Father, sometimes it feels like I am army-crawling through life. Under barbwire, through the mud, dodging bullets and ducking enemy fire through the searing onslaught. Even when I see no way out, you have provided one. Show me the way through. Help me learn to trust you in life’s toughest places. Amen
This is the prayer I wrote weeks ago that God knew I would need to read today. As I begin again to write Chapter 3, entitled Broken, it is time to face this truth. We, his beloved children, are so very broken, but the Lord of Life has signed our hearts and our souls.
Let the cardiac surgery commence.
What you’re gonna do is written all over your face. Who are you kidding? Other than yourself.
Perhaps it has come from being in the fitness and motivation business for a long time, but I know whether you are going to follow through on your discipline or not. I can tell, just by looking.
Oh, finishers and the also-rans may both have purchased new sneakers or new workout shorts or a new swim suit. They may have both invested in some new gear, perhaps hand weights or a yoga mat or even large scale exercise equipment. But that doesn’t spell success. In fact, often the biggest spenders are the least compliant. They have fulfilled their responsibility (in their own mind) by making the purchase. As if to say, “See, I mean business. Look what I am willing to spend.”
No, people who will follow through come prepared. They may bring a pencil and paper to write down the workout. Or they have scheduled several sessions or cleared their schedule many weeks in advance. They have told others what they are planning. In short, it’s obvious their heart is in this.
I love those people. They are great to work with. The others…well, I feel like I am stealing from them. Perhaps even complicit in a lie they aren’t telling me, but I know. And this doesn’t come from reading their minds. It’s just apparent in how they behave.
How incredibly obvious must this be to God? When our behavior tells the truth while our mouths deceive. We act according to our heart condition even while our speech is conflicting? God knows our hearts. He reads them as He reads our minds.
Jesus said to them,“You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. ~ Luke 16:15
His discipline is designed to get us to agree with ourselves. To look at doing, our failures and successes, and see if we aren’t tripping ourselves up. Not because we’re “not trying hard enough” but because our hearts aren’t on board. God knows our hearts. He wants our hearts. So our lives would be complete truth.
I look at the successful people I know and they come prepared. They do the homework and bring their questions. They’re engaged in the process and leave with a plan for the next step. They’re on the success path. It isn’t an accident. They do it on purpose.
And there may be no money involved at all. This counts as much for relationships and family life as it does for Fortune 500 companies. For sports teams and pick up games as much as for small businesses. We come prepared for the things we intend to follow through on. If we don’t, we need to ask ourselves whether our heart is really in this. Because it’s obvious to everyone else.
We may scurry through life hoping to live in a way that “qualifies us” for the heavenly selection. pick me! pick me! But I expect that God, who knows my heart, knows good and well whether I am ready. He has told me to be prepared, in season and out of season. Because I won’t know when the time is coming. He knows that is the only way to live a consistent life. Heart, mind and body together toward one objective.
When we falter, that’s just God getting our attention: Hey, your heart’s not in that! Then we have to choose whether we will prepare our heart or not. The rest will follow.
I just dropped my daughter off at an early morning activity. She got out with her gear, shut the door and headed on her way. I almost opened my car door to call after her, “You’re welcome!” Because she should have thanked me for the ride. She usually does. Today she didn’t. But this isn’t about her, it’s about me.
I don’t give her rides for the thanks. At least I did’t think I did. Until I heard myself thinking, “Here I am, doing this out of the goodness of my heart, and look how you respond. You are so ungrateful!”
And right there I blew it. If I truly offered the ride out of the good place in my heart, I would not be hurt by any response. My reaction showed me the un-good that was seeping in. Back to the drawing board.
Funny, when I arrived at this dedication for Lent, ‘to do one Goodness each day,’ I thought it would be easy. I mean, how hard can it be, each day to do one thing out of the goodness of my heart? And how nice to go through my day looking for some good to do, some mitzvah, some secret mission or service project. It gave me a good feeling inside.
Until I realized how few things I really did out of that good place, the place absent of expectations from the other. Especially when I did them “for” people close to me.
Oh, but it gets worse. Some of this “good doing” was actually the opposite of good. In some cases the real good to be done was withholding the doing. The good was letting the other experience the consequences or learn the lesson. That didn’t feel good at all, it felt hard. Nearly impossible. But wouldn’t it be just like God to show me the hard thing in the midst of the easy thing I set out to do?
All I could think about was Paul’s dooby-dooby-do (my adjective) verse from Romans 7″18-19.
“For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
Left to my own devices, counting on my own nature, even the good I thought I was doing wasn’t good. Because there were strings attached. Expectations laid. Sin was at hand.
So I plow on deeper into Lent. I am starting to get it. The goodness in my heart is not mine but His. It’s in there, I know it. But letting His Good initiate, carry out and follow up on the things that I do is quite a difficult thing.
But I’m an endurance athlete. In this for the long haul. Perhaps that’s the only thing God and I have in common. He promises not to give up on me. And that, above all else, keeps me holding onto Him. Because He has no good reason for that. Except the goodness in His heart.
It’s really hard to believe, but my heart tells me it is so.