This week I read our summer reading book for work (yes, teachers have summer reading too). Check it out: With by Skye Jethani. It is amazing. You should buy it. Now. And I've begun working on our memory passage, James 1. Of course I'm still at the very beginning:
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
I'm not sure you could combine two more convicting texts right now. This passage in James makes me so uncomfortable. I can't tell you how many times I've read this passage in the past years, even before Emmett was sick, and yet I think I secretly hate it even though I can't stop coming back to it. So I chuckled out loud when I found out we were supposed to memorize this passage for work. I'm pretty sure my stubborn spirit will be stuck on this part for the rest of my life.
I'm currently in a love-hate relationship with perseverance right now, as it seems to have taken on a personality of it's own. I mean, you might be able to call it the Spirit of God at work in my life, but then I couldn't argue with it as much. When I want to stay in bed or indulge in sinful habits that one word - perseverance - gets in my face just like my dog when she wants attention. And I can smell it's breath and it won't leave me alone until I get out of bed or stop distracting myself with sinful thoughts or stop playing scrabble on my phone (oops. did I just confess that in public?).
Ironically, this interference of the Spirit is exactly what I've been praying for: Lord help me keep going, Lord help me not sin, Lord help me know you, etc. But it is seriously annoying when conviction arrives at a time you'd rather be ignoring God.
There is a deepening in my soul that very quietly rejoices when I feel the warm breath of the Spirit in my face pressing me on to keep going. My soul is like a crotchety old man that is really, secretly a big push-over. I may grumble and complain about being redirected, but secretly I'm thrilled to be noticed and loved and cared for by such a generous and compassionate Lord. Maybe one day I'll be able to adopt less of a "crotchety-old-man" response and cultivate more of a "three-year-old-girl-in-a-tutu-doing-a-crazy-wild-dance" response. But for now I'm stuck in the "crotchety-old-man" phase.
Perhaps I have trouble embracing my inner tutu because of the second half of that passage in James, which has always weighed me down. When you ask you must believe and not doubt because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea and should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Um. Problem. I feel constantly riddled with doubts, and without fail, every time I read this passage it presses down upon me and makes me wonder if I'll ever get anywhere in my walk with Christ.
And here is where I'd like to insert quotable words of wisdom, but frankly, I have no idea how to reconcile faith, doubt, and my crazy head. But it seems that the more I press on, the less I need to reconcile them. When I turn away from the presence of God, when I run away from perseverance, then I hide my lazy self-indulgence by elevating my questions and doubts. My crazy head fills up with all sorts of excuses that are really just pretenses to avoid action that seems unpleasant. But when I simply dwell with God, when I get out of bed and take every thought captive to Christ (sometimes just so the Spirit will stop harassing me), when I quietly move forward - then, only then, do I realize that the questions aren't important, and somehow things make sense without me ever really being able to explain it. Ironically, the very actions I dreaded produce peace and contentment, despite all my fears to the contrary. The crotchety old man inside smiles a little bit, and for a moment I catch a glimpse of what it means to have a child-like faith.
I went shopping recently with a friend, and I tried on a few running skirts, which just make me happy for some inexplicable reason. I tried on a sparkly pink running skirt just for fun, and when the attendant remarked, "It's like a tutu for grownups," then I knew I needed it. (Yes, mom, it was sparkly AND pink, and I can see you dropping your jaw as you read this, but don't get too excited because I still hate lace.) My life and my faith need a few more tutu moments, a few more moments of child-like delight and wonder to cultivate the proper kind of love that leads to dancing and running and throwing off everything that hinders... and to perseverance, yeah - that too. hmm...