Back in my elementary school piano playing days, I wasn’t a great student. I wanted to play like Beethoven without actually practicing. In a recital, when I would inevitably mess up, I would announce “oops!” (to let everyone know I fully recognized the error and was no more satisfied with it than their own ears) and then start at the very beginning so as to do it perfectly the next time…which rarely happened. I knew how it was supposed to sound, and that seemed enough to get me there.
I write a lot about the work of the Spirit in us, that it is God’s deal from first to last, that He will complete the good work He has begun and what Good News this all is. But there is a rub as well. The rub is that we can’t speed up the process, that our knowledge doesn’t equate with genuine, complete heart change and that no matter how hard we try, we can’t make ourselves more like Jesus simply by sheer will. Simply seeing my “mess ups” and unbelief isn’t enough. Self-determination and perfectionism won’t transform my heart which actually infiltrates every word, attitude and action.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. Psalm 130:5-8
It is God who is working in me to will and to act according to His good purposes. This means that even in my unbelief, He is more interested in the transformation of that to authentic belief and not my outer appearance or feeling of faithfulness. He is more comfortable with the idea of process than I am. He is comfortable with time and the exposure of sin and weakness because that is where His righteousness and power does it’s deep, lasting work. Only because I want to be my own redeemer and finish the job yesterday am I frustrated by God’s timing and efforts being slower than my hurry.
But the person and work of Jesus, the certainty that He will complete effectively and thoroughly the full redemption of every aspect of my being, gives rest even now as my circumstances are bringing an ulcer on, because it means I can’t fake my sanctification and He isn’t asking me to do so. Where I am not trusting, He will bring trust. Where I am not seeing, He will bring sight. Where I am not believing, He will bring faith. The ulcer like the piano mess up just reminds me I’m not there yet, and the person and work of Jesus assures me that one day I will be.
Here is a portion of a prayer, written by Oscar Romero, from my friend Jen Lalley’s blog that I liked:
“It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection. No pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church’s mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.”
Because God is faithful to His promise to restore us to an even better image than Adam was originally, I don’t need to be discouraged by my own inabilities, inadequacies, disappointing realities or circumstantial conundrums. He is about longer lasting transformation and perfection than just what is seen or felt in the moment, and He will accomplish it.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deut. 31:8