when good intentions aren’t good enough

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Do you ever frustrate yourself? It can be easier to notice when someone or something else makes you boil on the inside, but do you ever recognize the moments that its YOU that is aggravating you?

I get that. I’ve gotten to that point more & more as I’ve come to know Jesus. As my life is slowly but surely transforming & being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, there’s tension in the process. There’s a lot that has needed to be broken off of me. A lot of shell that has needed to be shed. A lot of imperfections that have needed to be refined in the fire.

I’m in this place in my life right now where I’ve gained a fair amount of knowledge on what it means and looks like to follow Jesus, & I’ve definitely made strides through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but I get caught up in thinking that with all this knowledge I know what I’m doing. I know that I know that I know that there is so much room for me to grow & learn & develop, but my mind plays tricks on me & too often I’m caught in this cycle of thinking that I’m much further along that I am. That because I think about all the ways that I can serve Jesus and others or imagine exactly how I desire my relationship with God to be then I am good enough. I have the intentions of putting Scripture to work in my life, but I fall short of actually applying it. & oftentimes it is because I get self reliant & self absorbed & as a result my eyes turn from God towards myself and all of the idols in my life.

Why is it that I get so self reliant when I know that I have a God that is more than capable of handling the tough stuff that so often overwhelms me? Why do I lean in to myself, and not God, even when things are going well? & why do I go through what feels like a cycle of turning to God & turning away from God over & over? Why am I in the role of the unfaithful Gomer in the book of Hosea more times than I ever want to admit.

I want to take you back to April of this year, when we got the word from the Air Force that we would be leaving Southern Illinois to move to California in just under a month’s time. It was unexpected, and last minute, so it certainly threw us for a loop. Yet, in that span of time I felt a great deal of assurance in God that it was all taken care of. I chose to trust God in that season of life for us. I trusted that leaving a place that I loved so deeply was a part of his will; that moving across the country away from everything we have ever known was a part of the plan; that His will and His plan is always for our good – even if that means that challenges lay ahead. I was surprised at myself as I told people with confidence that I was trusting God to lead us to what He has wanted for us, even if it wasn’t exactly what we had envisioned. Trusting Him didn’t take away the challenges that we were facing in the stress of a month’s notice, cross country move, but it did give us a rock to lean on – THE rock to lean on.

Then we arrived in California. & the lack of nearby support from friends & a solid church family quickly tempted me to lose some sight of my upward thinking, and after a couple months time, I got comfortable. I enjoyed days at home tending to my interests. I didn’t have to deal with a stressful job or straining responsibilities. Maybe the comfort is what turned my eyes away from trusting God. It was like I got off a bus and said, “Okay God, we got to where you wanted us. Thanks for bringing us here. See ya in a few months when you pick us up for the next change in our life.” & yet when it came time to start prepping for our move to North Dakota, I was leaning less on God than I did in our previous move. I was still trying to tell myself that what’s ahead is for our good, regardless of if it meets my expectations or not, but I feel like I was doing it more as a pep talk than doing it in a way of trusting Jesus.

As another point, for the most part, I stayed committed to opening my Bible in the mornings in the past months. With the steadiness of a routine, that’s how I started every morning. & each time I have dived into God’s word, I’ve seen life. I read words that speak to my heart, soul, & mind. I’ve taken in the words that give me hope & motivation. Words that spur me towards Jesus. Yet, most days I closed my Bible alongside of closing my mind. I shifted my attention to the first task on my to-do list and let the life-giving words of Scripture drain out of me. When I’m in the Word, I want it. I want the words that it speaks of to ring true in my life. I want the character & perspective of someone like Paul to be reflected in me daily. I honestly have felt the depth of that longing in my heart sometimes. Like when your heart is aching for something so desperately. I want that closeness with Jesus. I want my desire for Him to be consistent. I want each day of my life to be one that brings Him glory & is lived intentionally for Him & His purposes. I want these things. But when I’m not in the Word, too often it’s out of sight, out of mind. I don’t put forth the concerted efforts to allow God to make the changes that I deeply desire for my life.

As of late I finished working my way through the She Reads Truth plan “Open Your Bible”. (Ladies, have you checked out She Reads Truth? If you haven’t & you’re looking for a daily dose of Scripture & relatable application along with the option to get involved in the online community, then I recommend you give it a try!). One of the days in the plan I read the quote: “I nourish my life with good intentions and expect it to thrive when only Jesus can quench my soul-deep thirst.” I swallowed these words & they went straight into the pit of my stomach. All of these moments that I spend thinking & imagining myself in closeness with God are just intentions. I desire to be someone that communicates relationally & consistently in prayer (which is such a long shot for me right now – I’m so guilty of being terribly inconsistent in the greatest gift of communication with a God that loves me). I want to be someone that soaks in Scripture & is able to share it with others, while being able to understand it more fully as the days go by & as I apply it directly to my life. I hope to be someone that exudes Jesus, not myself. & yet, my thoughts, and hopes, and dreams of these idealistic “me’s” are a waste of time if I never take the steps to make them real in my life. I’ve expected these intentions & hopes to be good enough. To satisfy my soul. To push my relationship with God forward. Yet, in the back of my mind I kept pushing back the truthful thought that what I was doing was routine. My daily time in the Scripture was not heartfelt. It has not been personal. It’s been a box to check. & I hate that. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to treat God like that. But I do. & the heartbreak I feel with myself & for God is nothing compared to the hurt that I’ve inflicted on God. It’s in these moments that I just don’t understand how He is so merciful. I can’t comprehend how He can put up with me so much. How he doesn’t just give up on me. On humanity. He is faithful though. He’s consistent. He’s grace-filled & merciful. & he still pursues me even when I walk away from Him. Oh Jesus, how I need you every hour!

Can you relate to this at all? Does this cycle feel disheartening to you? Because I know I’m not alone in my struggle with this. The struggle of knowing better but choosing otherwise. Paul felt it too:

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. [Romans 7:15]

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! [Romans 7:23-25]

I feel like a toddler that God shouldn’t take His eyes off of, otherwise I might run towards something that turns my attention away from Him. Or maybe it’s that I feel like a teenager, that knows better, but I still turn towards the things that I know don’t bring me to life nearly as much as God does. Either way, I’m still turning my eyes from Him. With one hand in a pot of gold, & with the other in Your side**. These are the reasons that I relate so much to Gomer. These are the reasons that I can relate so much to Israel. These are the reasons why the words spoken to God’s people in the Old Testament are also directed towards me. I’m an unfaithful, selfish being that turns away from the God that has graciously given me salvation. Sanctify me Lord, that I may do this less & less.

I’m in a new season of life. I’m getting a fresh start in a new place. By God’s mercy, every breath is a second chance. So in order to start honoring Him like I have desired to, my goal for my life right now is to start turning my intentions into action. To start living out the truth that God has allowed me to understand and accept. Will I fall short? No doubt. I’m a work in progress & will be until the day that I die. But here’s to leaning into God’s strength rather than in my own.

With all of this said, I don’t want to make it seem like what you do (or intend to do) is the way to earn favor in God’s eyes, or even that what you do is what earns you salvation & that if you don’t do these things you won’t have either. I’m speaking from the perspective of someone who has already accepted the free gift of salvation & redemption in Jesus Christ & is allowing his Spirit to sanctify my thoughts, words, actions, & entire life. It is Jesus who has covered me & my sins & has made me pure. Nothing that I do would be enough to do that. With his Spirit within me, I’m seeking to honor God & live my life the way He would desire for me to – so that He may be glorified by me, and that if He so desires to use me that I make myself willing. This is a whole topic that goes much deeper than I could ever say with all the words I’ve been given, but I felt like it was necessary to point this out & clarify what I’m communicating.

*This is a line from the song “Wedding Dress” by Derek Webb. One of my favorite songs of all time, because it convicts me & moves me all at the same time. Check it out when you get the chance!

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