Today I mapped out the three paths I see before me with regard to a specific action. I don’t want to get into it all here; honestly, the specifics are irrelevant.
The jist of the matter is that I’m being asked to give something up. And I’d really rather not.
I’ve been praying for grace a lot lately, praying that God would give me enough to enable me to submit. But I think the subtext of my prayers is “Give me grace to make me want to give this up.” Or, more to the point, “Give me enough grace that when I give it up, I don’t have to hurt.”
I’m more than willing to give blood, as it were, as long as God promptly rushes in with some kind of spiritual cookie and a free T-shirt and the assurance that my sacrifice was purposeful and worth it.
I’m far less enthusiastic about sacrifice when I actually have to feel it. You know, when it’s actually a sacrifice, as opposed to a trade that I make for something obviously better. Ultimately, of course, sacrifice is a trade of sorts. But the pay-off is far from immediate, and from this side of the dim glass, the value of such sacrifice looks dubious.
And it’s funny how the grace that I pray for looks so entirely different than that I receive, for grace keep running smack up against the disease in my soul. I pray for grace to make the sacrifice easy, when in reality, were it not for grace, I wouldn’t have any motivation to make the sacrifice at all. I pray for grace to work as a numbing agent against pain, forgetting that my spirit-sickness is bone-deep and cannot be removed without surgery; it’s grace the wields the scalpel.
It’s not as though this process is done entirely without anesthesia. The stories of the saints who have gone before us, the certainty we have of the end of the story, the promises of comfort for today, all work together to imbue the pain with purpose and hope. They can sometimes take the edge off.
These poetic sentiments are cute and helpful in the light of day, but I’ve spent my share of time wrestling with God, calling on Him to show His hand before I show mine. (The truth is, of course, that He has shown me His hand. I know that the pay-off of submission is greater holiness, greater peace, joy, etc. I just want the pay-off immediately, served up on a platter of comfort and ease and happiness and getting everything I ever wanted.)
But I can’t shortchange the process. To develop perseverance, I have to. . .persevere. I won’t know hope until I’m challenged by suffering. I can’t step out in faith until I can no longer see.
Thank God He refuses to give me what my diseased little heart wants, and instead persists in pushing me to be more like Him and giving me the grace I need to acknowledge that He is worthy.