thoughts on grace, but mostly my stupidity

I’m just gonna cut the crap and start off by saying: Life is simply not worth living without God. If you don’t believe me, go ahead, try it. I know that I have, and let me tell you where got me: nowhere, fast.

It can only go on for so long, this idea that we can really accomplish something worthwhile in our lives, apart from the One who gave us life to begin with. That being said, I am neither too ashamed nor embarrassed to confess to you that I have tried to operate under that very idea for much of my adult life.

It happens the same way every time: things really start going somewhere for me in life, and so I take off running, leaving God in the dust, thinking that any success I achieve is happening as a result of something good that I have done. It sounds awful, I know, but I’m not afraid to admit to it, because I have a feeling that I’m not the only person guilty of this. And I justify my behavior by tossing up an occasional “thank you” or cry for help to God along the way, and then continue to cruise along in the life that I pretend to be in control of until one day, I am stopped dead in my tracks, either humbled or broken enough to see that I was wrong all along. And the best part is, God always seems to use the most unlikely of circumstances to bring me to my senses, which at the time, feels like an extra proverbial blow to my already wounded ego.  Not that I can blame him, I’m sure it’s somewhat enjoyable to plan this all out, piecing together different ironies here and there to accomplish the necessary “come to Jesus” moment that I have been putting off for months at a time.

Now, it’s important to understand that I am not trying to make God sound like some cruel puppeteer, inflicting pain on us whenever He feels it’s necessary, or as the film Bruce Almighty put it, “a mean kid standing on an ant hill with a magnifying glass”, but rather a genius, the grand architect of our ever-complicated and constantly changing lives, who knows exactly what we need and when we need it. I believe that God knows exactly what will make me turn back to Him, and as much as I hate it when it happens, looking back over the course of my life, those moments make up many of the most beautiful moments of my life. If you want a good mental image of what this looks like, read Luke 15. As much as I fight against it, my life is like the story of the prodigal son, played on repeat for 22 years.

My most recent of these moments began last night, at a booth in my favorite restaurant, in a conversation with one of my favorite friends, Billie. Billie is one of the most beautiful and resilient people I have ever met, and at 21, she already possesses so many of the qualities that I wish to attain in life. She is unshakingly joyous, genuine, loving, and incredibly wise beyond her years, to name just a few. She was a part of one of the pledge classes in my social club (social club is church of Christ for: “sorority) that I was in charge of, and over the course of the two weeks that she pledged, a large group of her pledge sisters and I developed somewhat of an interesting relationship, which has been compared to many things, but most often is described as “Mary and her little lambs”. And while yes, at many times over the course of the past three years, I have looked out for these girls as if they were sheep under my care, what they don’t know is that they have just as often done the same for me. Last night was one of those moments. Billie and I were talking about life, catching up over the past few weeks, and she kept mentioning prayer, over and over again, to the extent that I became extremely proud of her and at the same time extremely humbled to be talking to her.

Prayer seems like a pretty basic concept to most of us who go to church. I mean, I’m a Christian, so you would assume that I pray all the time, right? Wrong. In fact, of all of the “spiritual disciplines”, I think prayer is the one with which I struggle the most. Now don't get me wrong, I love talking, but only to people that I can see or hear. So for me, talking to someone who I can neither see nor hear has proved over the years so be quite the challenge. I do believe in prayer, and there have so many moments in my life when I have been able to clearly see the benefits and blessings that come from praying, yet I still struggle with it, day in and day out.

But to hear Billie, someone who is not only younger than me and who I have had somewhat of a mentoring relationship with, but someone who has also had a way harder life than me, talk about praying often, over every decision she makes, was yet another one of those proverbial blows to my stupid ego. And again, another moment where I realized that I need God, and that I need prayer, and that trying to act like I don’t is really very stupid of me.

Which takes us back to where this all began: Life is simply not worth living without God.

I don’t know where you are in your journey in life, or whether or not God is any part of it. But I hope that maybe this will give you something to think about, even if it's nothing more than knowing that if you find yourself caught up in the constant prodigal son cycle, you are not alone. That’s really the reason that I write to begin with, so that people will know that they’re not alone. Maybe you, like me, are needing a proverbial blow to your ego, or a reminder of how rich God's grace and mercies are. I don't know what you need, to be honest, but I do know that God does, and that trying to avoid Him and the life He wants to give to you is dumb, for lack of a better term.  

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