“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.” – Isaiah 42:8 NIV
or my praise to idols.” – Isaiah 42:8 NIV
This morning I went for a walk for exercise and while listening to a song from Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (one of my favorites by the way), I got a revelation that was rather disturbing to me. I know the gospel is supposed to be disturbing, at least if you allow it to get in you. But I was extremely uncomfortable with this one in particular because it was something that I already knew intellectually, but I realized in this moment that it had not really penetrated my heart. The song was called “Helpless” and it’s about the fact that we can’t do anything without Jesus. I have said this in the past and thought that I meant it. But today I wasn’t so sure I meant it. And to make matters worse, if I’m really honest, I don’t even know how to mean it. Because I don’t want to be helpless, and yet, Scripture tells us that helpless is the place to be if you really want God, because helpless is the truth.
But what is also true is that my perception of what it means to be helpless is not something I aspire to. I take pride in my ability to be capable and independent. As a matter of fact, that is when I feel most equipped to help others, when I feel like I am adequate because of my own strength and ability. But in God’s eyes, that means nothing because any strength and ability I have comes from Him. I have nothing on my own. I am truly helpless. But I don’t want to be. And therein lies the rub. Therein lies the sin. Because my heart’s desire is to do the things that I purpose in my heart in order to receive the glory that belongs to God alone. And I’m afraid that I just might spend my life trying to fight a losing battle: to steal God’s glory.
It’s pretty subtle how it creeps in. Maybe it’s a twinge of pride when you see someone doing something you feel you can do better. Or maybe it’s fishing for a compliment on something you did. Or maybe it is the anger you feel when someone overlooks your contribution to something. Maybe you just can’t stand not being good at something. Or maybe you are like me and feel like you didn’t do much work for something, so you should never speak about it too often because God is the one who did this amazing thing in your life, but all you can say is, God did it, not me. So you downplay it. That’s if you mention it at all.
Someone asked me how I was feeling recently and I said bored. Then they began to rattle off an entire list of things that I did just in the last four months and asked how in the world I could be bored. And I realized in that moment that I felt bored because I didn’t plan any of it. So I didn’t feel like I did anything. So I was bored because my planning and seeking after goals makes me feel accomplished. It makes me feel like I am doing something in this life. It makes me feel like I would deserve the praise for what I do. It gives me grounds to give advice to others who might want to do what I do. Afterall, it’s pretty boring to tell somebody to seek and trust God more. That’s a short conversation. It’s better if I can give you a series of tasks to complete in order to get the results you want. And then, of course, you can let God co-sign. But you will get the glory for it in the end. Which might be what you want.
But truthfully, when God directs my life, I can get a little bored. Not because I’m not doing stuff, but because God is allowing me to come face-to-face with the condition of my heart. I want His glory. I want people to see me instead of Him. And so I become a hater when God takes over and my plans go by the wayside. And I don’t point to Him in a truthful way, but in a false humility that is masked in remaining quiet about what God is doing. And in our attention-seeking-personality-driven society, it feels contrary to admit that this is even a problem. Everybody wants a name that means something. Your credit record is about the power of our name financially. We have website addresses that are our names. We talk constantly about branding ourselves. But our true brand is nothingness. At least without God. With God, we are amazing! But as a person who confesses Jesus Christ as my Lord, I have to recognize that my life is not my own. Even when I want it to be.
There is a time to feel a sense of pride about an accomplishment. I certainly don’t think God robs us of those opportunities in life. I’m not talking about those moments. I’m talking about something deeper. Something that lies within us and manifests when we least expect it. Something that is easily masked by religious activity and good deeds. Something that can eat away at us spiritually and we not even know it. And this is why I had to confess it. Because I want to be intimate with God. And I need to be made aware of those things that keep me from getting closer to Him, even though those things will never keep Him from me. This is a hindrance from my end of this relationship. And I don’t want it to be there anymore now that I’m aware of it. And God already knew it was there. And that’s comforting. Because He loves me anyway. It doesn’t stop God from loving me, or from choosing me, or from using me. And Him bringing this to my attention is not so that I can now create a list of ways to try harder and do better. It is simply to confess and let God change my heart. So, I now invite God into these moments in my life where this might be an issue and ask Him to have mercy on me and show me a new way to handle it. Maybe then I won’t feel so bored when God is a work because I will be able to join in with Him with a new attitude instead of being a hater because I didn’t come up with the plan. At least I hope.