“I feel stuck.”
These are the words one of my precious student leaders pulled me aside a little over a month ago, as she continued to tell me of her eagerness to grow in her faith. I listened to her, encouraged her, and gave her a few tangible things to “do.” But I struggled to explain to her the fuzzy line between “faith without works are dead” and the hard truth that doing anything more won’t mean anything more to you without faith.
I talked to my sister today, who explains to me that she doesn’t want to “eat spiritual steak,” because she’s still a “spiritual infant.” Certainly, I’d love to see growth in my sister. But I find myself again explaining to her that doing more won’t magically grow you more.
The crazy thing is–I think I operate my own life with the belief that I’m never a good-enough Christian, that there is always more to do. I think of a conversation with a good friend a few weeks ago, who told me that there was “always more ministry to do” as she justified adding more to her plate.
I’m 7 years older than my sister, who is 7 years older than my student leader. Between the three of us, we have the same notion that we must do more in order to grow more in our faith. I asked my sister what she thinks the “goal is” for faith, and she told me to live a life where everything glorifies God. I asked her if she though I was strong in my faith then. She stuttered (jerk). Point proven. If the three of us over the course of 14 years all have this same notion, my guess is that this is a feeling that will never go away.
It’s a sucky feeling, to not feel good enough. We get enough of that in our day-to-day life, that when you add not being “good enough” in faith, it all just feels so hard. Faith shouldn’t be this hard, right? Faith shouldn’t be something that you’re “good” at.
This last month on three separate occasions over the course of one month I’ve heard lessons taught on the comparison between the Pharisees and “sinners”: a tax collector, an adulterous woman, and the woman who fell at Jesus’ feet. In all three occasions, it’s proven that there is no distinction between them in terms of sin: They’ve all messed up, no one is without sin.
And in all three stories, Jesus proves that the ones who are “good enough” are the ones who know they’re not. None of them are saying “Hey Jesus, what more can I do?” In fact, the ones who do end up hearing answers that turn them away from Jesus (sell all my possessions? who is my neighbor, really?).
At the end of the day, all I want is God.
In every other aspect of life, I have to do something in order to gain something. It’s just the way it is. But what makes Christianity unique is that it’s the only way that doesn’t require more.
I’m not denying the value from spiritual disciplines. But I am denying the belief that doing them or anything else will somehow bring me certain results.
I just want to touch Jesus’ cloak for healing, wipe his feet with my tears, and admit I don’t have it all together. This is far more difficult that doing more, because it’s vulnerable. But that’s where God is–we’re too busy covering ourselves with fig leaves and to-do lists to understand that.