Legalistic. When I think of religion, that is the first word that comes to mind. As much as I know that Christianity is not a religion, but is a relationship, I still tend to be legalistic in certain things. I see things as a policy in God’s Word rather than an expression of His love for us and our love for Him.
One aspect of legalism I struggle with is trying to earn His love. Although I would not have labeled it that way, I realize that I spent much of my life trying to earn God’s love and approval. I thought if I just went to church enough, read the Bible enough, prayed more, served more that I could somehow undo years of complete disobedience. At the time, I was blinded to the motive of my heart. Yet when I didn’t “do something” I would condemn myself for failure. The more I worked to earn God’s approval, the more frustrated I would become. The reality is I knew I couldn’t measure up. There were not enough hours in the day or in my life for me to make up for my sin.
I would run non-stop from early morning devotion time, to work, to volunteer or church, to family obligations, to collapsing in bed for a restless night of sleep, only to wake up and do it again, and again, and again. Weekends I would spend catching up on all the things I let go through the week, trying to catch up with my extended family and a lot of self-loathing for all the failures of not living up to the standards that not only the world but also that “the church” places on people. Day in day out, weeks turning into years and years turning into months, I was exhausted.
I don’t know when it began to click that I don’t have to earn God’s love. I already have His love, it is unconditional. He is love. I admit it is still a journey that I am learning to walk. Battling the standards that are placed on me by society and still walking in obedience to what God wants me to do. It is so easy to move into approval mode and act out of the checklist and obligation instead of obedience and love. I now find myself intentionally missing like a day of journaling just to remind myself it is not a check box for approval, but an act of devotion. Or I will not make it to a late week service because I know that spending time with my husband can be just as much an act of love for God as sitting in a prayer meeting. God knows my heart, and I already have His.
I realize that child-like faith combats the legalistic view of religion. I had paused on this comment, as I rocked my niece to sleep last night. I had been working on the blog since last Wednesday. I had intended to finish Saturday night, but the kids had other plans. I had to laugh, because my pastor preached on this today. Guess it is a timely topic, or one which I needed reinforcing. I almost decided to delete the post, but figured I would just finish it out.
There is a book that I read as a child, and I am pretty sure read to my children called “Where the Wild Things Are.” The story, although I don’t remember all of it is about a little boy Max who gets sent to his room without supper for something. He is angry, and escapes to a world of imagination where the wild things are. There is some story where I am sure he starts out scared, then lets his anger help him scare the wild ones. Max ends up becoming king of the wild things, but eventually decides to go back home. When returning to reality, he finds dinner waiting on him. Max never went anywhere. He never did anything. He didn’t have to. Even though his parents were upset by His behavior, they never stopped loving Him. Max’s provision was there.
I think that is a picture of God’s love. We see correction, discipline, pruning as being sent to the room without supper. We retreat to a world of self-pity and anger. We allow the enemy to ride our emotions to the land of the Wild things where he makes us think that we are the king of the land. We start to believe those lies as our thoughts focus on the wrongs that have been done to us, or even just to stay so distracted by the circumstances that are around us. We get so wrapped up in our circumstances that we lose sight of the Truth. We are working to make everything better in this land of fantasy. In reality, if we would just open our eyes to the Truth before us, God has the supper waiting on us. He already loves. He already has provided the provision.
There is nothing that we have to do, except believe with child-like faith in God’s love for us. God is just waiting for us to get beyond where we are and what we are going through to see who He is to receive it.