“If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is. ‘Why drag God into it?’ you may ask. A certain level of good conduct comes fairly easy to you. You are not one of those wretched creatures who are always being tripped up by sex, or dipsomania, or nervousness, or bad temper. Everyone says you are a nice chap and (between ourselves) you agree with them. You are quite likely to believe that all this niceness is your own doing; and you may easily not feel the need for any better kind of goodness. Often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognize their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are ‘rich’ in this sense to enter the Kingdom… If you are a nice person – if virtue comes easily to you – beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.” -- C.S. Lewis
I used to think I was awesome. I was, what I now jokingly refer to as a "low-key b****," while fooling many, including myself, into thinking I was perfect. There were a lot of things that came easily to me at the time which didn’t come as easily to the people around me. So I drew everyone’s attention to those things while denying to the point of my own blindness the things at which I was inept. When asked “what do you struggle with?” I honestly couldn’t find an answer. Only after some thinking would I come up with "pride." If you knew me in high school, I’m sorry for this.
I’m not saying the low-key belchiness is totally gone from my spirit. Jesus said we would be made perfect in Him, but that perfecting is a process that won’t reach its final completion until our own death and resurrection. Low-key birching may be the thorn in my side for life, one that seems to hurt people around me more than it actually hurts me.
Or does it? I’m reading Mere Christianity for the first time, from whence came the above quote, and I am, in true millennial hyperbolic fashion, OBSESSED! But focusing in on this section from the chapter called “Nice People of New Men,” Lewis makes it clear that when a lot of good things seem to come naturally to you, it may be more of a handicap than an advantage. You easily forget that every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17), and are tempted to think every good and perfect gift comes from ME. BECAUSE I’M AWESOME. And even if they do come from God, I guess I’m just #blessed more than other people.
What a lovely reminder Lewis gives us with "Much is expected from those whom much is given," a little reference to Luke 12:48 quoting Jesus Himself. My friend, if you’re just really good at a lot of things, beware! If you don’t see why other people find it so hard to be compassionate because it’s second nature to you, beware! If it seems like everything’s just been easy-breezy in your personal life and career for a while, beware! If you’re glad you’re so educated and wise on scripture while those other people are so ignorant, beware! God does not see us in face value comparison to other people like we do; he sees our hearts and what we've had to overcome and sacrifice in pursuit of Him.
During a recent season of my life, I faced what I now know to be a true test of my compassion. God gave me this oh-so-clear opportunity to show radical mercy, patience, and love. And boy, did I fail. Every day I failed. I would wake up the next morning and fail. The next morning and fail. Miserably fail. Repent and fail, repent and fail. For weeks. These virtues were things I once thought came pretty easy to me. I thought I was just not an angry person, just let things roll off my back like it was nothing. But I never realized that even my nature had its limits. One day during this season I found myself weeping and shaking with absolute loathing – something that felt so outside of who I thought I knew myself to be.
I was confused. I knew that God allows us to go through tests and trials that we would grow and our faith strengthen. I thought this outcome required me to pass the test, so to speak. Like I was supposed to come out on top after saying "not TODAY, Satan!" in Jesus’ name and hear those dearly coveted words from my Father: “well done, good and faithful servant.”
But it is in our weakness that God is strong.
Never in my life before that difficult season had I really tasted the daily need for God’s grace and redemptive power in me. I saw naked my desperate need for grace and my total inability to change my own heart for the better. I felt like I had digressed as a human, but later realized I had always been this despicable, my true colors brought out by a mere change of circumstance. And what a blessing it was to see my own iniquity, because it was then that I grasped a little more of the depth of God’s love and grace for me (and for those to whom I could not give that love and grace). Each day that I returned to Him in need of forgiveness, He welcomed me into His arms, knowing I would fail Him again the next.
I would like to propose a new prayer for you and me. Let’s pray for failure. Pray that if you ever lose sight of your complete spiritual bankruptcy apart from Jesus, if you ever give yourself the slightest credit for any of the good talents, skills, virtues, or results of life circumstances God has graciously given you, that He would bless you with failure.
Yes, I just said bless you with failure.
Take caution with your prayers of "more of You, less of me," and "I want to know You more," but do not cease in them. You have no idea what kind of trials and suffering you’re in for with those prayers (and I still don’t), but keep praying them while it’s easy and relatively casual to do so. When neck deep in your own failure, God will remind you of what you asked for and that He is faithfully and carefully answering you in abundance. You will find yourself rejoicing when you look in the mirror and see what looks like a scummy enemy of God, because it is that total, not-even-low-key bench in the mirror for whom Jesus died to make new.
|This is a really cool, completely unrelated photo of my bestie Payton at my favorite place in the world where I get to go in just 10 days!!|