I was there just this past Saturday, too. Felt like it had been a year of keeping my head down, doing the right thing with a hopeful smile. Or maybe some tears. I’ve mentioned this last year my struggles with feeling powerless; with the tension of not living some dreams.
I may have even scrawled the phrase tired of a “Yes, sir” life in my journal this past weekend.
‘Cause sometimes faithfulness looks like changing one more diaper. Offering a gentle answer to the belligerent customer (or teenager). Rising at 5 AM. Pushing a wheelchair. Looking away from that person your eyes or heart long for. Mopping up the trauma-mess someone else inflicted. Waiting for her depression to lift. Enduring sleep-deprived night. Calling on the phone when you’d rather curl up with a Netflix marathon.
I like the way Paul Miller puts this, as it applies both to my relationship with God and others:
you have a love-hate relationship with love. You want intimacy, but you become overwhelmed with the work of love.
….At the heart of love is incarnation that leads to death. Death is at the center of love. It happened to Jesus.
….Love will not grow if you check out and give in to the seductive call of bitterness and cynicism–or seek comfort elsewhere. We have to hang in there with the story that God has permitted in our lives. As we endure, as we keep showing up for life when it makes no sense, we learn to love, and God shows up too.
…Because our culture makes feeling happy the goal, when our feelings are negative, when we experience the cost of love, we think that something has gone wrong, that we’re not being true to ourselves.
Your faithfulness toward me can feel noble, or even expected. My faithfulness toward you can look mundane. Interminable. Stretched-thin.
I was thumbing through Matthew the other day, and chapter 4 boasts these shiny little gems. Here’s what I saw: Jesus enduring every single one of the siren songs that pull me away from steady, patient love and trust. It was funny; I was thinking, Satan hits us right where we’re hungriest. I hear Jesus directly confronting the same whispers I do:
Don’t trust this infuriating timing. Look to the now.
You can’t trust Him. Think of what could happen.
Twist Scripture to get what you want.
Forget this. Everyone knows that power, money, and comfort go a lot farther.
Worship someone else. (Namely, yourself.)
Guess you could say Jesus managed to stick with a “yes, sir” life the whole way through. The food that keeps me going is that I do the will of the One who sent me, finishing the work he started (John 4:34).
Living a “No”–and the Right “Yeses”
And truth is, Jesus lived the fullest, most free life ever lived in saying “yes” to the perfect things, “no” to the others. Miller again:
Life is like a beautiful garden with a tree whose fruit I can’t touch. That “no” defines and shapes my life in the garden. So my relationship with my wife is like a wonderful garden with a solitary “no”: I cannot touch or develop emotional intimacy with another woman. That “no” narrows and limits my life. It provides a frame for my love to Jill.
Stepping out of faithfulness, outside of our “no’s”, isn’t freedom. It’s a different form of slavery.
But the point of this little memo isn’t try harder. Yep, I can always renew my desire and commitment. But soul-level faithfulness is technically something only grown by God (Galatians 5:22). Faithfulness is His distinction. Not mine (Psalm 89:8; 2 Timothy 2:13).
Grow us slowly, persistently, and deeply, Lord, to be people who watch without distraction, listen without interruption, and stay put without inclination to flee.
….We pray to be found faithful in the smallest things.
If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way. -Martin Luther King, Jr Click To Tweet