“This (unconditional surrender) is what Jesus most longs for. He’s not panting after your sacrifice or even your obedience. He doesn’t need your money. He doesn’t need your gifting. Oh, but He wants your heart. He longs for your love. Our adoration is the one thing we possess that he cannot claim without our offering it to Him.” (Stasi Eldredge, becoming myself)
Our youngest brought home a “chore coupon book” from Sunday School yesterday. He was so proud of his book, he wouldn’t let go of it all afternoon. He couldn’t wait to use the coupons to do chores around the house…chores I might add I had threatened, cajoled, pleaded, and bribed to get him to do the previous day. When I cashed in the coupon for picking up his toys, the job wasn’t done perfectly, but there was no way I was going to squash his enthusiasm for following directions by pointing that out. And, honestly, I cared more that he was picking up his toys because he wanted to then to have the job done in the way I would’ve done it myself.
During this time, my family and I started 2014 with a fast, a chance to offer God our firsts and ask Him to bless our lives, and I was really struggling. I think part of it was detoxing from the extra Christmas goodies and part of it was caffeine headaches, but it was rough. I was focusing too much on what I was giving up and for how long I would need to abstain. I should’ve been focused on the assurance God was going to bless our family for this act of obedience. The sad thing is I’d been looking forward to this fast, this time to show God how much He truly means to me, and I felt like I was blowing it.
Since I’m still in the process of realigning my thinking with God’s truths instead of old lies, I started to feel guilty. I thought, “I wonder if I should just give up fasting this time since my attitude is wrong. I am obeying in body, but my mind is not cooperating. It’s too hard this time.” Then my thoughts started getting more confusing, “Our kids are fasting this time too. I’m setting a lousy example and I’m going to ruin their spiritual lives because of my attitude.” I concluded with these thoughts, “God must be mad at me. I’m not fasting perfectly, I’ve fasted better before in years past. I’m doomed – We won’t be blessed and it’ll be my fault.”
Now, faulty thinking needs to be addressed, and since God loves me as much as He loves His other children, and since I truly do have a heart to love and obey God, He wasn’t going to leave me in my old, damaged thought patterns. That might be one of the reasons He encouraged me to pick up becoming myself, the book mentioned above. The following Monday morning, He gently invited me to get up extra early, 2:30 a.m. early. He didn’t demand and if I’d said no, He would’ve still loved me, but He wanted to speak to my heart. It was during that quiettime I read the above words.
I realized all the “things” I’m doing wrong during this fast aren’t going to cause our family to be cursed instead of blessed. I’m not deliberately sinning against God…I’m struggling against some very real physical symptoms while actively pursuing to emotionally connect with my Father. I’m showing Him by my acts of worship through fasting and prayer and praise that I want Him to be Lord of my life. Just as I cared more about my son’s attitude toward picking up his toys than the level of perfection to which he completed the task, that is how our Heavenly Father views us. He wants my heart to be 100% devoted to Him. He wants me to adore Him more than anything else this world can offer. And, He knows that sometimes as we are walking toward that total surrender, there are going to be imperfections. I’m realizing there are going to imperfections even after I’ve come to a place of total surrender. I’ll never be perfect, God doesn’t want me to be perfect, and it’s more than okay that I’m not perfect.
That is why God sent His Son down here on Earth. He was (and is) perfect. In His perfection, He willingly chose to pay the price for our imperfections (and sin) so that we could be seen as perfect in the eyes of our Heavenly Father. It’s only through His sacrifice and our choice to accept that sacrifice through surrendering our lives to His that we can be seen as perfect in God’s eyes. There’s nothing we can physically do to earn a place in Heaven.
Does that mean I shouldn’t fast, pray, or strive to obey? No – it means I should do those things because I adore God and want to show Him how much. It means I should be so close to Jesus’ heart that when I feel the desire to help someone, I immediately say, “Yes, I will,” trusting that He will supply the time, money, or whatever is needed to complete the task. It means focusing less on doing and more on loving.
Now, for this recovering perfectionist, I still struggle with that concept. I need to keep reminding myself of Scriptures such as I Samuel 16:7, which state, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I also need to remember from Ephesians 2:8-9, “…it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
As I write this, I have two weeks left of my fast. Should I quit trying and just assume God loves me anyway? No…and I don’t plan too. I’m going to keep resisting the wrong attitude and begin to focus on the blessings God promises to those that choose to follow Him. More importantly, I’m going to spend my time loving God and making sure that love is evident first to Him and then trickling out to those around me. When I focus on rules, I’m not a very fun person to be around. When I focus on love, the rest falls into place.
©2014 Cheri Swalwell