Years ago I read a story of a little boy who defiantly responded to his punishment with,
“I’m sitting in time out but my heart is standing up!”
There is profound truth in that—and it is the reality of many adults (especially those in Church). Obedience is not the same as being engaged in a connected relationship. In our faith walk, God’s goal is never simple obedience. External action without heart engagement is a sham that God will press through.
I love to watch my daughter work with her horse, Scooby. He is a high-spirited horse…and she is a high-spirited girl. His attitude does not intimidate her. The dynamics of their relationship reveal the physics law of equal and opposite reaction. In their interaction, I see a picture of how God works with His kids. Riesa does not object to Scooby’s personality; she embraces him even when he is a ‘hot mess.’ She meets his enthusiasm (and even his rebellion) with the force needed to achieve what she asked in the beginning.
God has standards, plans and purposes for everyone—the moral standards are the same, the plans and purposes are for the good of all. Yet, He crafted every one of us uniquely. Our personalities, life experiences, and cultures assure unique expressions of God from our lives. Until we surrender our personal control, the only thing we express is our self—and without God that is an expression of death. The moment we release our ‘self’ focus, God supernaturally blesses in both the natural and spiritual realms!
When Scooby lets go of his own agenda, he and Riesa become a team. Their personalities blend into a unique, abundant expression of life. In the natural realm, they are just a ‘girl and her horse.’ New skills, greater partnership and fun in the field become realities. In the spiritual realm, growth in understanding and insights into deeper truths evolve as well—bearing seeds of eternal hope in many lives. It has been and will continue to be a journey, just as the life of faith is a journey. God loves us right where we are at…but He loves us too much to leave us where we are at!
Genesis 21 and Galatians 4 give us insights on this Truth. In Genesis, we read how Abram and Sarai sought to bring about the promises of God with their own best efforts. Their intentions were good; they were not rebelling against God. Neither were they trusting in Him. His promise seemed to distant; they decided 15 years was long enough…must be they needed to help Him out. Paul goes to the heart of the matter in Galatians: law or grace. Law focuses on my performance; grace trusts God’s performance. The Christian life is to be Christ’s life…not what I can drum up on my own. But in the magnificent creativity and power of God, He empowers me to give unique expression to the life of Christ.
The Father loves each of us and wants to see how we will walk out relationship with Him. He doesn’t want to see our best effort at ‘being good.’ Our best imitation of obedience is nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Like the little boy who sat in timeout with a heart that stood up, many appear to serve God and walk in obedience. The service produces things they want: acceptance, belonging, praise, freedom from the hassles outright sin creates. Many of these folks sincerely believe they are serving God in the process…blind to the reality that they actually serve the god of self. It is an empty sham that God will press into.
Here is where the glory of God shines through in a magnificent way. In the face of what is actually rebellion, self-glorification and rejection, He looks with love. He maintains His call to come to Him. He uses whatever pressure is necessary to move individuals out of their dark deception and into His light! It’s a journey worth embarking on and one surrounded by love.