Ashes

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'fire fire fire' photo (c) 2009, Peter Løvstrøm - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday.  And as new as I am to celebrating the Lenten season, heading towards Easter, usually I’m ready and have an idea of what I will be giving up for the 40 days.  This year I don’t have a clue.  And while I’ve thought of a few things, the deeper I get into it, the more I realize it’s what I want and not necessarily what God wants from me.
That seems to be the theme of my song lately.  I’ve been reading through John lately due to some encouragement from my friend, Tracee, and through a plan at If: Equip, a branch of the conference I went to last month (and one day I may be able to tell you about how cool it really was).  To be honest, it’s been a long time since I read my Bible for any other reason than just to say I read my Bible.  I was the “good Christian” who barely took time for much other than what was expected of me.
These past seven or eight months have been some of the most soul-searching months I’ve had in years.  Because, you know what, I feel some days like I’m just taking up space.  Am I really doing anything to make peoples’ lives better?  There are plenty of days that I can say yes to the question and plenty of days I can say no, but I think it’s a valid question nonetheless.
“What if I’m living like Jesus is merely useful to me, or is He ultimately beautiful to me?” ~ Ann Voskamp from IF:Gathering.
I think most of my life has been spent being good only because it’s been the rules.  Good girls follow the rules.  Good girls do this and not that.  If you do good things, you’ll be able to get to heaven.  If you don’t go good things, well, you know…and on and on and on.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be good and kind and loving and full of grace and mercy.  But what I’m learning more and more is that if Jesus is useful to me — I’m doing good so I can get something good in return — I’m turning my relationship, whatever relationship it may be,  into a business, an enterprise.  And that will only last as long as the give-and-take system stays in tact.  And let’s face it, we all have relationships where we give more than we take and some where we take more than we give.
It won’t last.  It never does.
It’s only when we come to the realization that Jesus just wants to be with us, no strings attached, no expectations, just to sit and be loved, that there will be peace.
Because I CAN’T be good enough.
I can’t do enough things.  I can’t say everything right every time.  I am human and flawed.  And Jesus just wants to be with me.  And I NEED Him to be with me.  The fact of it is is that I cannot take another step without Him walking with me.  When we can finally see this in ourselves, it makes it so much easier to see it in everyone else.
So Lent?  I’m giving up striving.  I just decided that now as I was writing this.  I’m giving up trying to fill anyone’s expectations of me.  I’m giving up all of those transactional relationship experiences and just going to love.  And I’m just going to work to see Jesus as beautiful instead of useful to me.
And it’s going to take work.  Anything worthwhile is hard.  I’m the type of personality that things that there is always something I can DO to make things better.  When sometimes what is best is to just BE.
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I see not to please myself but Him who sent me.” John 5:30.

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  • rojopaul

    Love this. And love anything and everything by Ann Voskamp. She is truly anointed. Appreciate your willingness to be real and transparent with us, Julie.

    • Thank you. And I would love to have half of what Ann Voskamp has in the words department. Anointed is so right.