Several years ago, blogger Rachelle Gardner challenged readers to write a six word memoir. She gave her own example: “Too much coffee? No such thing.”
As someone who struggles with being brief, I thought it would be a good exercise.
It was, and I finally landed on these six words: “Jesus used motherhood to change me.”
I wouldn’t have always summed it up that way though. It began with a more unfortunate six word story.
I’ll serve you. You serve me.
See, I am a recovering religious accountant who spent a long time trying to maintain my salvation by
“earning my keep.”
I’m not sure how I arrived at such a place. No one laid it out for me like that. I certainly didn’t see it at the time, but I viewed my relationship with God as a divine checking account.
So I subconsciously devised a strategy. I would make steady deposits into my account with God–read my Bible, pray, encourage a friend, serve–then, when I arbitrarily determined I had made enough deposits, I could make a withdrawal. Enough “funds” in my account with God meant I had earned the right to make a request.
And let me tell you, in the early days it wasn’t anything too spiritual. I’d ask for His help on a test I hadn’t studied for. I’d ask Him to help me get to my violin lesson on time when I’d spent too much time socializing after school. I even asked Him to make some handsome boy like me.
So off I’d go to do those good things I mostly enjoyed. To make deposits. To earn the right to ask something of God. To prove to Him and the world, that I was indeed His follower. “They will know we are Christians by our love,” I reasoned. What better way to show love for God and others than by DOING lots of things.
To be honest, even it high school it didn’t feel like a drag, and I actually wanted to follow Christ in these ways. Of course this strategy was regularly interrupted by serious lapses in judgement—also known as willful sin.
If something went wrong for me—I did poorly on test, got in trouble at home, handsome boy wasn’t interested—I figured I probably deserved it because I had overdrawn my account. Insufficient funds! And when I decided to sin (because sometimes sin seems super fun), I’d feel real bad about it later. I’d try to make it up to God by doing more good things–making more deposits to pay back my sin debt.
But somehow, those “deposits” became the goal. Rather than being the natural result of love for Jesus, they became a means to get what I wanted from Him.
Hadn’t I had earned those favors? Wasn’t it God’s job to help me out with my agenda? But I was no beggar! I wasn’t going to ask for help without offering something in return.
This wildly distorted strategy followed me into my marriage and then into motherhood. Only I found out not everyone in the world was such a good religious accountant as I was. Some people, felt no obligation to earn God’s love or favor at all.
But rather than investigate why (and find the liberating truth!), I kept on honing my religious accounting skills.
Which led to living life in a state of low-grade panic. Thrashing around hard to earn an answered prayer, to prove I was a good Christian, loving wife, fun mom, nurturing foster mom, engaging Sunday school teacher, healthy cook, organic eater, regular exerciser, frugal saver, thrifty spender…
But I was failing on every front.
I have nothing to offer God.
I supposed my account was empty, and I didn’t have one shred of spiritual, emotional, or physical energy to fill it back up.
Finally, one ordinary Sunday afternoon I put my five (at that time) kids down for a nap, collapsed into my chair and cried for two hours.
I was too tired to even formulate a prayer. There was not one single thing to pray that I hadn’t already prayed. I didn’t have any more clever suggestions for God. I was failing at all the most important things I had hoped to do so well–marriage, parenting, foster parenting, health, spiritual disciplines. Surrounded by evidence of my failures, I had nothing to point to as payment for His intervention.
I had worn myself ragged trying to prove, earn, and deserve.
Drowning in guilt and regret over all I had not done and could not do, I was the beggar I’d tried not to be. I uttered the only prayer I had left. “God…help.”
And He did.
Jesus transformed my weakness into worship.
Through His Word he showed me His love and grace cannot be earned by anything I do. As such, it cannot be lost by anything I don’t do.
His love and grace for me–and you!–is a gift.
It’s undeserved. It can’t be earned. It can’t be repaid.
It can only be received.
All my thrashing efforts to be, do, produce, and perform left me ragged enough to open my hands and receive grace, without trying to earn it.
And just as He’d promised, He gave me rest.
It’s my prayer that whatever you read here will, in some small way, demonstrate the gift that is God’s grace through Christ–in six words, rest and relief for ragged souls.
What is your six word story?