We Can Work It Out

I am a recovering performance-aholic. Having grown up in the Evangelical church, raised in a work obsessed North America, and having done a stint in a religious focused college, it’s not surprising that performance became the foundation of my spiritual journey. In recent years I’ve come to discover that God doesn’t care about our performance. God loves us on our good days and God loves us just the same on our bad days. God doesn’t change. His love for us is just as potent, just as full and real today as it was  yesterday and as it will be ten years from now. His love is not based on what we do or even how we do it. It’s based on our position in Christ. This is a heady concept to grasp.

While I am sure I heard snippets about this concept through out my 40+ years, it didn’t start to really sink in until my first Graham Cooke conference in 2011. Graham was speaking on favor, a topic I’m still unpacking, and the Holy Spirit took the opportunity to niggle my mind and spirit and start to whisper truth to me. I wonder why he didn’t just hit me over the head with the truth, it would have taken less time. I’m a slow learner. I wish I could say I took what the Holy Spirit was showing me and ran with it. Alas, I did not. Claire can attest to this. I’m sure I drove her crazy at times with my bull-headed and stubborn clinging to performance based christianity. I’m blessed with a patient friend and mentor.

The shift from performance to position happened gradually. I started to hear sermons at church and performance based language started to stand out to me. I started to become uncomfortable with the “make hay while the sun shines” and “be strong and do the work” messages I was hearing from church, from a money management class we were teaching, and from my husband. On of the strongest voices of the performance message is indeed my man. It’s how he was raised. It’s embedded in his work ethic and his spiritual world view. He would say it’s who he is, but I’ve come to learn that’s a lie.

Performance is all about working to be worthy of favor. It’s about proving I am worthy of God’s love, of blessing, of heaven. And it’s a heavy millstone around the necks of christians everywhere because it’s a lie. We can’t work our way into heaven. We can’t please our heavenly Father enough that He will overlook our sinful nature and grant us salvation. We can’t buy our way into forgiveness. We can’t continue to nail ourselves to the cross because, you know what? Jesus already did that.

It’s okay to work hard. I’m not trying to knock a strong work ethic. But we need to remember the Mary to our Martha. There is work to do, and God does want us to live out the life He has put before us. Part of that is being. Abiding. Relationship. Mary showed us about relationship. And this, my friends, is where God wants to bring us. Into relationship with him. Performance based faith tells us to do. God wants us to be with Him.

God wants to have a relationship with us. How…different. I’ve been thinking about relationships a lot lately. One of the most precious relationships I have is strained. It’s broken in ways I don’t know how to fix. This brokenness is illuminating to me just how much God wants to be for me. He wants to expand within me and fill the hurting places in my life. He wants to comfort me, rejoice with me. He wants to be my hiding place. He wants to fill me with passion and give me impossible dreams that He will fulfill. He wants me to live my life in outrageous joy. And He will do whatever it takes to get me there. He’s tenacious. He loves me. Me. With all my warts and faults. Why? Because He doesn’t see me the way I see me. He sees his perfect creation, covered in Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary. He sees me through the eyes of Heaven.

I can’t get all of that from working harder. The working out of my salvation, it’s not going to speed up if I do more. My faith, it’s not going to grow larger if I lead more people to Christ, join more committees at church, attend or lead more Bible studies or memorize more scripture. My life isn’t going to right itself if I do more at home or at work. God’s love and delight in me isn’t based on outcomes.

I have wondered why more people don’t seek out an actual relationship with God. And then I recall the God of my childhood and the performance based christianity I lived under for years. Why would anyone want a relationship with a God who is fickle and will only deign to love us if we sacrifice ourselves over and over again on the altar of works?  But, if we know God would love us no matter what we did or who we believed ourselves to be, wouldn’t we want to get to know Him? A God who delights in us and sees us who He has declared us to be in Heaven, that’s a God I want to spend time with.

I am still recovering from my performance based upbringing. And I’m praying the Holy Spirit reaches out to my husband and shows him just how much God delights in him.  He’s burning out from performance expectations – internal and external. And I’m praying to learn to abide. It’s a dangerous prayer, but one I must pray. If I am actually going live the prophetic, I must learn to abide in relationship with God. Everything with God is relational, and that includes the prophetic. Without relationship, without compassion, all I am is a chaotic noise that is adding to the problem, not the solution. Besides, isn’t a deep and abiding relationship with the God of the universe is a beautiful thing?

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