Thursday, August 30, 2012

Impossible grace

Have you ever heard someone say that God never gives us anything to do that is too much for us?  I have.  And I used to accept that statement without question.

But wait a second. The Bible is FULL of people to whom God gave impossible tasks - only to show that they couldn't do them and HE could - so that those watching would know that He was God!

Joshua. Gideon. Jehoshaphat.  King David (remember Goliath? all those impossible battles?) Nehemiah. Elijah. Moses. Hosea the prophet being told to marry a prostitute and keep taking her back when she went out sniffing after other men (now THAT's an impossible task!) The list is endless. And none of these people were able to do any of those things God asked unless and until they were empowered by Him. 

It's human nature, I'm afraid, to want to do it on our own.  It's what got the human race into trouble in the first place, I seem to recall.  A lot of people laud the ones who, out of sheer pluck and determination, persevere and succeed.  Many aspire to be like them, to achieve great things. But the ones who admire such people don't see how inadequate they feel, how much pressure they are under, just to keep up the facade.  Self-reliance isn't all it's cracked up to be.

I'm not saying not to try to accomplish things with the talents God has given us, nor am I saying not to hone those skills.  What I'm saying is that it's unrealistic for me to expect God never to give me anything that is beyond my grasp, because if He did, I would never learn to depend on Him.  

And I SO need to depend on Him, to reach beyond my own capabilities (my own flesh) and tap into His endless strength.  For, you see, that is another part of Grace: the ability to do in the supernatural power of God that which is impossible for mere humans to do.  I'm not necessarily talking about gob-stopping miracles here: healing the sick, raising the dead, etc., and I'm not talking about the select few, the elite who seem to have "more of God" than the average Joe or Jane Christian. (Oh, don't get me started on Christian superstars. That's a whole other post!)

I'm talking about the consistent, day-by-day God-given strength to put one foot in front of the other when life is HARD and everything in my being says to pull the covers up over my head.  I'm talking about praying for the right words to say to comfort or encourage a friend - and the words just come, exactly at the right time.  I'm talking about the courage and empowerment and discernment that God gives to accept people and circumstances that are beyond my control, to change in me what needs to be changed, and to know where the line is between the two. 

I don't have the ability to do those things myself.  I suppose I might be able to do some of it for a little while, and perhaps fool someone into thinking I was someone great.  But it would inevitably end in bitter and desolate defeat.  How do I know?  Because that's where I lived - in Religion-Land.  Following the rules, playing the game, trying to one-up the next guy, trying to appear holy.  It was a crock.  I was all bound up in what people thought, what people might think, that I didn't have any joy or freedom in my life.  

Letting go of my need to control the outcome was the first step in learning how to live.  REALLY live - FEEL alive, enjoy the moment.  I learned - slowly - how to depend on God and cease from my own efforts to get the results I wanted.  Instead, I had to learn to let Him lead, to do what He said with His enabling power, and to let HIM take care of the results.  

It works, too.  A bonus is how liberating that is: how the weight of the whole world, of trying to take responsibility for everyone else's consequences, lifted from my back.  

I still have times when I slip back into that cesspool of trying to do things, trying to live the life that Jesus talked about, without His direction and strength - "just this once."  I skirt the borders of Religion-Land and hear its familiar siren song.  I succumb to its heady allure - the praise of others.  And I inevitably fall flat on my face. 

Then I remember that it's impossible without His Grace.  Every moment.  Every day, all the time.  No letting up.  It's only possible by me leaning hard on Him - and Him living His life through me, lavishly and unreservedly giving me His undeserved, outrageous, impossible grace.

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