This week's 'thought' comes from a book I picked up at a local "bargain basement" for a couple bucks. It's by a lady named Tammy Maltby, and is entitled: "Confessions of a Good Christian Girl -- The Secrets Women Keep and the Grace that Saves Them." It caught my attention because as I skimmed through it I found that she was tremendously honest and transparent and cut through a lot of the religious facades people put on to hide the reality of their human brokenness.
She speaks of how earnest ('good') Christian women stuggle to deal with things like suicidal thoughts, sexual brokenness, family violence and abuse, broken relationships, divorce and addiction. And she offers good practical advice about the grace which alone can heal it. In fact, it almost seems like a female version of the book, "Red Like Blood" by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington (which is also a very captivating and helpful read for the same reasons).
Although the book is addressed to women, the selection I chose can apply across the board to anyone who has ever wrestled with a sense of inadequacy, or what she calls feeling like we're "not enough" -- an inner sense that pushes us to the driven-type-behaviors we often use (and even justify) in our attempts to mask our sense of lack, or make it appear to outsiders like we're just plain good motivated people.
I hope you find it helpful. And if you do have a Women's Study Group that wants to go through a book that helps you to take a good, hard, honest look inside, and shoot for healing and transformation instead of reverting to the common forms of religious pretending, it might be a good book for you to look at. Enjoy.
"The entire message of the Bible, as I see it, has to do with how God sees us. And the Bible has both good news and bad news about that. The truth is that were not enough -- because we're incomplete and imperfect and weak. Because we're sinful and rebellious. Because we're supposed to work together and we just can't get along. Because we need God desperately and we forget that reality on an hourly basis. We're so inadequate, in fact, that it's downright pitiful.
And that's the bad news... Because the truth is we will never be enough. We're mortal. We have limited physical endurance and emotional strength and intellectual capability. We're fallible and make mistakes. We need help and encouragement. We feel inadequate, in other words, because we are inadequate. God's made us that way. God created us for relationship, to depend on one another. He gave us different, complimentary gifts that are supposed to work together like the parts of the body do (see I Cor. 12:12-31). He called us to love each other, to support each other, to encourage each other, to carry each other's burdens -- to be an interdependent community, not a universe of independent superstars. And He calls us into fellowship with Him too. It's part of our nature to feel restless and incomplete if we're not connecting to God and depending on Him. So in the economy of God, 'not enough' is not really an issue. What is an issue is our skewed thinking about who we are and what's expected of us -- when our 'not enough' reality turns into frantic attempts at self-sufficiency...
But here's the good news -- and it's amazingly good. Even in the midst of our inadequate, lying, sinning reality, God loves us passionately. Tenderly. Enthusiastically. With a Father's care and tenderness. He sees so much potential. He wants so much for us. For thousands of years He's been pursuing us, making it possible for us to draw near to Him. He even sent His Son to save us -- not because of our efforts, but simply because we're His.
That's hard to understand, I know. Believe me -- I know! I still struggle with my compulsive, workaholic tendencies. I still wrestle with the pain my inadequacies cause me and those I love. I'm still ashamed to be 'not enough,' and I keep bustling around to rectify the situation when what I really need to be doing is turning to Jesus...
Our inadequacies, our failures, our 'not enough' issues are simply beside the point when it comes to the Father's love. Yes, He has His standards. Yes, He wants to help us be more like Him. Yes, He has work for us all to do, and I believe He delights in our hard work and creativity when it's combined with obedience and honest truth. But even if we never did a thing, our Father would still love us. He continues to love us when we fail, when we run from Him, when our thinking is skewed and our intentions are all wrong. Even when we persist in thinking we can never be enough through our own efforts.
We must sound so silly as we huff and puff and whine and wheeze and try harder and harder and wallow in our worries. But if we let Him, He can love us back to sanity. He'll give us rest. Even better, He'll give us peace. Remember what He said to the woman with the issue of blood? He told her to go in peace. He said the same thing to the Luke 7 woman, the notorious sinner who annointed His feet with perfume. And I believe that's His word to us... who try and try and still don't feel like we're enough. That word of 'peace' means 'nothing missing, nothing broken.' It means being whole, enough, sufficient. It means being able to relax, not strive, because we're so confident that we're loved. It means doing all our work with a changed perception. An attitude of grateful, peaceful confidence. Because we're His children. Because, to Him, we are never anything less than beloved."
As you enter each day, remember the words I often share from the pulpit: "As God's grace-adopted children, we work FROM acceptance, never FOR acceptance." And that little change makes a big difference! In fact, maybe a little daily reminder of her advice would be helpful as well: Begin each day by reminding yourself: I can relax, not strive, because I know I am loved. I am confident of His love. I am His child. And in Him, I am never anything less than beloved.
To the further glory of His grace, Pastor Jeff