Originally published Wednesday, 03 April 2013.
I circled the jammed parking lot looking for an empty space. It seemed half the city of San Diego had all decided to go shopping. As I pulled through the aisle again, scanning the spaces for an empty one, I finally spotted an end to my search! The only problem was that the cars in the nearby spaces had parked considerably out of alignment with the space markers. I had to give it a couple tries to pull my car into the unusually angled space. I was totally over the line, but so was everyone else in the row.
“Who started this mess?” I wondered to myself. All of us weren’t where we were supposed to be. My eyes scanned the row, hoping my car would be OK where it was, and that the next person to my parking space wouldn’t be mad and key my car for being so far over the line. My mind wandered to the reality of life this parking picture illustrated.
How did this family get so off center?
Who did this to our marriage?
How’d our church end up like this?
Why am I like this when I don’t want to be?
What in the world has happened to our culture?
There is so much of life that works like a jammed parking lot. Everyone is just rushing from place to place, trying to get by, trying to make the best of things and survive their busy day. One person parks crooked, and pretty soon everyone is forced into the crookedness too. There’s no fixing it. You’d have to move hundreds of cars out. So everyone just makes do.
Life deals us a set of cards for that makes up our family background, our personality, our appearance, our experiences and our dreams - all filtered through God’s loving, faithful, sovereignty. We make do with what we’ve got. We make good decisions and we make not so good ones. We park crooked, even when we want to park straight.
A mom realizes that years of help and support only enabled her child’s addiction. She was just trying to help him get straightened out, only she didn’t know she wasn’t helping the right way for it to do him any real good. This mom was just trying to do right by her much beloved adult child. A husband works himself weary everyday trying to provide for his family that is already comfortable while they just really miss having Dad around. He’s trying to make up for the way his dad couldn’t provide for his family growing up, but his children and wife need his presence more than his paycheck. He was just trying to get by, trying to do what he thought was the right thing. A wife let bitterness creep into her marriage. She didn’t mean to. It just happened. She’d watched her parents divorce and was determined not to fight with her husband, only she hadn’t counted the cost of never speaking her thoughts or opinions. He didn’t mean to railroad her wishes. She just never said anything.
We all do things, usually little things, out of our best of intentions that don’t add up to the picture we’d hoped for.
Some life circumstances brought me to a place of reflection over the last ten years of life. My memories ran over past experiences like fingers feeling over piano keys. I had offered my very purest actions, efforts and heart to serve the Lord, His people and my family. I could also see how my very best was still marred with self, with fears, with doubts where faith should have been. I could see my righteousness as filthy rags before my Lord.
All of us are dirty with sin.
All the right things we have done are like filthy pieces of cloth.
Isaiah 64:6 NCV
“All the right things we’ve done...”
What in the world do we do when our best comes up so desperately short? I think there’s a handful of practices we can implement in our daily life to invite God in:
1. Humble ourselves before God - a humble heart is positioned to grow and learn so that you can mature to reflect Christ more and more and your “old self” less and less.
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 NIV
He leads the humble in justice,
And He teaches the humble His way.
All the paths of the Lord are lovingkindness and truth
Psalm 25:9-10 NAS
GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 1 Peter 5:5 NAS
2. Pray for God’s grace to cover us - it’s by grace we are saved and by grace we grow and by grace we finish and fulfill the callings God has laid on each of our lives. It’s not on our own steam!
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8-9 NIV
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:8-10 NIV
3. Purify our hearts from worldliness - As we consider the concept of how our life can get out of alignment without us really knowing where we went wrong, we need to take stock of what we allow to influence our lives the most. Following after Jesus will require sacrifice and “leaving” the world in our hearts. It’s when we rest on the world’s logic that we so often find ourselves doing things that make sense, but don’t get the results we hoped for--even when our actions stem from seemingly good motives.
There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12 NAS
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 NAS
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. Titus 2:11-13 NIV
4. Root our minds and life in His word - I was just talking with a Christian sister about how things in the Bible can be so simple, but we can fail to connect the dots to see how we ought to live out the simplicity of God’s call. For instance, TV--I know one family that has a litmus test from Philippians 4 to guide them and their children as to what is good for them to watch on TV: whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things (Phil 4:8-9). Pretty obvious direction there from God’s word, but one we really don’t apply to life as often as the verse prescribes. Psalm 101:3 says, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.” Another great litmus test for our choices. Too often we read over the Bible and let the words stay inside the book cover instead of letting them spill all over our life details. To protect our life from getting horribly out of alignment, we’ve got to wash our minds in the Word and then pattern our steps after it.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2 NAS
Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105 NAS
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Colossians 1:9-10 NAS
5. Acknowledge God at every turn - When my husband and I first got married, we implemented this concept into the details of our life that some people might consider ridiculous. We’d acknowledge God before we hopped into the car to scurry around in the traffic. We’d acknowledge God before a phone conversation to invite Him into the situation--whether it was good or difficult. We’d acknowledge Him before we went to the store, asking for wisdom and prudence to manage His finances, and so forth. One time early in our marriage, we went to make a purchase for a replacement computer (after I accidentally ruined my new hubby’s computer and wondered if he’d still love...he did!). We prayed before we went that if for any reason we weren’t supposed to spend the money, God would show us. Our debit card was denied, despite the necessary funds in the account. We left without a new computer. A few days later someone gave us an old hand-me-down computer. They didn’t even know we needed one, they just thought they’d check with us. God blessed our path because we acknowledged Him. After that day, we felt the concept of "acknowledging Him in ALL our ways" had been confirmed and cemented in our hearts.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:6 NAS
None of us will make it through this life with just rainbows and sunshine. We all face trials and heartache. But centering our life around God’s design will always provide protection, help and the richness of His presence for the journey.
Blessings for the journey, dear one!