This morning, as I stirred my steel cut oats, I saw two trucks parked in the field beyond the house. Now, we live 2.5 miles from any roadway; this property is quite secluded, not to mention private. So when strange cars are on the farm, part of Dad’s responsibility is to check them out. Since Dad’s at the “Brotherhood Breakfast,” it fell to me to get dressed and wander across the field. I could see Dad’s dog, Caruso, cavorting with the men, so I figured it was good as I walked up. A man with patches on his shoulder met me and extended his hand; he introduced himself as the director of the search and rescue dog training that regularly uses the wide open spaces and forests of the farm for training. All was well. Caruso apparently “helps out” often. And wouldn’t you know it, in about 5 minutes, they’re going to start training puppies, and I was invited to come out and watch. An invitation to participate in something amazing just, literally, rolled up into my yard. What do ya think of that?
I am a person who likes to “make it happen.” I plan. I execute. I work. I strive, boy do I strive. And after periods of all this effort to get things done and “have experiences,” I am resentful, tired, and burnt out.
So in the past couple of years, I have begun trying to cultivate in myself an attitude of waiting for opportunities. Instead of trying to create a life for myself, I’m trying to answer the invitations that come to me. This is harder than it sounds for a “go-getter” like me. I want to rush out and do something. Waiting is not my forte.
This week, as I once again began to plan and overextend myself, I read this passage in Galatians 3:
Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!
Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.
Is it not obvious to you that persons who put their trust in Christ (not persons who put their trust in the law!) are like Abraham: children of faith? It was all laid out beforehand in Scripture that God would set things right with non-Jews by faith. Scripture anticipated this in the promise to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed in you.”
So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faithâ€”this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.”
The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you.
Kapow!! Those last two sentences took my breath away. “Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you.” I need to tattoo that on my arm (maybe I will). I know that historically this passage was written to those of us in the church who really strive to live by “the letter of the law,” and I certainly can take insight from that as well. But the idea that doing is the opposite of entering – that’s really something.
The truth is that this issue is really a trust thing. I simply don’t trust God that God will bring the best for me. I think I can do it for myself. Or at least I can do it for myself sooner than God might do it for me. I am a scared and impatient person.
Yet, I know that when God is not in something it’s 100 times harder; I may still be able to get it done, but I won’t enjoy it, and it won’t be as powerful as it could be. When I do enter into what God has for me, all the pieces come together like the beams in a beautiful barn, a balanced structure that provides warmth for all who enter.
So I’m working, again, to just take the invitations that come. If I see something to do, I sit with it and ask God about it. If I get the yes, then off I go; if I don’t, well, then that idea has to be let go.
And God, knowing I need reassurance, gave it to me. The day after I read this passage in Galatians, an old friend who is a musician – John Francis – asked me about hosting a house concert for him. I told him I’d see what I could do, and almost immediately we have dates, a venue, and some growing support. God really amazes me over and over again.
Now, it’s off to watch the puppies roll and tumble through the fields. I hope you have great invitations today, too.