Thursday, October 4, 2018
What you cannot find in a book. . .
Reading about prayer is always easier than praying -- the uncomfortable and often terrifying moments of silence in which you are so painfully aware of your sinfulness and the fearsome holiness of God. Reading about piety is so much easier than trying to be honestly pious. You know what I mean. We want a short cut, a YouTube video guide to being good and righteous and holy or a list of bullet points (a short list) to get us from point A to point B and the wonderful satisfaction that we have arrived. But there is no such plateau of perfection to be had or known this side of glory. Instead God gives us the patient struggle of a sinner redeemed and guided by the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace to make the person what God has already declared the person to be.
I say with the Psalmist that I love His law but that is not a statement of fact. Part of me hates the law and views it as the ultimate fence keeping me from my meadow of unrestrained happiness. But I pray with the Psalmist that I love the law of God and I say with the Psalmist as the means by which slowly, almost imperceptibly to me anyway, God will make the words true. The truth is I am always on the lookout for short cuts to prayer and piety, to wholeness and holiness, to goodness and godliness. A part of me would gladly exchange the Word of God for a condensed version guaranteed to give me what I long for -- an end to the evil desires that bring not happiness but guilt and shame and an end to the mouth that speaks when it should be silent and an end to the mind whose thoughts I hope and pray no one can read. But there is no shorthand or short cuts. There is only the Word and the Spirit, the means of grace and prayer, and patient struggle. Every day I pray that this is enough to keep me from shrinking from the future God has prepared for me. Maybe you are in the same boat?
It is our great temptation to bring our consumer mentality to the faith, whether deliberately or unconsciously. It is our great temptation to believe that holiness, like happiness, is attainable with just one more book, one more how to guide, one more conversation with someone who appears holy, one more prayer carefully repeated, or a hundred other quick and easy ways to replace a lifetime effort. Lord, I believe.... help Thou my unbelief. . . Finish in me Your new creation. Bring to completion what You have begun in me. . . this is my prayer and for this I work as best I am able, a willing spirit created within me to perhaps cooperate with the Spirit but at least not to stand in His way. . .