I Don’t Think We Have To Earn It

Karmen has been reading a Brennan Manning book. It has the word “posers” in the title. I can’t think of the rest of it. But she often reads things to me from out of the books she reads (I have quit trying to keep up with her and the number of books she reads. I can’t keep up. She is like a bookmonger or something.  It’s freakish really.  She is reading one, and then before I know it, she’s onto another one.  I can’t match it.  She is a book monster.), and there is some good stuff in this one that has gotten me thinking about something.  It has actually refreshed my brain on something.  Not a new idea for me. Just a refreshing of an idea.  And an extension of an idea.

I have a friend who recently told me that all he wants is for God to tell him that he has been a good and faithful servant on that day when he stands to face God.  And I see him striving and toiling and straining to do things that he feels will put him in that sort of favor with God.  And I see him suffering.  The tasks that he has latched onto and in which he toils are those things he sees as advancing God’s kingdom in the world.  And I see him suffering there.  And I see his family suffering there.  And it pains me that he is suffering.  I’ve tried to talk to him about what I think may be a greater truth, but he is not in a place right now to really understand the heart of what I am understanding.  And I think his suffering is not necessary.  Here’s why.

I don’t think that we have to do anything to earn this favor from God.  God loves us because he made us.  There is nothing that we can do to make God love us more.  There is nothing we can do to make God love us less.  We don’t have to strive and toil to earn anything.  God will advance his kingdom in this world, and it isn’t dependent on my money or my effort or my toiling or my anything (and in a large number of cases I am certain that my “righteous” striving and toiling gets in the way, and he will advance his kingdom despite me).  God loves me because he made me, and all he wants from me is for me to be in community, in relationship with him.  And it doesn’t shock him when I fail (from Karmen’s book).  And he knows that I will fail.  And to be in relationship with him I think I have to slow down and do nothing.  I think I have to stop moving and stop toiling and stop serving and stop striving and stop working and stop earning and stop, stop, stop, stop, stop…  And that is the thing that I have such a hard time doing.  I don’t think I even know how to do it.  But I know that I need it.

For quite awhile, years really, I haven’t had much interest in reading the Bible or praying or going to bible studies.  I was taught (or at least it is what I learned) that it is so important that I have my “devotional” time or “god” time every day.  It was even implied that if I wasn’t doing this then I was bad, shameful.  That I wasn’t in God’s favor.  That if I didn’t just relish and cherish this time, that I was on the highway to hell.  So I tried to do it.  I tried to love it.  I tried to like it.  I tried to make it the cornerstone of my day.  I tried it in the early morning.  I tried it in the middle of the day.  I tried it at night.  I tried to get a new bible (or about 5 new bibles).  I tried to get new commentaries (or about 3 new commentaries).  I tried bible study books.  I tried randomly opening my bible and “letting the spirit lead.”  I tried.  I tried.  I tried.  I tried.  I tried.  And I tried some more.  And the advice from “them” was that essentially that I just needed to keep trying.  That God would reward my efforts.

Well, eventually I came to a point about 3 years ago where I decided that this was not working, and that I had tried enough.  If it was going to work then it would have.  If God was going to reward my efforts, he would have.  So either “they” were right and I was on the highway to hell, OR “they” were wrong and there weren’t all these hoops God wanted me to jump through.  There wasn’t some quota of trying or some quota of effort or some quota sorrow or some quota of toiling or some quota of distress that I had to meet to get God to “reward my efforts.”  So I determined that I was going to pray for God to show me how HE wanted me to relate to him.  I wanted to know how HE wanted me to know him.  I didn’t want to know how “THEY” told me I should know him.  What “they” were telling me seemed to be all about hollow religious speak that we all hoped was right and clung to the fact that it was right when it all seemed very hollow to me.  So I have been praying that for about 3 years now.  At the same time I determined that I was going to quit feeling badly about the fact that this mysterious love for my daily devotional time wasn’t working for me.  I trusted in my prayer and that God would answer it for me and that I needed to just quit trying and let all the hollow religious speak that was coming my way get out of my head.  I now believe this was the beginning of God prepping me for this radical 2007.

In the last few weeks I sense that he has been answering that prayer a little more.  I have come to believe in 2007 that not all of my thoughts are my own, some of them are God speaking to me.  If he lives in me as a spiritual being then why do I think that everything coming out of my head is my own?  Surely he is talking to me there.  So I have been listening more.  Over the last few weeks he has invaded my thoughts with the idea that I need to be quiet.  That I need to slow down.  That I need to do nothing and just be with him.  That I need to listen for him.  And this has been a panicky idea for me because I have realized that I do not know how to do this.  I do not know how to be still.  I do not know.  I have never done it.  My life is so full of activity.  I multi-task all the time, and I work like a dog sometimes, and I think all the time, and I push all sorts of time limits and deadlines (which drives Karmen crazy and is really inconsiderate on my part) and I have ESPN on all the time, and I have the sports radio station on all the time, and I have good rock music on all the time, and even when I am not working I am working, and I have 40 million things on my list to do at home, and when I get those 40 million things done I seem to come up with 40 million more, and even when I am not working at work and I am not working at home on my 40 million things I am working on  triathlon and running 10 miles or riding 50 miles or swimming 2 miles.  I never stop.  So when do I do it, this nothing?  Where do I fit it in (how ironic that this is one of the questions that I have to ask)?  How do I start?  How do I even do it?  I don’t know how to do nothing.  I like being busy, and I like being driven, and I like multi-tasking, and I do my best work when I somewhat pressed to the wall.  So I stay pressed to the wall most of the time.  So it seems impossible to do this, this nothing.  This just being with God.  But I know that I need to do it.  I have to do it.  It is the answer to this prayer that I have been praying for these 3 years.  And I want to do it.

In summary, I don’t think that I have to earn anything from God.  I think my friend is wrong.  I just have to relate to him.  I just have to be in community with him.  Which means that I just have to BE with him.  And which partly means that I have to be in community with others too.  Which is why I love Wheatland and my house church and my pastor and Heart Connexion and BT.  These places and people help me do this.  And I want to learn to do nothing and just be with God.  It is a new adventure.  It is a new wandering.  And I love wandering.

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6 responses to “I Don’t Think We Have To Earn It

  1. I absolutely love this post. Thank you so much. Another book you might enjoy is Grace Walk, by Steve McVey. He discusses a lot of the same concepts you’ve brought up here. In, fact, you’ve inspired me to re-read it. I might ask you for permission to link to this post from my blog sometime…

  2. Doug,
    great post! miss the conversations and hope we can jump-start them again soon. I am really excited about the freedom you guys are experiencing in your life. I’ve been checking out Wheatland/ Pastor Paul’s site and, man, does it speak to me!!! Let’s catch up. Peace of Christ to you, my friend.

    Darin

  3. D-
    You and C should come visit Wheatland sometime during Advent. Pastor Paul has some great teaching!

    karmen

  4. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” But the New American Standard Updated version says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” That’s even more meaningful! There’s not supposed to be anything frantic about knowing, loving, and enjoying God. And I love this quote from John Wesley. “One design you are to pursue to the end of time — the enjoyment of God in time and in eternity. Desire other things so far as they tend to this — love the creature, as it leads to the Creator. But in every step you take, be this the glorious point that terminates your view. Let every affectiaon, and thought, and word, and action, be subordinate to this. Whatever you desire or fear, whatever you seek or shun, whatever you think, speak, or do, be it in order to your happiness in God, the sole end, as well as source, of your being.”

  5. Doug,
    You are an amazing man. And, if you are related to Larry posted above (and Im thinking you are) it is so awesome to me that our souls are in sync even across the miles – generational and geographical. Thanks to you and to Larry – be it the Psalmist, a Wesley, a Manning, or a Lewis (CS included), I am re-reminded this morning that God is in us, around us, above us, below us, through us, in spite of us. So, how about we all cease striving together and take a God-cation to the beach?!!
    Hug Karmen and the boys for me –sf

  6. holy cow. i’m tired. am i supposed to feel tired? i feel tired now. reading this made me think that i need to stop thinking as you’ve done all the thinking here. i’m imagining a blank slate now. completely empty/devoid of words. i’m imagining not doing/being anything. ah. i feel beter. i now devote you to do the same for 6 minutes this afternoon. empty thoughts. blank mind. breathe in…breathe out.

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