Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Living in the Shallows

I have often confessed that I have been shallow and would have been content to remain that way but that God wouldn't let me stay there. I have seen my shallowness as sin and refusal to be all that God called me to be.

That's why I love yesterday's devotional in My Utmost for His Highest. Oswald Chambers tells me that "the shallow concerns of life are ordained by God." He says that, "To be shallow is not a sign of being wicked, nor is shallowness a sign that there are no deeps.” What a relief! He even goes so far as to say that I should “Beware of posing as a profound person.” How often I have done that because I viewed my shallowness as a character flaw. But Chambers tells me that, “it is not my devotion to God that makes me refuse to be shallow, but [my] wish to impress other people with the fact that [I am] not shallow, which is a sure sign that [I am] a spiritual prig.” Ouch! What crude sounding language from Oswald! What is a prig anyway? I looked it up. It’s not as crude as I thought, but makes good sense: “Somebody who is regarded as taking pride in behaving in a very correct and proper way, and in feeling morally superior to others.” Very humbling—God, forgive me. It’s not my shallowness that is sin, but my pretending not to be!

I’m relieved to know that my shallowness is not a sign of wickedness or that I have no depth—I know that I do. But, as Chambers says, “our safeguard is in the shallow things.” Sometimes we need to quit taking ourselves so seriously and just enjoy life. Sometimes we need to pull ourselves out of the grief, self-pity and condemnation that we often get bogged down in and just live in the shallows.Chambers tells me that if I refuse to allow anyone in my life who doesn’t meet my standard of depth, then the first person I’d have to kick out of my life as being the biggest fraud I’ve ever known is… myself!

So, starting today, I’ve decided to quit beating myself up for being shallow. I’ll also quit judging anyone else for living in the shallows. I know that I have depth and I will visit there often, but I can’t live there all the time, and I certainly can’t pretend to be there when I’m not! As Oswald Chambers says, “[even] the Ocean has a shore.” And so do I.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Pious Fraud

I don't think anything bothers me more than syrupy, religious, emotional expressions coming from someone who just doesn't seem real--whether it's TV evangelists or a friend's facebook post.

But today, Oswald Chambers is making me take a good, hard look at my own fraudulent piety. (He always hits me where it hurts--maybe it's a "judge not, lest yet be judged" kind of thing.)

I talk a lot about my brokenness and how God has broken me through my losses and grief. But today's devotional talks about a different kind of breaking--one only I can do--a breaking of my independence of God. Chambers begins with Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ in me." He says that God can bring me to the point of breaking the "husk of my individual independence of God" but that He cannot do it. I must do it myself. Chambers says that until that breaking comes, all I am is a pious fraud!

Wow, I just have so many thoughts and ideas about who I am or should be. There are just so many things I want to do. I love to be busy doing, doing, doing. And, like Shauna Niequist, I want to "do everything better!" I do NOT want to be seen as "weak" or "pitiful" or "needy." Those words make my skin crawl. Like a two-year-old, I often hear myself saying, "I can do it myself!"  I don't want to need help!

But the truth is, just like that two-year-old, I do need help. I cannot live this life without help--not only from God, but also the people around me, bless their hearts. I'm guessing I can be a pain to live and work with. I sometimes get an idea in my head and God help anyone who gets in my way! I get so driven and moving so fast that I forget to think about other people and to consider their feelings and their need to be loved and valued.

So how do I break myself of this fierce independence? I know there have been times of brokenness when I knew life was more than I could handle alone. But during everyday times when I'm not suffering, but I'm just trying to accomplish something, I forget. Does the breaking happen once for all or does it need to happen again and again? I'm thinking it's the latter. Maybe after it happens many times, I'll finally "get it." I do want to "get it," because I can't stand the thought of being a pious fraud!