In case you were wondering, its been a great week for me. Yes there’s been the added stress and work after my wife’s surgery, but she’s recovering and doing well, and I’ve managed to not burn the house down – so I’d call that a success.
The Easter Service went well. We had a full house in church. My sermon rocked. I didn’t really have a lot to confess during that quiet time of reflection. Success!
Work is going well. I’ve got this whole “exegetical method” down pretty well — it only took me about 10 years to get it down. I start with some Greek study, write out some preliminary thoughts, read through some commentaries, write out the sermon. All in all, it is an enjoyable discipline of studying Scripture – another success.
I’ve started running again. Now that I’ve written that, something will probably come up and keep me from running tonight, but I’ve been doing well, feeling stronger with every run, going a little further every night, maintaining a steady pace per mile, and even losing a bit of weight along the way. Winning!
So after my run last night the little voice in my head started in with the praise, “Yup, its been a pretty good week, Big E, keep up the good work.” Then here was the kicker, “You haven’t had to ask God for anything, way to go!”
(I’m sorry if that offends, but its the only word that truly signifies the sudden shift from self-congratulatory hubris to a Spirit led conviction – I stand behind, not in, the word.)
It is an uninspired life that does not depend on the power of the Spirit of God for everything.
I am so weak that I begin to think I am strong. I practice carefully to discipline myself so that I can stand on my own two feet, independent of anyone – especially God. I consider it an accomplishment if I don’t have to ask God for anything to help me get through the week, the day, the hour. I consider it a sign of strength if all my prayers are for those around me, but I’m just fine on my own. Why would I need God to guide me in my sermon prep, I’ve got commentaries for that. Why would I need God to help me teach and raise my kids, I’ve read books about that. I am independent. I am strong. I am the master of my own life.
I am full of it. (Refer here to the offending word above.)
What I need, I think, is a case of “Learned Helplessness.” Usually this is considered a bad thing, where, faced with the overwhelming and uncontrollable flow of events, individuals feel helpless and unable to cope with life.
But for the Christian, learned helplessness is the starting point for saving Grace. Being helpless before the Lord is not weakness, rather it is finding true strength. I cannot save myself, I must trust in my Savior. I cannot be the master of my destiny, I must trust in the One who is. I cannot get my life together, I must trust in the One who holds my life in His hands. I am weak, but in my weakness His strength is made perfect.
So where do I turn to learn weakness in the Spirit? I’ve found the Puritans often help.
Here’s my prayer for the day (from The Valley of Vision):
O Thou Most High,
It becomes me to be low in thy presence.
I am nothing compared to thee;
I possess not the rank and power of angels,
but thou hast made me what I am,
and placed me where I am;
help me to acquiesce in thy sovereign pleasure.
I thank thee that in the embryo state of my endless being
I am capable by grace of improvement;
that I can bear thy image,
not by submissiveness, but by your design,
and can work with thee and advance thy cause and glory.
But, alas, the crown has fallen from my head:
I have sinned;
I am alien to thee;
my head is deceitful and wicked,
my mind an enemy to thy law.
Yet, in my lostness thou hast laid help on the Mighty One
and he comes between to put his hands on us both,
my Umpire, Daysman, Mediator,
whose blood is my peace,
whose righteousness is my strength,
whose condemnation is my freedom,
whose Spirit is my power,
whose heaven is my heritage.
Grant that I may feel more the strength of thy grace
in subduing the evil of my nature,
in loosing me from the present evil world,
in supporting me under the trials of life,
in enabling me to abide with thee in my valleys,
in exercising me to have a conscience void of offence
before thee and before men.
In all my affairs may I distinguish between duty and anxiety,
and may my character and not my circumstances chiefly engage me.