Tuesday, January 6, 2009

On Being Good

Quick Note:
The annual Pulpwood Queens Best Books of the Year list has just gone up and on it Painted Dresses. Here is what the Pulpwood Queens Founder said of this year’s selections:
“All authorss featured at Girlfriend Weekend will be either be featured Pulpwood Queen Book of the Month Selections or Bonus Book Club Selections. Each author is handpicked by me as the best in books today. I hope you will discover them all and add them to your bookshelves! They deserve to be discovered in really big ways for their books are enlightening, entertaining, educating, and give a new voice to literature which is why I selected them to be represented!”
Kathy Patrick; Pulpwood Queens Founder

I’m grateful to Kathy for selecting Painted Dresses. It’s a big thrill for me and I look forward to the upcoming Girlfriend Weekend next week. If you live in that area, please drop by and say hello to either me or Charles Martin, the two authors selected out of this year’s offerings of faith-based fiction. I had the pleasure of endorsing Charles’s debut novel.
Today's Blog Post:
All that said, today’s topic is on being good. As I mentioned yesterday, the concept of goodness in light of pleasing God was a tough one to crack as a young woman, at least in the early training I received through an outreach to my neighborhood. Like the children that were toted in through a bus ministry, I was fed religion in a hurry. I was a part of the rank-and-file of “outreach ministry” candidates assembled into a children’s Sunday school class. It was a well meaning system of processing children whose parents did not necessarily train them in spiritual precepts. I was handed a list of do’s and don’ts that seemed easily managed to a twelve-year-old who had no rebellious leanings. In comparing myself to some of my friends who majored in rebellious behavior, I was good at “being good.”

It was this processed faith that I carried with me into adulthood along with the baggage of a difficult home life. Although it seems as if I were only being handed another piece of luggage to stack on top of the others, I see God’s hand of providence in it. I’m still a big proponent of outreach through children’s programs to neighborhoods. Some measure of faith has a way of taking root in a young child’s heart. I still remember hearing the Word of God and, even though it was coming through a rather legalistic filter, how it made my heart burn. God breathed on that early seed and just kept working the soil of my life until it took root.

But it took me a long time, years that still seem wasted to me, to learn the difference between “being good” and obedience. Here’s what Oswald Chambers said:

“Our Lord never insists upon obedience; He tells us very emphatically what we ought to do, but He never takes means to make us do it. We have to obey Him out of a oneness of Spirit.”

I stumbled around in my up-and-down faith for many years before I finally got that oneness of Spirit, the thing I needed most to finally begin to mature and also find inner healing. But it was the pain inside that led me to not stop trying. But my priorities had to shift from desiring that pain to be taken away so that I could obtain what I wanted to finally desiring simply what God wanted. “It is important to note that James did not say that a believer should be joyous for the trials, but in the trials. . . Stress strengthens and deepens a Christian’s faith and lets its reality be displayed.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary)

The difference between living out faith in order to obtain something for the self and living in the oneness of Spirit will show itself over time as what is true or what is false. I had to learn the difference through painful life’s lessons.

Real Christian faith will stand in the midst of trials because we’re standing or not giving up. That doesn’t mean we’ll never have days where we want to throw in the towel. It just means that we have the assurance that if we don’t, we’ll be strengthened for the next leg of the journey. The stress of those days is our refining process. We’re no longer “being good”, we’re persevering as we are made holy at the hands of a patient God.

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”
Ps. 119:71 NIV