I started out this last week with a doctor’s appointment at 9am Monday. This was a reschedule, when my appointment the previous week had been cancelled. They warned me then that the wait would be “longer than usual” because they were transferring all their patients’ files over to digital. Well, I figured that with the 9am appointment being among the first of the day the wait wouldn’t be so bad. I figured I’d be home by 9:30, 10 at the latest. So confident of this was I that I didn’t eat breakfast, partly because I didn’t have time and partly because I wasn’t yet hungry.
I was in that office nearly two hours, most of it spent waiting first in the waiting room (an hour) and the exam room (probably another half hour to 45 minutes). I read Everyday Life in Ancient Rome until I got bored with it. Then tried writing in my morning pages journal, but my hand went to sleep. I asked God why He’d set this up. I was just sitting there, doing nothing, my time wasted…
Tonight, in Bible Class I believe He answered. As I think I may have mentioned Pastor Farley has been teaching lately on Galatians 2:20
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh(body) I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.”
Specifically that the old me, the fleshly me, the one that gets angry and discouraged and fearful and is unloving and unkind and impatient, that me has been crucified with Christ. She’s dead, and her problems and limitations have no place in the life that Christ is wanting me to allow Him to live through me.
We live the Christian life the same way we came into it — by faith in the work of another. Belief in the person and work of Christ on the cross is efficacious for salvation, yes, but also for everything we do afterward. Because all the things we’re commanded to do as Christians, loving the brethren, loving our enemies, the fruit we’re supposed to have — we can’t do in ourselves. Only He can.
I’ve known this in part for some time. What I’ve not understood is how it’s actually implemented. I’m still not sure, though I’ve written posts about letting the Lord have control, and letting Him fill in the details of my days, and take care of the book and the deadline and the audience. The book and the deadline and the audience I understand better than the first half of that sentence. How exactly do I let Him have control, anyway?
Recently, having determined that I was going to relax and not have a routine and just let the Lord direct me, and then bungling around and not really making the kind of consistent progress I’d hoped, I came upon an article by a prominent Christian stating that it’s clear that if you want to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile you must deny yourself “a thousand unimportant things and a few hundred important things in order to do the one thing that matters most…” She went on to say specifically that this applies to writing. That writing is, in fact, “entirely a matter of self discipline.” You have to sit yourself down. You have to shut yourself up, you must restrict your enthusiasms, you must control your maunderings.
I immediately thought that that made perfect sense and the Lord had sent it along to remind me that I did need to discipline myself, after all. That all that ‘leave it to the Lord’ stuff was just too lax and this only made sense. And so the pendulum swung back again.
The problem is… I don’t seem to have the ability to do it — discipline myself, I mean. Even when I set myself to it, I fail. Repeatedly. For a myriad of reasons. So now, after that brief regression to the old, temporarily more comfortable, allegedly more “sensible” way, I’ve changed my mind about why He brought that piece to my attention: not to follow its advice but so I could see more clearly the contrast. To show me that it’s not that way. Because that way is not a way of faith in another, but of faith in oneself. I’m the one doing the work — disciplining my self, sitting my self down, shutting my self up, denying my self… I’m the one producing the “fruit” by my determination and my effort, not something the Holy Spirit’s doing in me.
Then there’s the “What Would Jesus Do?” approach, where in a situation you ask yourself what He’d do and then you try to make yourself do that. “Throw that out!” said Pastor Farley tonight. Because that’s not really the life of Christ in you, it’s the life of you attempting to imitate Christ.
No, the answer is faith. “I’m giving the matter of my lack of self-discipline and the whole project of writing this book over to you, Lord. You do it. I have proven myself unable to do it time and again, but I know You can. So I’ll quit trying to scheme and schedule and control and force and demand and reprimand and condemn and deny self and instead, wait for You to come through.”
The only catch is that often when He does come through, it doesn’t necessarily look the way you think it should. The way you have it planned. It may include long boring waits in a doctor’s waiting and exam rooms where all your plans and expectations for the day are dashed and you have the option of sitting there mindlessly studying the baby pictures on the wall and wondering when the doctor will come (and he used exactly this kind of situation tonight) or… you can use the time to recall that the main reason we’re left here after salvation has nothing to do with the natural world, and everything to do with the spiritual world. And you can tap into that, use this alone and “powerless” time… to pray!
Whoa. Never thought of that.
And Pastor Farley didn’t mean that we’re to pray for the doctor to come in and stop wasting our time, or the traffic jam to break up, but really pray… for people, for situations you’re aware of, for your pastor, for unbelievers in your life, for missionaries… for whatever He lays on your heart.
It’s not about me and my schedules and my efforts to make everything work out. Not that having routines is a bad thing — I don’t think it is — just that when those routines get interrupted, there’s no reason to fuss. It’s just a matter of “not my will, but yours be done, Lord.” And maybe to look for some greater purpose in the situation beyond the one you had in mind.