stronger again.
Another reason I believe this happens is to keep me humble. Jesus was so perfectly humble that he never needed correction. My pride and vanity sometimes rise up, and God smacks them down. I want him to do this. If not, I fully realize the monster I can become. His correction is mercy. It’s the love of a Father teaching his child.
I’ve read these verses from Hebrews so many times I’ve lost count.
And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons?—
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor lose courage when you are punished by him.
For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:5-13, 28-29
That last line always nails me… “a consuming fire”. That’s the power of God’s love and grace. He desires all of us. He wants to give us every chance to be better.
So break me Lord, as you see fit. I know I won’t enjoy it, but if it serves to glorify you, then may your will be done. Then gather me up again. Hold me tenderly, restore me, and set me on my feet again.
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