Thursday, November 10, 2011

in my weakness, your growth

None of us wants to be the cause of another person's sanctification - at least, not unintentionally - and yet, so often, that is what we are.1

Is this one of the reasons that God allows us to become weak, dependent and forgetful as we grow older? Is it so we can place a necessary burden on those who were once dependent on us: a burden of forbearance and loving care?

Is this one of the reasons we may have to bear chronic illness or long-term disability? Why we may fight depression or suffer from mental disorders? Why we experience unemployment or material need? We may not want to receive others' charity and compassion, but in giving these, they grow into who they should be.

Is this one of the reasons God gives us personalities both winsome and challenging, attractive and off-putting, charming and awkward? Which of us would choose to have a 'difficult' temperament? But it's our unappealing qualities - uncomfortable thought! - that help others learn to love someone who's hard to love.

Is this one of the reasons we're not yet made perfect; one of the reasons that transformation happens so slowly? As we live with imperfect people, we practise forgiveness and forbearance, giving to them what God has far more generously given to us.

Speculation, I know, and raising all kinds of questions about God's sovereignty and our responsibility (yes, I am responsible to grow in godliness, not to persist in my ungodliness because it might help you grow!). In adversity, faith fixes its eyes on Christ and chooses hope, courage and love, not self-centred neediness (Hebrews 12:1-3). But it doesn't do this by a proud denial of need.

My instinct is to conceal my sin, make excuses for my faults, play to my strengths, and deny my dependence. What if, instead, I admitted my weakness, and gratefully accepted your generosity and grace? What if I served, even when the service wasn't perfect? What if, during times of helplessness and need, I practised contentment and received your help with gladness?

We are not strong; we are weak. We are not sinless; we are sinners. In our attitudes towards those who love and bear with us, we can choose to grow in humility, self-forgetfulness and joy. As we do this, we practise something far more significant: an attitude toward God that helps us to humbly receive his grace.

1. This odd little thought popped into my head while I was vacuuming. I suspect it has its roots in some novels I've been reading by the Anglo-Catholic author Elizabeth Goudge. While there's lots about her theology that I don't agree with, I am often encouraged by her moral insights.

This post first appeared in The Briefing yesterday.

image is by SanShoot from flickr


Kath said...

Jean, you have officially found a good reason to vacuum. Wise thoughts come in all sorts of moments. Thanks for sharing yours...

Jean said...

Tee hee. Yep, a reason for vacuuming - I need that! Maybe I should try dusting some time and see what thoughts arise! I could come up with all kinds of ideas for blog posts, you never know...:)

Rachach said...

Jean, I really enjoyed this post. It helps flesh out another part of God's sovereignty for me.

Jean said...

That's great, Rach. Glad to hear it! See you SOON...:)

Katherine said...

This is really in line with some ideas we've been thinking through in a marriage/ relationships course in the last couple of weeks. (What did you expect? By Paul David Tripp). He makes the point that God's final purpose for marriage is not wedded bliss but sanctification: "Happiness is not to be the end result of marriage; rather marriage is the process by which we grow to be more like Christ.
"Our spouses are present to influence us toward godliness. Each marriage partner is an agent of God for the other person's growth. God's purpose in marriage is greater than just your happiness."
Like what you've written, I found that a helpful way to think about living with and loving others.

Jean said...

Thanks, Rach, glad you found it helpful. :)

Jean said...

Hi Katherine,

I LOVE Paul Tripp's books, so I'm glad to be associated with him in any way! :)

I haven't read that book by him but my husband and I have been reading an excellent one about parenting teens: "Age of Opportunity".