You might hear that and think, "duh!" But let me explain why this was such a foreign concept to me. I grew up in the church. I've been lucky enough to understand from the time I was very young that God is real, that He loves me, and that He is actively involved in my life. Along with that understanding comes the knowledge that humans require a Savior. We were created with free will, and every time we choose something other than God, we are further separated from God, but because God loves us so much, He sent His son to stand in the gap for us. Jesus stands in the gap between our sin and God so we can be one with Him, despite our choices. Praise God!
When someone does something for me, especially when it's something I don't deserve or can't repay, I feel a debt in my heart. Even though I could never pay God back for what He did, I want to try. Every time I feel too proud, I remind myself that my life is not my own--God gave me everything I have, and everything I have is because of Him. Every time I struggle to make right choices, I think about the ultimate choice God made to sacrifice for me, and that compels me to try even harder to do the right thing. I am very aware of the debt I owe to God on a daily basis, and as you know, anytime you are in debt to someone whom you can't pay back, it leaves you feeling...less. It leaves you feeling worthless. And the truth is preached on time and time again that, apart from God, we really ARE worthless. So though I feel immense gratitude that I get to live forever with God in heaven because of what He did in sending His son for me, I also feel a great weight on my shoulders to not let Him down, squandering this gift He's given me while I'm on Earth.
To me, this has translated into proving my value through what I do. I have to do enough each day to justify my very existence. I had to do well in school, do well in college, be successful at my job, be a selfless friend and a devoted wife. I couldn't sit around watching TV or spend too much time sleeping or taking luxurious vacations, because I am in debt to my Creator--I need to be constantly busy paying Him back. Having this mindset, anytime I fall short, make mistakes, or even just relax, I feel guilty and less valuable. The past couple years, staying home full time with my son and wresting with post-partum depression, I have felt this way every day. While I have been adjusting to my new roll as a mom and figuring out how to function with a beautiful little tagalong, I have slowed down my pace in some ways, telling myself that it was good to slow down and be present in the seemingly mundane moments, but honestly in my heart feeling guilty that I couldn't figure out how to be what I was before.
We read Psalms 23 in church yesterday. It's such a beautiful passage of rest. As I listened to that well known passage of my Good Shepherd leading me near quiet waters and laying me to rest in green pastures, it occurred to me how different that was from my relationship with God. It's like He has been trying to lay be down to rest, but I'm a busybody who keeps getting up to attend to this or that, because surely there is too much to be done to lay in a green pasture. I'm that person who can't even sit down to watch a movie without getting up to wash a dish or feed the cat or check my email--I can't sit still very long. This is how I feel when I think of God leading me to rest near the quiet waters....I WANT to follow Him to rest there. I desperately need it. But I feel like I can't...like I don't deserve it.
Talking this over with Todd, I mentioned I couldn't wait until heaven because I could truly rest there. Todd said, "We weren't created for heaven. We were created to live with God in paradise here on Earth."
That just blew me away.
He went on to talk about the garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve living in harmony with God here on Earth. Here on Earth! Here on Earth they walked with God! And sin messed it up...but God sent His son to redeem them HERE ON EARTH! To redeem us! I've been sitting here longing for heaven so I could stop working so hard and finally rest with God, and the whole time He's been offering me that paradise here on Earth.
It occurred to me then that God wasn't looking for me to prove myself day in and day out, showing Him that He didn't make a mistake by redeeming me, and therefore proving that I deserve a place in heaven. He saved me so I could be with Him, not one day, but immediately. He saved me so I could have that abundant life now and forever.
Mothers do so much for their children. Up all night, living on coffee and handfuls of cheezits, changing dirty diapers, watching hours of Disney Junior, chasing little ones through a crowded mall, etc. One day Asher will realize how hard I worked when he was a wee one, and he will know that it was simply because I love him, not because he earned it. If upon hearing that news, he decided to devote his life to paying me back, doing everything with the singular goal of making it up to me, I would not allow it! I didn't do all that work so he could pay me back. What would make all of that time worthwhile would be seeing him live his life to the fullest. Seeing him be happy, chasing his dreams, enjoying every moment. I don't want him to feel guilty about what I did for him. I want him to smile, laugh, and love with his whole heart. I want him to have an abundant life. That's how I will accept his gratitude.
God doesn't go out of His way to make sure we never forget what worms we are compared to His glory. He goes out of His way to give us everything we need, to lead us beside quiet waters, and to restore our soul.
There was a time when I wasn't worth anything, but that time is gone. My soul has been restored! I thought that I brought glory to God by regularly telling Him how worthless I am, but I was wrong. That would be like Asher telling me he was nothing before me--it's true that before me, he was nothing because he didn't exist, but he is here now, and to me he is everything. I don't want him to live like he's nothing because that's what he used to be--I want him to live like he's everything, because that's what he is now!
So it is with our God. He doesn't wish me to live like I'm worthless, attempting to bring Him glory by making myself a slave and hating myself for needing saving in the first place. He wants me to live as one He has redeemed, bringing Him glory by embracing my abundant life with Him here on Earth. I embrace this life by walking with Him in the garden, realizing that I'm already in paradise because He is mine and I am His, allowing Him to lay me down in green pastures and lead me beside quiet waters. He has restored my soul, and it is time to live life as one who has been restored.