Over the years, I had watched other people find abundant joy in their relationship with Christ. I just never really had the joy I saw in other people. Why was I so miserable? I kept trying to be good, but I always failed. I was doing everything I had been told, really trying to be a good Christian but…never really had that joy I saw in other believer’s lives.
On the outside I was serving the Lord, on the inside I was struggling and I lost focus on my priorities. I was busy “doing” what I was supposed to do, but was not “being” what I needed to be. My focus was on me and not on the Lord. Then the unthinkable happened. The struggle I had in my Christian walk manifested itself in a failed marriage. That sounds like a simplistic excuse to define a failed marriage, especially for a Christian. However, lose focus for a few weeks and see where your marriage relationship goes. Do that for 4 to 5 years and then the end result is not so simplistic.
I could not ask God to forgive me, because I could not forgive myself. Many of those Christians that I had watched experience such joy in their Christian walk were not lining up offering to help…they just offered disdain and judgment on a fallen believer.
From that point on and for many years, my Christian walk felt like that of Sisyphus, forever trying to shoulder my sin and failure uphill, only to have it come crashing back down on me again. Each morning, I would grab my boulder of sin and failure and try to roll it uphill every morning only to get close to the top and realize I could not do it and have it come crashing down the hill. I was forever doomed to a life of pushing this burden around and that was alright for me because I deserved it didn’t I?
Everyday was the same process. Wake up, get dressed, go to work. Start pushing the boulder of sin and failure in my life uphill. I just knew if I could push it up the hill and get it past the crest of the hill, I could relax because it would roll down on the other side and I would not have to pick it up each and every day. I never made it to the top of the hill.
Lord knows I tried. I would push that sin and failure uphill every single day. Some days it was easier than others. There were even times when I would wake up and take some solace in beating myself up for the failures in my life. I looked forward to the punishment that I thought I deserved. But as always… at the close of the day it would end in failure. I could not make the failure or the pain go away. I found no joy in my relationship with Christ. It came crashing down around me each and every day.
Eventually, I just quit trying. I looked around and it was as if I was wandering the desert. The hill was bad enough, but now it seemed as if I was walking in sand. Trying to push a boulder of sin and failure uphill is one thing, trying to move up that hill in sand is totally another. I was tired. I was miserable. I just stopped. I sat down in the dust and said, “God, if this is what you expect of me, then I can’t do it anymore. How on earth can I overcome the sin and failure I have brought on into my life? I’m so miserable! I am harder on myself than even You are. Will I ever be able to get past this? There are thousands of non-Christians out there who are infinitely happier than me! If this is all there is, then why bother with trying to make it right?”
I had encountered the end of myself. I simply gave up. I stopped trying to “make it right”. I sat down and started to listen for God to speak. I needed something from Him. I needed to know that He did not give up on me. It was then I came to the realization that God could finally get my attention. I was so busy trying to shoulder the burden that I totally left Him out of the solution of my problem. He slowly began to work on my heart.
He began to undo all the false notions I had about Him. He began to break down all the things I had been taught that misconstrued His nature. I had always viewed God as a strict disciplinarian more than as a Father. My relationship with Him was a list of “do’s and don’ts”. I thought, “If He was a Father, He must be forever angry and disappointed in me for being such a muddled up, ungrateful, selfish failure”. I was learning that He indeed was my Father and that as my Father He loved me, inspite of my sin and my failure.
As a father myself, I did not conditionally love my children. It came naturally. I could and would be disappointed in what they do in their lives…but I never stopped loving them. The same is true with God. His very nature is to love me. Sure… He would be disappointed in my actions, but He never gave up and He never stopped loving me. Instead of being led by teachers and pastors, He began to lead me, ever so gently and quietly, no louder than the beating of a heart, like the rustle of the wind in the trees.
Now, the face of a strict disciplinarian I had painted on Him is fading away into that of a loving Father, and a mighty King. After all these years, I am in the exciting, trembling moments of awakening. I have the “joy” that had escaped me for many many years. At times I still struggle with being the muddled up, ungrateful, selfish failure that I have been in the past. There are even days when I pick up the burdens and start pushing them uphill.
Maybe I always will be that selfish failure and I will always struggle with the acceptance of the Hill that is front of me each morning. But God the Father loves me anyway.
As I believe more and more, and as I learn His nature, I believe I can give my burdens to Him everyday. I cannot fix it on my own. As my Father, God has forgiven me and I have forgiven myself. Only He can fix it. I just need to be still and know that He is God.
Like a prodigal son…I can go home now. I am not there yet…but somewhere, just barely within eyesight, I see the path.