“These people make the same mistakes over and over again!” (Am I really responding this way, again?)

Sometimes it seems like there is nothing worse than making the same mistake more than once. Especially when I’m on the other side of a mistake–being the one needing to exercise more patience than I would like for the sake of loving the offending sinner.

But, I think my real problem here is not impatience or even a penchant to be disgruntled, but a case of spiritual amnesia. I have poor memory–there’s no other explanation. Surely if I had a good one, I would be full of grace. Thus, no grace, no memory. And to reverse that: No memory, no grace.

You see, I have a problem with exhibiting a good memory because I have a problem seeing grace–I can’t keep in mind what I don’t regularly see.

If grace was shown to me once a long time ago and it didn’t have on-going affects, then maybe it would be okay to forget it. But since grace is the blanket over me every day, I have no excuse. I’m obviously lifting up the blanket and peaking out–perhaps even throwing it back completely and forgetting my need to be covered.

And, if I’m not allowing myself to be completely and constantly covered with grace that is visible to me, how can I see grace as a reality that should apply to you too? Rather, I will resent you because you remind me of my need for grace and how little I’m seeing it (i.e. how little I’m wanting it).

I must want grace. Seeing my sin and my powerlessness to confront and eradicate it makes me want grace. Receiving grace makes me aware that there is a power at work over me and in me that I cannot personally account for. It does not deliver up glory from me, but lovingly bestows it on me. If I am aware of this, I can quit expecting you to be delivering up glory from yourself and allow God to lovingly bestow it on you through me. And, regardless of whether your consistent mistakes make me discouraged at your power to change, I trust God that He is the power that must both make you whole and me at peace with you.

Patience for patience’s sake is no good

I do not know how to be patient merely for the sake of being patient. But I do know how to set my heart on Christ because I am impatient — and I cannot endure without Him becoming central to my heart — and watching patience supernaturally spring up from a heart that has found true and lasting contentment.

Rest is lost on the racetrack

If you are struggling because you seem to be missing God, do me a favor: Sit down, be quiet for a few minutes, and don’t move. Don’t be rigid, but rest.

God Himself has been watching your every move, ready to meet you, but unable to get your attention long enough for you to consciously slow down and move in to hear what He has to say to you.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes God can feel far away even when we have been peaceful in our anticipation of His revelation.¬† But, if that’s where you are, and you’re growing impatient, know that the story isn’t over. You can’t write up your disappointment report until God moves, speaks or reaches out to you.

The question is not, will God respond? but will I like how He responds? God never fails to return the attention we give Him, but we must learn how to interpret the aspects of that return.

If God takes longer than we think He should to answer us, is He wrong? If He says no, when every happiness in the world pointed to yes, has He deprived us unfairly? If He says yes when we were desperate for Him to relieve us with a calm no, has He lost His compassion; can we no longer trust Him to do good on our behalf?

Before you try to make those judgments, I wonder if you have realized that God never said that any of those things were not good. And if I may now go one step further, I am curious if you know that He is adamant that they are good so long as He has chosen to give you this response to prayer. This is true because everything that God does is good — absolutely every time.

Now consider that God grants half of your wish: you ask for peace and happiness and He gives you peace. Do you judge His response as soon as it comes, or do you turn to the Lord in a spirit of humble submission and offer the Lord your worship even in your momentary ignorance of the beauty in His plans?

Let me tell you that God wants the latter, but not just for His own sake. Take this into account:

More than anything else, our prayers teach us what we value and show us where we need to grow. He is working to make clear to us, in every instance that we seek Him, just how we are missing the heart of God. But He does this not for the purpose of finding fault with us. He does everything with the intent of bringing us closer to Him, and bringing our character into greater conformity with His.

This is not a punishment, but an opportunity in everything we do to be like God and full of God. There could be no greater gift: God, when He is known for who He truly is, proves in us, that He is nothing short of everything we live to know and experience.

Do we vaunt pride more than patience; do we value power over persistence; do we seek prestige to the neglect of persecution? Then we are missing the point of living, the object of seeking God.

No matter what He says, I want to be able to show off God’s answers to my prayer, especially the ones that show His glory in contrast to my sin. For, how can He appear more faithful, more purposeful, more compassionate and merciful if I deny that I need all these things? And if I do not realize and proclaim that I am in debt to Him in all these ways, I will absolutely revert to believing that I am deserving of everything that comes to me from Him — and then, even more than that.

So, the keys to hearing, and more importantly relating, to God are resting and waiting. And the way we rest and wait is summed up perfectly in James 1:4:

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Recognize that God’s ways are above your own. Rather than grumbling, use your responsive efforts to praise Him for that — knowing that the end will make clear His wisdom that is mysteriously in play now. Let us not meet that end and be grieved that God’s only offering from¬† us was anxiety and displeasure.

It is impossible to have regrets with God when we trust Him. When we rely on Him with our whole being, we will neither look back with disappointment at His behavior toward us, nor remorse for our behavior toward Him.

Maintaining Hope

Some days are harder than others for maintaining hope. But, maybe that’s the problem, maybe we’re not supposed to maintain hope at all — to expect it to look the same for us each and every day — maybe it’s supposed to maintain us.

I like to believe that I can hold onto hope and make it wax as large as I like, but on days when it’s harder to hope, I wonder that I seem to be on the verge of falling apart. But, maybe I have always been in a danger I didn’t realize because I thought I was so resourceful in my optimism and cheer.

Maybe I shouldn’t be afraid when hope seems to come at a higher price on days when I would rather it was cheap enough to buy up enough shares to feel a cushy level of secure again. Maybe hope seems so expensive because it is so rare — only seeming like there was enough to go around forever.

The truth is, only Christ is enough, and has enough for us to be able to go on forever. Why? Because this very world is held together by the breath of His mouth and the Word of His lips. Not one of us is an accident waiting to be forsaken, but a creation God made on purpose to showcase His faithfulness.

He lets our hopes fail us, so that we don’t have to live in ignorance of His infallible mercies anymore.

Then, if this be so, may God let me be able to let go of all these empty hopes — idols that promise me life in certain quantities, but limit my expectations of and delight in God — and hope, instead, because my Source is not short-handed and will never become obsolete. You will always refresh Me with your living water, God, filling my cup to overflowing when I ask. Thank You for teaching me, again, how to ask for what I didn’t realize I needed above so many other things.