Lately, I’ve been on this probably-annoying rampage against Christian platitudes. You know the ones: “let go and let God” and “God has a plan” and “everything happens for a reason”. Something completely benign will come out of my sweet, well-intentioned PASTOR of a husband’s lips, and I’ll get all crazy up in here. “What does that even MEAN? How does that play out in real life? Can’t anyone these days just admit that some things just suck?” I’ll ask. Lemme just tell you, I’m a real joy to have around some days.
But here’s the thing. If you ask me, these cliches- though some might be completely true- just don’t tell the whole story. They don’t acknowledge the struggle. I hear “Christ is enough”- TRUE- but it’s. so. hard. to really believe that sometimes. To live it out. I want Christ to be enough. I want to always want him. But at times, too often, I just don’t.
Sometimes, it’s the old-school hymns- theologically rich and just so honest- that speak to me the best. “Amazing Grace”? It straight up calls me a jacked-up “wretch” who can only be saved by, well, amazing grace. Yes. Let’s not sugarcoat it, people. Let’s just call a spade a spade. Because I can deal with Christian platitudes as long they’re coupled with the acknowledgement that the struggle is indeed real. Of course, we should trust that God has good plans for our lives and all of that. But what about those days when we’re just not feeling it? When we’re disillusioned with life as we know it? On those days, hearing “just trust God” might sound a little, I don’t know, simple.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love…”
Yes. This line from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” has me pegged. Because, you see, while my blog has been replete with cute pics and charming kid anecdotes lately, my heart has been a wreck. A prideful, jealous, idolatrous, sinfully self-sufficient wreck.
I say with my mouth “Jesus, you’re all I need,” but I mumble under my breath, “but a few extra square feet of house and some granite countertops would be nice too.”
I sing “Christ is enough,” but I lust after a spotless minivan with automatic doors.
I claim “My hope is in Christ alone”, but I grow bitter and cynical when I go unnoticed or unappreciated.
I say “Jesus, you’re Lord,” but my heart screams, “Nah, I’ve got this. I can do this life on my own.”
John Calvin once called the human heart “a factory of idols,” and I’m in the process right now of having my idols demolished, one brick at a time. As you can imagine, the demolition process is not always pretty. In fact, it’s messy and it’s painful and sometimes it makes me throw my arms in the air and ask those kind of questions that “good Christians” aren’t supposed to ask.
“I know who you say you are, God, but are you sure you know what you’re doing here?”
“God, surgery on my right arm? Don’t you realize I’m the one in charge around here? Isn’t this a little harsh?”
“Uh, hey God. Have you checked out my Facebook wall recently? Do you SEE all of these sweet vacations and cars and houses my friends have been landing recently? Yo, God, do you think it may be our turn yet?”
Like I said, prone to wander.
But you know the awesome thing about God? He meets us where we are. He doesn’t hear our doubts and our questions and say in a booming voice from Heaven, “Oh, I’m sorry, what’s that I hear? I only speak Christianese.” He’s God. A merciful God who cares and listens and isn’t insulted by our questioning.
I’m learning that sometimes that surgery- that one that will strip away your independence and (false sense of) self-sufficiency far longer than you’d like- is actually an act of God’s graciousness and a reminder that he knows us intimately. He knows my heart- my strengths and failures. He knows that the longer I go on thinking that “I’ve got this,” the more my heart wanders from the truths of the gospel. And he knows that the things of this world that my idolatrous heart so desires are a pretty shaky foundation to place my hope.
As painful as the idol-stripping process can be, I always walk away from it with a greater sense of who God is. And, really, isn’t that enough? To know Christ? When I sing “come thou fount of every blessing,” do I realize that Christ himself is the ultimate blessing? And is this enough for me?
If I never get that minivan with those glorious, automatic sliding doors (YES PEOPLE, this is a real struggle for me. JUDGE YE NOT.), and yet I know God more, is that sufficient? When my right arm- that arm that does everything for my family- is bound up in a sling, am I willing to say, “Lord, so be it so that I might know you, your sufficiency and my great need for you, more”?
And so yet again, I welcome him into the mess of my heart and of our lives, pleading, “Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace. Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.”
We ask him to come- to be near to us in our pain and in our questioning- and he does. Of course he comes. And I sing of his grace again and again, not because of some fleeting material possessions or worry-free existence he sends my way, but because he is the ultimate blessing. He is the reward. And his mercy, it keeps coming.
Sometimes it just takes some demolition to realize that.