“I Thank You That I’m Better Than Them”

Self-righteousness

Forgive me.

I am a man who takes pride in my ashamedness, and loves my self-hated. I think silently to myself, how better than those consumer Christians am I with my self-awareness and good doctrine? Surely God prefers me, the guilt-ridden servant, over the comfortable, self-loving and cheery imitation!

I think I am better than them, I am sorry to admit, and I think I am better than you if you might be the type that I would categorize as a consumer Christian or benefits-only believer. It is only by God’s underserved and arguably unwanted grace upon me that I painfully see my likeness to the Pharisee who boasts in his righteousness over the tax collector (Luke 18:11-12).

Smooth as try to pray, I shout too often by my my works:

Look at me, Father! See my humility! See how I hate myself! Oh, how I hate myself even more than you must, Father. Comfort me, Lord, as I expect you must surely desire, for I have tricked you into feeling sorry for me.

Like a child, I mope in my misery, persecuting myself so that you will only have pity on me. Pity that I will deserve not because you are gracious and not because of your work on the cross, but because I have earned it. I have earned your favor and your grace by condemning myself more harshly than I deserve, and I have robbed you of any opportunity to reveal to me an inadequacy of mine by developing a habit of pridefully exposing my pride. Or so I think.

I am unrepentant, Father, and I trust too often not in the cross, but in the pity I hope to have manufactured within You. How better am I than those who accept themselves as you have received them.

Even now, I hope that you, my reader, might be impressed with me. I hope that you will admire my self-awareness and humble-looking position.

Ugh, pride.

Truthfully though, I am free from condemnation. Much as my flesh may foolishly prefer it, I do not get what I deserve, praise God. The truth is that what goes around doesn’t even usually come around, and what I put out does not dictate what I receive. I am neither better nor worse than you, brother/sister, but am by God’s grace level with all whom have fallen short, which is to say all.

I resist grace, like I resist good food and water for cheap and inferior substitutes.

I hope that you will relate where we are relatable, and forgive me for where I have stood over you. If you are inclined to think I am too hard on myself, may I invite you to consider that it may be because you prefer a god who only comforts and never challenges; who is far more interested in your happiness than your holiness. And, if you relate closely with me, may I invite you to consider that you are not justified by your guilt. This I say knowing that you, like I, might now feel tempted to feel guilty for having felt guilty.

Praise God for truth that refines, albeit uncomfortable.

How to Stay in the Suck

Dealing with stuff you don’t want to deal with

Sometimes life sucks

In these moments, or months, or years, we run to that which we trust most.  We run to that which we believe will give us comfort.  We run to that which we believe will help us to cope with the pain, frustration, anger, and suckiness of our situation.

These things that we trust can take on a few different forms.  Maybe you look for solace in a bottle.  Maybe you look for peace in a paycheck.  Maybe you trade your life for attention because you think you’d rather be dead than unnoticed.

Whatever it is, the shitty reality is that none of these things–none of these worldly coping mechanisms is enough.  Eventually, they all fall apart and leave us still wanting.  Still insecure and unsure.  Still desperate for comfort.

But knowing that isn’t enough.  You can read these words, and maybe even believe them to be true in your mind, but until your false savior fails you so hard that you stop giving it your trust, your hope, and your life, you’ll keep doing it.  You’ll keep placing the tremendous weight of your broken identity onto the weak shoulders of a woman, a man, a substance, an employer or a kid until it hurts enough that you stop.

My encouragement to you

If you still find yourself trusting in anything other than Christ, pray that it fails you.  Pray  that it fails you sooner than later so that you can start trusting in He who can and has carried the weight of your iniquity.  Pray that your false savior disappoints you so profoundly that you forever remember why it is unworthy of your trust.

And, if you have already experienced this pain and disappointment and know not where to go with your burdens, frustration, anger, questions, grief, stress and aggravation–pray.  Pray to God your Father and our Creator that he remind you who he is what he has done.  Remember that this life is temporary, and that ultimately, all will be made right.  Everything will be okay.

I don’t like to dwell on shitty situations.  I like to get through messiness quickly.  If I could be on the phone with a tow truck driver before the air bag finished deploying, I would be.  But sometimes, and only sometimes, it’s better to stay in the suck for a while.  I’m not advocating for victim-mentality or woe-is-me moments, and I’m not saying you should make an award-winning pity post every time you have a bad day. #cantkeepmedown

I am saying that sometimes it’s wise to stay in the suck, especially if you had some responsibility in causing it, and if staying in it helps you to see your responsibility well enough to keep you from causing a similar kind of suck in the future.

Know this: you are not alone.  You are not uncared for, and you are not the sum of your failures.  It will get better, and it will be okay.  Trust Him and Him alone.

Romans 8:18