Today has been solid. With a little good weather-torture prompting my Pavlovian response toward lighting the grill when the temperature rises, I’ve found that consistency and discipline, whether with regard to food or a devotional schedule or a marriage or any enterprise, are the keys to success. I outlined this thought process to Rev. Rummer today when we met and he responded with a good quote from Eugene Peterson, who described the long haul in a church as “a long obedience in the same direction.”
This enterprise, as is life itself, is a marathon, not a hundred-yard dash. While a fast is a fast and has its benefits from time to time, generally, it wouldn’t be such a good idea to habitually eat nothing for thirty days then gorge, then eat nothing for thirty days, followed by another gorge. Neither is an on going lifestyle of gluttony. A healthy diet of moderation is a good call for the long haul, and excited that I finally got myself caught up on my Psalm reading, I can underscore that it all would have been better and easier if I’d kept up my regime from the start.
We are a selfish lot, humans, and I couldn’t help but connect with a recently read passage from Psalm 78:20–
“He smote the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread, or provide meat for his people?”
It goes on and on about the selfishness of God’s people, never satisfied with his bounty. In America, I think we are particularly guilty of this attitude. Thanks for the water, God, but I want some meat, too.
Thank goodness for God’s grace. Not long ago I read Fall to Grace, by Jay Bakker, son of, you know, “disgraced televangelists” Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. It’s unfortunate that he must be introduced this way, because he is so much on his own, but I need the reader to know of whom I speak. Tattooed and Social Distortion-loving like me, the outlaw preacher has carved out a niche very different from that of his parents.
Branded a heretic for some of his views, Bakker the Younger’s church meets in a New York bar, and ministers to a population that so many preachers un-biblically shun. Bakker has, better than so many of his criticizers, come to a full understanding of grace, much like the Church’s cornerstone, the one who dined with tax collectors and prostitutes before it was popular to do so, did.
“Grace is the evidence of God’s love,” Bakker writes. “So too love is evidence that we have received and we comprehend grace. We read in 1 John: ‘God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect.’ (4:16-17)”
“The opposite is equally true. ‘Anyone who does not love does not know God–for God is love. (4-8)’ If we aren’t showing love, we don’t comprehend grace. Our faith isn’t bearing fruit in our lives…Through love, however, we gain a remarkable, almost superhuman power.”
A week or so into my fast, at the point when not eating became my new normal, I found that I needed to remind myself why I was doing it, rather than the way the tunnel vision focus in my early days spanked me in the face with the awakening of a wet carp swung with force. God wasn’t the sole reason, my honest self points out, but in part, a spiritual tune-up was very much on my agenda. Don’t lose sight, I needed to tell myself.
God’s people did it in the desert back in the day, God’s people do it today and many folks don’t know what they’re missing or are afraid the Church for all the harm it has done in so many different styles of bruisings laid to man over the years.
But even in the Old Testament, God showed grace was on the table: “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, I will be found by by you.” (Jeremiah 29: 13-14)
Potty breaking a dog or child isn’t much fun. To do it successfully, one must be proactive: “Come on, let’s go potty,” one must initiate over and over. And over. Eventually, the dog learns to pee outside and the child learns to poo in the potty. A little front-end effort carries long term benefits. For example, I have two boys, aged 12 and 14, and I no longer wipe their rear ends. They do it themselves. I can use my time for other endeavors and they can boast a wonderful feeling of happiness and independence.
It is the same with God. He simply requires that you take the initiative. You can mess yourself over and over again, but He will still be there with grace and open arms. Evermore, God is ready and willing. But it takes discipline and effort.
Just like skipping pork chops at the outset of grilling season.