I sometimes feel like I’m the only one doing this wrong (or the only one who doesn’t have it all together)
There’s encouragement in the lives of the saints. That’s what I’ve learned this week.
There are ways that both the younger prodigal brother and the Pharisee in me both want to be unique. The younger brother enjoys the attention that comes with uniqueness and the Pharisee enjoys the unique strengths in me that bring me praise and respect.
There is a time of ‘uniqueness’ though that both the prodigal and the Pharisee abhor. The kind of uniqueness I despise is the kind that makes me feel like I am the only one who is failing. I hate the aloneness that comes with feeling like everyone around you is walking in perfect purity while you stumble along groping for the landmarks that will give you hope that you’re still on the path.
I spent the better part of yesterday reading about the early years of Jonathan Edwards. It was heartbreaking and beautiful. I was reading about his early conversion and he seemed so crazily delighted in the Lord and so quick to pursue Holiness with every fiber of his being. I read his resolutions with tears running down my cheeks. Mainly because my journals used to be filled with the passion and intensity of his words and now I long for that desire. I fell asleep pleading with my Father: God, stir my affections. Make me to delight in you.
I woke up feeling…I don’t know. Better? Closer to Jesus? More eager to stand in His Word but still disappointed that I am not what Jonathan was. Afraid that all believers should be able to sit down with Johnny and say – I know what you mean!
I think what made me so sad is that I could recall the days when I pursued sanctification with more passion than I had ever pursued anything in my whole life- and I’m a passionate gal. But, if I’m honest, these last few years have been…different.
And I guess I just felt like I must be doing this Christian thing wrong – and I must be the only one.
But guess what? God is so crazy good. Because He encourages His saints. And He uses His Saints to encourage His Saints. And we are not alone. He quiets the Pharisee part of me that is freaking out that I might be behind the curve, and assures me that I haven’t missed some major memo on Christian sanctification that everyone else received.
You see – I got to the next part of my book (my biography on Jonathan Edwards). It was actually kind of a poetic moment. I was sitting in the kitchen and began to read the next chapter and as I turned the page it started to rain: fat and slow drops. I watched the slate tiles in our front yard turn dark as the water left it’s stain. And I turned the page and I read about the next part of Jonathan Edwards’ life.
The book began to tell of JE’s reflections on his walk with Jesus. The writer was telling about the next evolution in his sanctification. Turns out Jonathan felt (when looking back on his earlier resolutions) that he had pursued his holiness ‘with greater diligence…than ever [he] pursued anything in [his] life, but yet with too great a dependence on [his] own strength, which afterwards proved a great damage to [himself].”
Oh gosh. How much those words ring true. How much I pursued with vigor the image of the Christian I wanted to be – but with so little understanding of God’s sovereignty and with (as a result) so little intent – or rather ability – to give Him the glory.
When I read from JE’s journal, I felt like it might be my own:
“Though it seems to me, that in some respects, I was a far greater Christian for two or three years after my first conversion, than I am now; and lived in a more constant delight and pleasure; yet, of later years I have had a more full and constant sense of the absolute sovereignty of God, and delight in that sovereignty; and have had more of a sense of the glory of christen, as a mediator revealed in the Gospel.”
Amen and amen. And Amen for a God who is faithful to put my testimony in another persons’ life so that I could combat the lie that I am alone in this, or that the shift in my walk is an indicator that I am failing to persevere.
And JE is not God. He’s just a man. But the peace that floods me reminds me when I read those words, that God is going to finish the good work He began in me – and if that depends on me for a single second – it will fail. The only hope I have of seeing this Covenant through is that He will fulfill my part as well as His.
It may not be your testimony. But here’s what I’m starting to believe – there is a story of a saint that is so familiar that it takes your breath away. There is a friend, or a believe who you will be having coffee with one day (whether it’s in person, or through some biography), and they will share their heart with you and before they can finish talking you will feel the hope spilling over into your face from your heart because the words resonate in places that make you feel less alone than you knew possible.
You may not relate to my testimony in this silly blog, or JE’s words, written over 200 years ago.
But maybe these words you can relate to:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith.”