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Your Life Is Perfect.

November 22, 2009

I don’t usually preach much here at my Blog, but I came across a scripture passage the other day that struck me hard. It just so happened that it came on the heels of reading L.L. Barkat’sStone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places.” Sometimes words and messages can converge at just the right moment, burrow right down into your gut, and you just know that God is trying to tell you something.

I woke up extra early this past Sunday morning to spend some quiet time in scripture reading and meditation, with the sun rising low on the horizon, and the fireplace burning softly. It was a little piece of solace before the rest of the family arose. I wanted to catch up with God.

The passage I turned to was 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. In the first part, Paul is holding back from describing an incredible vision he had been given, where he was taken up into “the Third Heaven,” whatever that is. He uses words like “inexplicable” “paradise,” and “revelations,” so it must have been pretty much mind-blowing. It sounds like God decided to give him a personal tour around some of the peripheral heavenly places, just to give him a taste of what was coming. Now, that must have made Paul feel really, really important.

But then he immediately contrasts this astounding Vision with talk about a pain-in-the-neck chronic problem that is driving him crazy, which he calls his “thorn in the side.” God won’t take it away from him. 

“I don’t care how important you are,” God said to him. “Deal with it.”

A life-altering Vision, and then the dredges of life. All bound together. Isn’t that just how it is.

Visions and Thorns

As I read this passage, I thought about all of my super-sized visions for life – the plans I get so excited about looking forward to, everything I’ve accomplished and still want to achieve, all of the versions of the terrific me that are out there still waiting to come true.

And then I made a mental list of the thorns, all of those painful imperfections, and believe me – I have plenty: my nagging personality flaws, the frustrations from everything that isn’t happening the way I’d like it to, the weaknesses I hold on to, all the ways that I don’t measure up, and all the things that are just plain wrong.

Grace in Hard Places

The glory and the dredges of life. God gives us both, usually all at once. And they come together in one messy, beautiful, achey package.

L.L. Barkat’s book beautifully recounts the disparity of finding grace in hard places, as she walks through the story of her own life, and how her faith grew in spite of the messiness of childhood shame, questionable parenting, an abusive step-father, to name a few inconveniences. Barkat recognizes the startling truth of grace: that it is present whether we know it or not, no matter the “bedraggled virtues, gross should-haves, errors of the day, recurring failures.”  

In that 2 Corinthians passage, Paul resolves this spiritual disparity with the realization that,

 “God’s grace is sufficient for me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.”

What a relief.

I like this picture of grace. It rests on us quietly, as we go about our business.

The Thorny Me

This is me, reaching for the stars while knocking the glass off the table, watching as it shatters into a zillion pieces on the floor. 

This is me, leading a business towards some bright and compelling future, only to be plagued by periodic bouts of fear and insecurity in my attempts to bring us there. 

This is me, casting about for a grand and exciting version of my future self, but held down like gravity by the authentic reality of the present tense.

This is the thorny me.

Thank God, his grace is sufficient. I don’t need to strive so much, because grace is enough. It always goes before me, no matter what. And this life – well it will never be perfect. But so what? God himself said that He makes it perfect, and all of those weaknesses of mine just polish it up even brighter. They just make me depend on Him a little more.

The thorny me will never get everything  I want, the way I think it should be. The thorny me will get tired, anxious and frustrated, and will make a lot of mistakes along the way. But God’s grace is enough.

It’s perfect.

Photo by nAncy, used with permission.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2009 8:39 pm

    I love this. Like the rest of humanity, I know I struggle with the same things. Big plans, and little nagging issues. I know I can do whatever is ahead of me, but I’m also tangled up with a to do list that keeps me one step behind where I want to be. Thank you for reminding us that this is exactly how it should be.

    It takes a lot to come out and talk about these things. These troublesome human things.

    I reminds me a lot of one of the posts by Real Live Preacher – “The Song of Myself.” He talks more about his thorny self, but I have found myself thinking on his post many times.
    http://www.reallivepreacher.com/node/1216

    Paula

  2. November 22, 2009 9:16 pm

    A photo by nAncy, about L.L.’s Stone Crossings, written by the camel. A trifecta! Great post, Brad.

    It is all about grace. Totally undeserved grace. Some days I can feel it like raindrops, some days like a shower, and some days like a deluge. And I deserve none of it.

  3. November 23, 2009 10:52 am

    Your post is timely, Brad, coming as it does just a few days before Thanksgiving. I enjoyed reading it.

    Here is a poem from Daniel Ladinsky’s “Love Poems from God”. It’s called “That Skill.”

    “A thorn has entered your foot. That is why you/ weep at times at/ night. // There are some in this world / who can pull it/ out. // The skill that takes they have/ learned from / Him.”

    Through His grace, we get through. That may be the greatest lesson we have to learn.

  4. November 23, 2009 2:06 pm

    surprising,
    beautiful,
    wonderful,
    inexplicable
    … grace.

    just when i thought that you should write poetry…
    i have discovered that you do.

  5. November 23, 2009 2:08 pm

    this post is like sitting under a tree on a summer’s day, drinking a cool glass of water.

  6. November 23, 2009 4:11 pm

    Life is perfect. Those thorns are meant to be there, without a little suffering we fail to recognize the all the beauty.

  7. November 24, 2009 3:53 pm

    What a lie we buy into if we believe we are where we are because of our perfection. Aren’t we created in HIS image initially? That would explain all the good in my life … and the rest of my life has survived ‘in spite’ of me.

    Your pondering is a carbon copy of issues HE is showing me too. Love that HE encourages us through others he has in the ‘same classroom’.

    Looking forward to being better educated on what HIS perspective of success looks like in the skin and enjoying that with anticipation not expectations.

  8. November 24, 2009 9:25 pm

    Thanks everyone, for reading and commenting.

    Maureen- thanks for that poem. (goose bumps!)

    Paula – Thanks for the link to Real Live Preacher. I will definitely read that!

    Nancy, you may see a poem on here yet one day. Who knows! I’m obviously inching my way towards one…

    Eric , Glynn, Sandar – Thanks for your insights! I always appreciate what you all have to say.

  9. November 25, 2009 3:20 pm

    I love the touch of the lyrical here.
    And I’ve posted a meagre offering to L.L. before.
    She has that way of saying just enough, and leaving room for the grace.

  10. November 24, 2010 3:00 pm

    The thorns are there to keep us grounded… just in case we thought we were perfect. This is a wonderful reminder of God’s grace in our day.

    Thank you for reminding us to trust in God always.

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