“How are you?”
“Oh I’m fine. You?”
“Fine” – I’ve given the answer a thousand times. My use of the word fine is purposefully vague. Daniel, my wise and loving husband, has realized this about me, and doesn’t accept “fine” as an answer anymore. When I say “I’m doing fine”, you can almost always interpret that to mean, “I’m having a pretty hard time with something right now, but I haven’t had a nervous breakdown yet; so I’ve deluded myself into thinking I can make it without sharing the problem with you.” The nervous breakdown I think I’m going to avoid by fixing the problem myself is almost always inevitable anymore. You see, I like to pretend that I’m invincible and immune to emotional and physical collapse. I quite honestly believed it in high school. By college, I thought it was like a seasonal allergy that I might struggle with from time to time. Once I started dating, my steadfast emotional independence began to suffer from more than a slight allergy. And marriage, and eventually pregnancy, thoroughly dissuaded me of my imagined fortitude.
Marriage and pregnancy are really that bad, you say? No, the experiences themselves are great. Sure they can be hard (really hard at times), but it’s the transparency and honesty that such relationships demand that forced me to realize how deceived I was. I thought that if I could “keep it together” that I was doing alright, and that I didn’t need help. That’s a lie, and it’s anti-gospel.
The Rich Young Ruler that came to Christ asking how he could have eternal life thought he had it all together. Yet, Christ was sorrowful for him because the young man who had everything had nothing. He thought he had kept all the commandments of God and that there was nothing left for him to do. I imagine he was probably looking for a pat on the back from Jesus, not further instructions. You see, his heart hadn’t been changed.
If I consider my outward expressions and actions to be the only indications of my spiritual condition then I’ve deceived myself, and the truth is not in me, as I John 1:8 says.
Admitting that there’s a problem is only the first step though. Asking for help is an entirely different story. I can often confess to myself that there’s an issue to be dealt with, but for someone else to know freaks me out.
Daniel and I have been reading through part of The Works of Henry Scougal for our family devotions. Scougal, a young pastor, wrote a lengthy letter explaining the Divine Life to a friend, a letter that ended up being longer than the book of Romans. In fact, he writes much like Paul. To start off his letter he establishes the need for the Divine Life and encourages his friend with Christ’s example of and power to lend this life. Then he writes of what such a life looks like day to day. Following all of this, he addresses some questions and concerns he anticipated that his readers might have after having read thus far. I tell you, it was like he was writing directly to me. This part specifically made my prideful heart wince:
“I have hitherto considered wherein true religion consists, and how desirable a thing it is. But when one sees how infinitely distant the common temper and frame of men are from it, he may perhaps be ready to despond and give over, and think it utterly impossible to be attained. He may sit down and bemoan himself saying, ‘They are happy indeed whose souls are awakened unto the divine life, who are thus renewed in the spirit of their minds. But, alas, I am of quite another constitution, and am not able to effect so mighty a change. If outward observances could have done the business, I might have hoped to acquit myself by diligence and care; but since nothing but a new nature can serve the turn, what am I able to do? I could bestow all my goods and oblations to God, or alms to the poor, but I cannot command that love and charity, without which this expense would profit me nothing. This gift of God cannot be purchased with money; if a man should give all the substance of his house forever, it would utterly be condemned. I could pine and macerate my body, and undergo many hardships and troubles; but I cannot get all my corruptions starved, nor my affections wholly weaned from earthly things. There are still some worldly desires lurking in my heart, and those vanities that I have shut out of doors are always getting in through the windows. I am, many times, convinced of my own meanness, of the weakness of my body, and the far greater weakness of my soul; but this rather begets indignation and discontent than true humility in my spirit; and though I should come to think meanly of myself, yet I cannot endure that others should think so too.’”
That last sentence is one that I myself have thought so many times. I am ready, eager even, to admit that I am a weak and sinful woman. But if anyone else offers such an evaluation of me I am deeply offended! Why is this? It is because I am full of pride and blind to the devastating depravity of my own heart.
That paragraph is not a description of what one should attempt to obtain the Divine Life. It’s a narrative of the failures of one who considers that the Divine Life depends on his own diligence and not on Christ’s righteousness. However, it’s a narrative of my own life many times because I’m still being changed from what I once was.
Why am I telling you this? Well for one, it’s good therapy for me to get over myself! Two, I feel compelled of the Spirit to share my spiritual journey with everyone, not just those that I feel comfortable sharing my struggles with. Perhaps it will be an encouragement to you as you learn more about Jesus yourself. It is my desire that this blog be an open and candid account of how I am learning to see how God sees and the grace that makes it all possible.