I haven’t been able to write for a little while now. Not about the things I am most passionate about at least. I’ve written creative briefs, marketing plans, business articles, Spanish essays and everything in between, but those things have deadlines and due dates. They take work. Lots of work and research and studying. They push me (sometimes past my limits). They aren’t the restful kind of work, though. And, I think that’s the kind of work that the world demands from us all too often. Work that is taxing and drives us to dig deeper and try harder.
I can’t help but think that the success driven culture all around me has been slowly slipping into my relationship with Jesus, too. It pops up in those unexpectedly defeating moments where no matter how much I do, there’s an uneasy feeling that I’m not doing quite enough.
I should know this is not part of my purpose. I should know that if I lose sight of the Gospel and the reality that the standard of holiness has already been met at the cross, I’ll naturally start trying to meet that standard myself. And, it never really goes according to plan.
Most of the time, it sneaks in as the tiniest questions. They’re subtle, passing through my mind in the busiest moments where it’s much easier to brush them aside than to confront them head on with the truth. Questions about pure motives, direction, dependence and whether or not I could truly be living a life worthy of the call that Jesus has placed on it.
I know the Gospel. It’s knit into my core, and imprinted on my life. The same parts of me that held so much deadness, sin, damage, and deep brokenness, now hold a whole goodness and the beauty of a God-loved soul. And, it’s not because I worked to get there either. You can’t work off something like that, so really I shouldn’t be able to forget. But sometimes, the allure of self-made success tugs at me with its insincere promises and its empty demands. For just a moment, when those questions sneak in, I forget who I am, and I think that working to please God is actually an option.
On the outside, it kind of seems like this might be a possibility or even a noble course of action. Adding a little of our own determination, will power, and focus should make us into “better” followers of Jesus, right? But, we aren’t wired that way – to bear the weight of perfection on our own. Our attempts at pleasing God are less about serving Him and more about building a spiritual resume, and this will destroy our joy. We miss all the purpose, passion, pure living, freedom, and restfulness that God has set us apart to enjoy when we are abiding in Him.
Jesus does not need anything added to His death on the cross to create forgiveness, faith, and unbridled love for Him in our hearts. He knows how to create beauty out of the brokeness of our lives, and He just calls us to abide. We keep our eyes forward and fixed on Him – that’s it. A restful gaze on our King. Because He created us for more than the messy web that a works-based faith gets us tangled in, and that’s why I love this verse in Psalm 37. I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s mesmerizing to think that “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Reliance on Him only bring out the good that He has placed in our souls through His spirit. And really, that’s how it all began.
When darkness was ingrained into our souls and our hearts were heavy with the suffocating lies and shattered promises of the world, Jesus saw us. Not for a beauty within us or will power or determination or perseverance. He saw us because He is love, and He wanted our souls to be restored to their true purpose and passion and intention, so that His glory would be greater. So, it’s okay to rest, wait, gaze, hope, be still, abide. Because when we do, He will bring out the blazing beauty of His glory and an unmatched love from within. The fullness and hope of this truth swells through the core of who and I am and who I’ve always wanted to be. And for me, words spilled across the page and a filled heart are just the tiniest reminders that the work of Jesus is a restful kind. One that brings a shimmering life to everything it touches. That’s something I never want to forget.