Tangible is Different than Truth

My love is not my own.
It all belongs to You;
And after all You’ve done, the least that I can do
Is live my life in every part
Only to please my Fathers heart.

—From Rachael Lampa, “My Father’s Heart”

Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.”

—Luke 17:9-10

One of the most commonly reoccurring things I have struggled with is “What am I supposed to be doing?” Oh, it’s all very well to read things like:

” He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

But really. That’s a very nice idea, but practically speaking, what am I supposed to be accomplishing? You know, you get up in the morning—and then what? Eat breakfast, right? And then what? What are you supposed to do?

What I usually wind up doing is deciding what I’m going to do. And then telling God whatever it is I’ve decided, and asking Him to make me successful. And maybe tell Him how I just can’t do this by myself. And not accomplishing it. And then feeling bad, by the time I go to bed, because I didn’t accomplishing anything for God—He gave me this time and this life and this day, and what do I have to show for it? Nothing! I wasted everything He’s given me. How shameful.

As my thoughts have progressed a little further, I see that part of the problem is that I want to do something for God.

No, really. I know that doesn’t sound like a problem, but think about. What can I possibly have or do that God needs? What could I possibly do to impress Him or make Him think “My gosh, I don’t know what I’d do without her”? Our righteousness is like filthy rags. We’re like little children bringing worthless bits of trash, so sure they will be useful and treasured to the one we’re bringing them to—surely you’ve had some child bring you something “special”? And who has the heart to tell them that their efforts are wasted, because they’re bringing nothing more than useless garbage?

This makes me think of the widow who put in two mites. Nobody is too good at what that converts to (especially at current inflation), but everyone is united in agreeing that it was basically a worthless monetary contribution. You can’t do anything with just two mites. You would think that someone should gently break it too her that God doesn’t have any use for two mites, but instead Jesus is greatly touched by her act. All that she had—her entire livelihood!

All we have are a few mites. We want to accomplish great things “for God”, but those “things” are still worthless to Him. What matters is that it is our entire livelihood. We aren’t living our lives to be “profitable” to Him, to accomplish something for Him that He otherwise couldn’t do. Rather, because of what He has accomplished, we live.

What does it mean, practically speaking, that it is not about my accomplishments, but His; not about my impressiveness, but His? It means it doesn’t depend on me, it doesn’t matter what I “accomplish”. God is more pleased by me climbing into bed and saying “By the grace of God, I made it through this day alive,” than He is by me climbing into bed and smugly listing to myself all the things that “I accomplished today”. (For God, of course. Naturally.)

I say I want to take the life that He has given me and turn it into something—useful, wonderful, pleasing—for Him. In reality, I cannot do that, and He’s already got it covered. It turns my dilemma of “what shall I do” into a joke.

This doesn’t mean that I sit around on my bum all day; it just means that everything I do is supposed to be a reaction to what He has already done. I think of it sort of like the game “Rush Hour”. You’ve probably heard of it, since nearly everyone has. You have this square board, and all these little vehicles. You have to set up the vehicles in the prescribed snarl of traffic (the set-ups get progressively harder as the game goes on). Then you have to get the little red car free of the mess by sliding the other vehicles out of the way.

We’re the little red car. We see a whole lot of snarls in the way to where we’re supposed to be, and we think we have to get around them or through them or get them to move or something. But that’s not the job of the little red car. The person who is controlling the board moves all the other vehicles. All the little red car has to do is move forward into the now-vacated spaces. That’s all. Sometimes it goes slowly, one space at a time; other times the whole route suddenly opens up, but it doesn’t depend on the little red car to get a clear path. Someone else is making the path. By the time it’s time for the little red car to move, the space is perfectly, utterly clear. It is not by the effort of the little red car that it can get free.

What this means is peace. It doesn’t depend on you. God makes the way; you merely follow.

To draw rather bluntly on my experience: I came to the conclusion I should apply at a local community college. I am about 5 years out of high school, home-schooled, no Regents. The program I wanted to get into required good Regents scores in three subject. Mom was pretty sure there was an age limit on take the Regents and I was over it. Red tape, paperwork, stress stress stress. Right? Except not.

Because in one of those moments where the water stops moving long enough to show a clear picture, I saw that it didn’t matter. If it was God’s will, as He seemed to be indicating to me, that I go, nothing and no one could stop me. He who conquered the grave isn’t going to be fazed by a load of bureaucratic red tape. So I didn’t have to worry.

I did have to do some things. I still had to fill out the application, and cough up a transcript, and write synopsis of the courses I needed good grades in. But I didn’t have to worry if the transcript was “good enough” for the college to let me in. When the college sent me a form letter telling me there was a lot of other stuff I needed to send it, I didn’t need to freak out. God would make away, or else not. I did still have to call the college, which clarified the situation (I did not, in fact, have to send anything else in).

The point is, the lives we live are not to accomplish something for God. He has already accomplished everything that needs accomplishing. We are supposed to live our lives in worship of Him and everything He has accomplished. It doesn’t matter so much what we do, as much as how and why we do it.

“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

For perhaps the first time, I feel like I am beginning to understand what is meant by “Be still, and know that I am God.” I need not attempt to “accomplish for God”, because He is God, and has accomplished. I am here to witness as His accomplishments continue to unfold, and to testify of it. To praise Him for it. And perhaps in some small way, to participate in what He is doing.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19

There is peace in recognising that it is not a matter of accomplishing something or making my life “good enough for God”, but rather rejoicing in what God is doing, which is good. To say that I have glimpsed this is not to say I think I shall spend the rest of my life in blissful peace, without out even the slightest hint of stress. I cannot think that, for I join Jesus in marveling:

Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, “for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”

Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick. –Luke 7:1-10

Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. –Mark 6:5-9

I marvel at the Centurion. I’d have not only wanted Jesus to come, but to explain exactly what was wrong, and exactly how He was going to fix it. I’d have put the servant through vigorous testing, to make sure he’d really been healed, just in case. I mean, if the healer messed up on something, I’d like to point it out before he left. And even if it looks like God’s been willing to heal something totally, I like to keep half an eye on it, you know, just in case it comes back when He’s not look or something.

I half joke, but half not, which is to say, I’d like to pretend I wouldn’t do those things, but deep in my heart I do. I’d like to say to Him, “Just give the word, and it’s good enough for me,” but even as I said it, my heart would convict me of lying. I don’t have that kind of faith. I lay awake struggling, because even though He said something, I don’t see it happening. And I know I’m supposed to believe, but I don’t, and I know I will be ashamed when He is (once again) shown true, but I still can’t lie still and go to sleep.

So I join Him in marveling at my unbelief. He marveled at the peoples’ unbelief, and then He turned around and told His disciples to go out without out any kind of preparation or being able to see how they would be provided for. I don’t know if they balked, but I sure would have.

You should read the account of the Exodus—God works huge and might miracles on a grand scale. The day after that, the people He rescued wants to know why He hates them and won’t take care of them. Repeatedly this happens, and it happens in my life, too. He shows Himself to be faithful, time after time. The day after, I forget about. How can you not marvel? The sun rises every morning, and I am sure it will rise tomorrow. He is faithful, day after day, and nearly every morning I wake up doubting—or at the very least, wondering—if He will still be faithful today.

So now, at this point in my life, I am beginning to understand what it means to rest in Him and His will, to understand what it means to live my life as an expression of worship to Him. But I expect it will be something I will struggle with throughout my life. Complaining that there isn’t enough time to do everything, forgetting there is perfectly exactly enough time to do everything He planned on doing. Complaining because everything went wrong, when all I really mean is it didn’t go how I thought it ought. Complaining because I can’t or didn’t or won’t be able to. Because I have accomplished nothing, or having nothing to show for what I have labored at.

But sometimes I realize that it is not a life of effort, it is a life of rejoicing. It is not a life of accomplishing things for God, but of watching His accomplishments. We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and strength and mind. Too easily we forget the thing we are supposed to be doing is “love the Lord”—somehow we get confused, and think if we haven’t “accomplished” something, we must not being living with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. If you don’t accomplish anything, how can you possibly be engaging all your heart, soul, strength and mind? Because our heart, soul, strength and mind is not to be focused on accomplishing, but on loving the Lord our God.

And so sometimes I catch myself singing:

My love is not my own
It all belongs to You. . .
And after all You’ve done,
the least that I can do
Is to live my life in every part,
Only to please my Father’s heart. . .

One Response to Tangible is Different than Truth

  1. I also have been thinking about this, if from a slightly different angle.

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