A year or two ago, I was at about a junior-high level of spiritual and emotional maturity. Now I seem to be in a crash course on compassion and dependence on God, and I just can’t catch up. There are pop quizzes every few days and I fail most of them. I hear the other students say that surrendering to God is not defeat, it is relief. I show up for class every day, take notes, do my homework, and still I am confused.
I want desperately to be in charge of something. Say what you will about the theology of the cross and the theology of glory – happy self-reliance feels good, and sad, weary ineptitude feels bad. I like to feel good. I am not noble enough to readily embrace pain. I just submit to it when there is absolutely no other option in sight.
My husband is miserable. I am miserable. We feel trapped and helpless. I want nothing more than to fix things for him, to take away his pain. Knowing I am powerless to do that adds to my misery. My role as the pastor’s wife, and the particular complications of this situation, suggest that I may not have any venue to express my hurt and frustration in the context of the congregation. I accrue hurts, set them aside for the sake of my husband’s professional well-being, and do my best to find a peaceful corner at church.
But, darn it!, I reserve the right to stomp into the senior pastor’s office any day now, full of righteous indignation and armed with a list of his failings. I will be demanding and I will be right. And it will make me feel good.
Or maybe reserving the right is a problem. A big one.
Kleinig writes with conscience-stabbing insight about the connection between the Golden Rule and prayer (Luke 7:1-12).
The whole section [of Luke 7] deals with the problem of our attitude toward sin and failure in a Christian community. What should we do about the shortcomings and blunders of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Two approaches are common. … We can use God’s Law to judge and condemn sinners. Jesus warns us that when this happens, we pass judgment on ourselves. … We can be lenient and overlook the fault in the hope that the power of the Holy Gospel will change that person. Jesus warns us that where this is done something holy is desecrated and defiled. He therefore advocates a third way, the way of intercession. The sins of our fellow Christians, their failures and their mistakes, the conflicts and tensions in a Christian community, are all opportunities and occasions for intercession. (201-202)
This does not nurture happy self-reliance. It grows from sad, weary ineptitude that must depend on God’s grace and leave judgment to Him. I want to go back to middle school.