Letting Go

She said getting to God is like grasping a strand. Any strand will do – prayer, fasting, even smiling at the strangers you pass on the street. You just have to pick one and hold on.

My church-going, Bible-reading, pastor’s daughter mind smiles at her foolishness. I know there is only one strand. After all, Jesus said He was THE way, THE truth, THE life.

A year ago, this would have been the end of my story. Smug self-righteousness.

But today, I realize that my heart understands her metaphor. I realize now that I too am a grasper, leaning toward a system of morality that will pull me into God’s favor. Being married has taught me this, that I have strands I didn’t even know I was holding. The constant rub of another against the confines of my world has revealed rules I’ve followed because deep down, I’ve believed that doing so would somehow keep me safe.

You can drink wine with dinner

But only one glass

Sometimes two

But only once a week

Never three

Except on weekends

Or when you’ve had a REALLY bad day

You shouldn’t work too much

Not more than 40 hours a week

Unless you have to

But even then, you should do so begrudgingly

Oh, but working doesn’t include helping people

Or doing activities at church

It’s only work you get paid for

That’s the only dangerous kind

They’re complicated these rules, full of caveats that condemn others and let me off the hook. But they’re written so that I can hold on, so that I don’t fall away.

The problem is though that I do fall. I break these rules and other, more obvious ones. I fail to be kind to my husband, to be gracious to my students, to work joyfully, to stop complaining. Lately, it feels like falling and failing is all I do.

I hate failing. I so desperately want to hold on. But I’m realizing that I need Jesus as much as the lady with her single strand, that in fact, I probably need Him more because I have so very many strands and because I keep dropping them all, every last one.

Reflections on Paul

Do you ever feel like Paul attended some spiritual boot camp you missed out on? Or that when He was blinded by God, he was not only converted but somehow became extra holy?

I do. I mean the man says some crazy things, things like:

*"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21).
*"I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. 3:8).

Really, Paul? Dying is gain? Everything is loss? Everything? Don't get me wrong. I want to believe these things. I believe that I should believe them. But most days, I just don't live like they are true.

Lately, this has had me feeling condemned, like maybe I'm not really a Christian. But yesterday, as I fought intense gusts of wind and lugged my aching, I-haven't-done-aerobics-in-years body across campus with my overflowing briefcase, stack of essays to be graded, coffee cup, and lunch bag in tow, God spoke to me. He gently reminded me of some other things that Paul said, things like:

"I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content" (Phil. 4:11).

"We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (Rom. 5:3).

And suddenly, my weary body was filled with hope. Though I was still fighting wind, aches, and the heaviness of my load, a burden lifted. For I saw that what God had taught Paul, He could teach me. And I believed that He would.