Tim Keller said, “Even after you are converted by the gospel, your heart will go back to operating on other principles unless you deliberately, repeatedly set it to gospel-mode.”
I can’t lie: pregnancy has evoked many fears in me. Some about labor. Others about finances. But mostly, it has evoked fears about my own self-worth and my credibility with God.
I’m not sure why, but I think I have a tendency to base the quality of my relationship with God on the things that I’m doing. Which is probably why as of late I feel frustrated and distant from Him. When I am involved in things, taking risks and pushing myself to grow – I feel alive! When I am just hanging out – I feel, well, the opposite of alive.
About six months ago I stopped leading the small group of college and high school women I had been attempting to grow for about a year. The group continued to decline so in the end it was better for the remaining few to join up with the group I myself was attending. A few months later I attempted to launch a ministry that would help support Christian women struggling with body-image and eating disorders. That didn’t really take off either. For two and a half years I’ve struggled daily with the fact that I work in an environment with no opportunities to meet new people or build relationships with people my own age. And throw in the fact that I have had to spend most of my free time lately laying on the couch because of morning sickness – and I officially feel like a zero.
I’ve spent a lot of time asking God what he would like for me to learn from my circumstances. Then I assume I must have done something wrong to have gotten here. Am I just not as willing to obey as I think I am? Do I have enough passion for God to use me? Were my greatest opportunities back in college? Am I just not trying hard enough?
“Our flesh yearns for works, for the merits of self-righteousness, so it’s hard work to make ourselves rest in the finished work of Christ.” -Jared Wilson
I’m finding as of late, that like Tim Keller said, my heart continues to revert back to operating as if I have something to prove; something to make up for; something to earn from God. Approval is a stern master who never cracks a smile and gives no mercy for mistakes.
Last Sunday at church the sermon was about believing that God loves us. The sermon turned me into a shaky, wet-faced person at the alter call. The pastor discussed the difference between the disciple John, who was confident that Jesus loved him, and Peter, who constantly doubted how Jesus really felt about him.
When Jesus was arrested, it was John who stood firm because he knew the Lord’s good intentions toward him. In fact, when Jesus was on the cross he even instructed John to look after his mother when he was gone. Jesus clearly saw John as being trustworthy and reliable. In John’s gospel he even refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This description of John is only found in John’s gospel. So clearly, John believed that Jesus loved him. Instead of saying, ‘Hi, I’m John.’ He says, ‘Hi, I’m the disciple that Jesus loves.’ (Not a direct quote.)
However, Peter had a hard time allowing Jesus to care for him. Peter objected when Jesus bent to wash his feet. And when crisis hit, Peter fled the scene, denying that he ever knew Jesus at all. Even though not long before, Peter had declared his devotion to Jesus, saying he would even lay down his life for him. So why was John steady while Peter wavered? What was the main difference between these two men? John trusted in the fact that Jesus loved him, while Peter trusted in his own feelings of devotion to Jesus, which seemed to change regularly.
In the past week I’ve been realizing that so many of the troubles and fears bouncing around in my heart are directly related to what I believe God thinks and feels about me. And my problem is not knowledge. My problem is belief. It is one thing to know what God’s Word says about me and about how God views me. It is another to actually believe that what he says is true.
It’s so simple isn’t it?
Yet I’m finding that setting my heart to operate on Gospel-mode a few times a week at church, at small group, maybe during some devotionals is not enough. If ever my heart begins playing that old track, it won’t be long until I find myself grasping for someone’s affirmation and applause. It only takes a split second to tell Grace to get lost.
So bringing this back to pregnancy and my baby. I’m finding that this root runs so deep that I’m already concerned about the approval of my children. This little one is only the size of a kumquat and I already fear disappointing it. I fear my accolades won’t be enough. I fear that in 24 years of life I have not accomplished everything I should have by now. I fear I will not be the example I want to be. I fear my relationship with God will not be impressive and my life not glittery enough.
Oh grace…help me find you more and more.