a course correction

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Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6 : 1

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This verse landed on me heavily this evening. Pretty sure i’ve been all about doing that lately. Teaching at Recovery. Checking my blog stats (which are paltry, if anyone cares). Covering this issue of the heart up with clever phrases like “gospel confidence” and other assorted nonsense. i feel most convicted by this verse today, but it wasn’t just this one that hit me. The lessons were abundant. As i am fond of saying, whenever there is a confluence of a theme from more than one source in my life, i am generally sure that that is what my heart needs to hear. i won’t waste the space if you are not interested, but also on today’s reading was Isaiah 58, which has to do with true and false righteousness, Psalm 119, which is essentially comprised of about 150 different reminders that God has a particular Way and a particular Law, and lastly Deuteronomy 31, in which both Moses and God state not only the likelihood but the inevitability that we will fail at keeping that law. (Click on the scripture references if you want to read them.)

Long story short, it is rather apparent that my own righteousness is mostly false, or at the very least incomplete. Sure, i want to make an impact on others, but often i want that more than i want God. i want to make sure it was me who impacted them, forgetting altogether that really only God can do that. Sure, i want to live a clean and healthy lifestyle, but mostly i want that because it enables me to be comfortable rather than because it is right. i don’t love what is right because it is right, i love it for what it provides me. i don’t love God because he is God, i “love” Him for what he can do for me, as if He is some cosmic UPS or a giant invisible vending machine in the sky.

The very end of Matthew 6 reminds me where my heart should be instead: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (vv 33-34)

Here’s what i get out of that verse: i am miles away from being righteous, and having lost track of that just proves that it is true.

i have been very consumed with this blog lately, worried about whether certain posts will meet with people’s approval, wondering what it means when a post gets no likes, wondering if i should be concentrating on the religious or the secular; and i have been equally concerned with what the other participants and leaders at Recovery think of me: whether i am a “good” leader, whether my insight is worthwhile, and whether i have anything to contribute. But ultimately, if tomorrow my fingers are chopped off and i lose internet connectivity, and the day after that i am kicked off the Recovery team, then i need to be trusting that those things are for the best, and in fact they probably would be if i can’t get my approval idol under control. And i need to be particularly conscious about using “righteousness” or “leadership” as a means to gain friends or be a superstar.

For that reason, i came close to shutting the blog down today, but that might be a bit drastic. For even though i may not be in control, God still is, and He can use even my most self-interested garbage to change someone else. Hopefully this post is a step back in the right direction.

But i hope i do have the guts to tear it down if i keep finding myself off track and wandering in self-indulgence. In the meantime, i intend to circumcise the whole process, purify it, and give it back paltry and bleeding to God.

Seems like that’s the kind of thing He can use the most.

***

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

From “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost

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6 thoughts on “a course correction

    • i am glad. One thing that i do think is healthy is displaying my weakness before man. i think people probably get a lot more out of that than they do when i am displaying my “strength.” 🙂

      In this case, i am glad it worked. Thanks for reading!

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  1. Don’t give up on this project. Something I was listening to on Mars Hill Audio recently was a discussion of the ways in which use of the internet malforms our character. One of the things discussed was how we tend to become more narcissistic, and obviously impatient, as our brains are trained to have shorter attention spans. We also tend to view things in narrow transactional categories that are predefined and quantified. (How many “likes,” traffic data, etc.) Of course this is part of a broader trend in our culture of quantifying everything (you see the devastating effects of that in education, for example, with its grave overinsistence on standardized testing). This only exacerbates the spiritual issue you are trying to address, due to the very nature of the medium you are using here. If you were reading this little essays and poems in a traditional writer’s gathering for example, you would still be seeking approval (and criticism) but the temptation would be mitigated by the personal nature of the face-to-face interactions. Your ability to privately gloat at your triumph is lessened by the fact that you are right in front of people who are
    appreciating your work. In addition, consider that in that sort of forum, you would have only a small audience. That can be the most fruitful and satisfying situation. Believe me, I know what it is to work at something and then be disappointed with the size of the audience. I am thinking of recitals and concerts given to mere handfuls of people that couldn’t even dignify the designation of crowd. Impacting one or two people in a non-quantifiable way
    is more important that measuring a response from hundreds or thousands.
    I do think you can overcome those temptations (becoming aware of them is an important step, and bringing it into the conversation here is another) but you are right to leave open the option of shutting it all down if you have to (if your eye offend you etc.) I repeat that I don’t think that should be necessary at this stage though.

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    • There is a sort of self-referential loop inherent in this particular post: even in acknowledging a developing dependence upon approval (or, more accurately, a new manisfestation of an old dependence), and though i am not intentionally seeking vindication via others’ opinions, i have to admit my heart still finds a measure of comfort when those opinions fall in line with my own, even when my own opinion is that others’ should not matter to my heart. i don’t think i explained that well, but essentially i value when people agree with me even when the subject matter is that it should not be important whether or not they agree with me. That said, i do on a truer level appreciate the encouragement you have been to me and my efforts, and of course your thoughtful and insightful commentary. i would be interested to hear that Mars Hill article (verbal essay? commentary?), though it would be somewhat ironic if it were available online…i don’t believe most of their material is, in general, but perhaps set it aside for me for when we are in town next weekend?

      As always, thanks for indulging my whimsy by reading.

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  2. I hope you don’t! One of my closest friends has had a great blog (she is also a writer) which she shut down twice, the second time for good. I still miss it. It is a way for me to connect with you, the writer. I like hearing what you have on your mind and heart. And I like the way you tell it. I know that’s a selfish reason, but I hope you keep the blog alive. even if you need to take some time away, that’s okay!

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