Failing Before God

Remember my new and valiant resolution to keep God at the front of my mind for as much as possible every day?

That resolution died a violent and painful death at roughly 9:38 Wednesday morning.

I didn’t mean for it to happen.  I started off well.  Morning prayer walk: check.  Brief meditation on some verses: check.  A recognition and remembrance of God as I sat down to grade badly-written research papers: check.

But badly-written research papers are, apparently, the bane of the searching soul, and an hour in I had stopped thinking of God entirely.  My meditations consisted entirely of irritated asides, mental sighs, jaunts to what were they thinking?-ville, and dull repetitions of the same instructions about comma splices, misspellings, and typos that I have given for years.

I meant to think of God when I stopped grading, but then I had to get dressed and get to school and then, on the way, I got behind a bus, and then I remembered something I had to do at school, and made a note of a story I wanted to tell my mom.  And then I got to school, and colleagues were having an emergency meeting, and then I had to teach, and my husband texted me, and I had to eat lunch, and…

I did remember God.  Kind of.  A little.  In the sense that I periodically thought oh, right, God–  And then I felt a flash of guilt, and resolved to get back to Him, to think on Him more clearly at some moment that was not right now, not when I needed to do something else, because as important as God is He could not possibly be more important than me scrambling down to teach my class.

At the end of the day, I got in my car, slumped behind the steering wheel, and thought, God, I screwed up.  My efforts to keep you in mind failed not even a week in.

I could almost hear Him: “I know.”

I put my students before of you.  I put my irritation before you.  I put finding the right shoes before you.  …I put Kraft cheese and crackers before you.

“I know.”

That’s bad.  That’s…really bad.  I mean it’s always been bad when I’ve done it but now it feels worse because I realize I’m doing it and I’m still doing it.

“I know.”

I’m horrible at loving You, actually.

“I know.  But I love you anyway.  And it matters that you try.  It matters more that you keep trying.  And tomorrow you’ll try again.”

And that’s it, isn’t it?  Perfection isn’t attainable for us except in Christ.  I want to be Elijah, escorted up to heaven by chariots of fire.  I so want to be Enoch.  I want to “walk with God” until one day I am just “no more” because God took me away (Genesis 5:24).  I want to be so close to God that after I die I don’t realize I’ve died because my relationship with Him feels pretty much the same.  I want to be David.  I want to be Jacob.

But in my desperation to be those Biblical heroes I ascribe a perfection to them that they didn’t have.  That they never had.  No, we don’t know how or why Enoch sinned, but we know that he must have: all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  Jacob was a manipulative liar who scammed his brother out of both birthright and blessing.  Elijah got so tired of trying on God’s behalf that he very nearly gave up.  And David…well, there was that whole Bathsheba mess.

When I look more closely at what my Biblical heroes had in common, it was not any inherent goodness they attained but, rather, a dedication to being close to God in spite of their failures to be all God wanted them to be.  A willingness to keep trying in spite of the circumstances.  Elijah almost gave up…but then he didn’t.  Jacob fought for a blessing.  David returned to God gladly and accepted the consequences for his sin, then continued forward.

In our not-perfection, in our inability to display any real righteousness but what we have in Christ, the effort that we make out of love for God becomes the greatest gift that we can give Him.  It is also, I suspect, what changes us the most: the process of trying, and failing, and trying again, brings us closer and closer to who He wants us to be.

And mostly, all of that is to say this: I don’t know if you’re failing in your spiritual life, or if you’ve tripped up on something.  Maybe you’re tangled in a sin you thought you’d left behind.  Maybe, like me, you had grand plans for being a Christian super-solider that you trampled three days in.  Maybe the resolutions you’ve made and your promises to God have been left in the dirt and dust.

Yes.  You failed.  But you get to keep trying.  And the trying is what God honors.  There’s no time like now to get started all over – again.


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