Saturday, April 21, 2012

Between Good and God

Who would have thought good intentions could actually stand between you and God?  Ask me two days ago, and I would have told you no way.  God is good, so good is God, especially if it's coming out of your heart and your earnest desire to be a blessing to someone else.

Or maybe.

Yesterday, in one incredible moment, my whole perspective changed.  He humbled me.

I'm the kind of person that works hard.  I believe in doing the work yourself as much as you can, helping others, getting things done, and doing them right.  I didn't realize my desire to do good had gone so far overboard into this hero complex.  Then last night, it hit me: I have wanted to be the hero.

Not just the do-gooder.  Not the blessing.  Not the sign from Heaven.  I have wanted to be the hero, to make life stop hurting, to make worry go away, to make stress disappear.  I have wanted people to know that when I'm on board - don't worry about it.  Cuz I'm all about getting things done, and you can count on that.  I have wanted people to find a sense of peace when they are around me, which my mind tried to pass off as the peace of God, but let's be honest - I'm not sure how much God was going to break through my shining personality in those moments.  I could mention Him, but if I wasn't living it, then you'd see right through me.  And you wouldn't be looking at Him.

The thing is...something happened last night that was so far beyond me.  I couldn't fix it.  I'm all about fixing, but for this one, I had nothing.  I've found this, particularly over the past few years, in my personal life, my own journey, and I've gotten better about turning those things over to God.  He does wonders with them; never ceases to render me speechless.  I like when He works like that in my life.  But for some reason, I have wanted to hold onto this hero role in other people's lives.  I have theories, but that's a little too teen-journalish for these purposes.

The point is: I'm lying in bed last night, and I'm frustrated.  I can't fix this.  I can't make it better.  I can't take away the stress, alleviate the worry, minimize the pain.  It's just there; and it's beyond me.  And I'm praying to God - not "God, take this and be awesome" but "God, help me break through and figure out what to do to make this better."  (I know; nobody ever said I was righteous.  Maybe self-righteous.)

In that moment, He answered.  "You don't."  You don't make this better.  You can't.  It is what it is.

Then just before helplessness and despair settled in, He continued:

You do what I've put in you to do.  What I have created in you to do.  You work.  You serve.  Most of all, you love.  With a gentle spirit and a tenderness of heart, without words, without the painstaking labor of trying to be the hero.  You just do you.  Because it's in doing you that you're doing Me.  It's in being the fullness of YOU that people get to see ME.

I was instantly energized...and relieved.  I hadn't been aware of my hero blocking God.  I hadn't been aware of how my goodness had actually been standing between me and the One who IS Goodness.  In that painful, humbling, and beautiful moment when I had to admit I couldn't fix it, what I found was the freedom to not hold myself to that standard.  To not have to be the hero, but to be something greater.  Something "good"-er.  Something God-er.

This tremendous weight came off of me, and I instantly felt the purpose and the presence of God in me.  I thought about some of the work I have been doing lately and how in the midst of it, I had contrived myself into goodness-driven labor and completely forgotten the serve and love aspect of what I was doing.  The love, in particular, had been lost - for me, for the one I'm working for, for the One who created me to work, and even for the work I am doing.  It was duty.  It was deadline.  It was driven.  It was not discipleship.

I spent the night praying for peace.  For peace in the situation that is greater than I am.  For peace in the hearts of those involved.  For stress to fade and anxiety to lessen and peace to settle in.  I know that peace; I have lived it against some of the most tumultuous times of my life.  Why did I ever let myself think it was up to me to take the peace God has put in my life and bestow it on others?  That's His job.  Sorry, Lord.

The truth is, as I laid in bed and prayed, peace came.  It came to the places where I had only moments before been so frustrated that I couldn't touch.  It came to me, in my moment of surrender.  It came to the whole atmosphere.  It was this tangible grace.  All because I had to give up good for the sake of God.

Surrender is never easy.  Not for any of us.  Not even when we know what it means to live in the mercy of surrender and to be fully under God's hand.  I don't know why we're like this; we just are.  I am glad, though, to have a God who is willing to take it out from under us and do something with it.  I'm thankful for the goodness of God that is beyond goodness.

I'm ready to go back to work, working on the project I have undertaken - as a gift.  As a service.  As an act of love.  I don't imagine anyone will throw a parade or award me the medal of honor for my good works and my heroic acts.  There will probably be a "that's nice" and a soft "thank you."  And you know what?

In the shadow of God's grace, that's more than enough.  It really, honestly is.

I have wanted so badly for the world to taste the God who has rescued me.  Who has redeemed me.  Who has ransomed me.  So badly that I've been trying to BE Him for them.  It doesn't work.  I'm done trying to show the world God by acting like Him.  I can only ever fall oh so ungraciously short.  Instead, I think it's better that I just live and love and point you to the One who's guiding me in how it's done.

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