Is It Working Yet? (Doesn't feel like it)

I went back to our small group for the first time last night. Jesse leads it, and we always have great discussion. I almost never ever want to go (because lazy introvert), but am always glad that I did (because Jesus).

We've been going through Galatians for a whole year (and it's not a long book) and it seems like my takeaway every time is, "Oh crap, am I maybe not a Christian?"

Not because I stop believing or something, but because we often end up circling back to very foundational truths about Jesus and the Gospel and believers and I end up saying "well it doesn't work like that for me."

Soooooo, I'm either sitting here as the one person of all the times whom God's word and promises just don't work for (actually I guess Pharaoh is on the bench with me; spiritually redshirted by God who hardened his heart so that he literally couldn't repent--which always seemed like a pretty unfair deal to me. I'll be sure to ask Jesus about it)...


Some of my premises about Jesus are wrong*

*I bet to my non Jesus-loving readers you're all like, "I'll say! Yeah they are!" zing. #IllPrayForYou #Heathen #Joking #JesusJuke

Here is what I am working with:

Galatians says (like 28 times in 6 different ways...Paul seems to be fussy about this point) that when you attempt to add anything to the saving power of what Jesus did on the cross, you totally alienate yourself from His Grace. Because His Grace is everything and we need nothing else to be right with God. In the Bible the example was circumcision; Jewish Christians were trying to tell new, non-Jewish Christ followers that after they put their faith in Jesus, they ALSO needed to get circumcised too--for extra holiness. Somehow believing in Jesus wasn't quite enough.

And Paul heard about this and was all, "DROP THE FLINTKNIFE and back away from the foreskin!"

It had been part of religious law that Jews and converts to Judaism be circumcised. There were also a butt-ton of other laws that they had been trying for centuries to follow (really weird-sounding stuff that doesn't make a ton of sense to me: DONT TIE THAT KNOT). Paul said that Christ freed us from the law completely by being the only one who actually ever obeyed it perfectly, and when we try to bring parts of it back (usually the parts the we feel like we've got in the bag already: Lev 18:21 Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek. Well I'm a friggin Saint in that department! Judge me on that category.) we actually put ourselves back under ALL of it and its impossible requirements, and we have instantly failed. 

The application for me isn't so much circumcision (probably not at all, actually), but the gold stars I try to pile on top of the cross: "Yes God came to earth and died by torture for my soul, yadda yadda, but ALSO I am not an alcoholic, I don't cheat on my husband, I gave $5 to a homeless person today, I have cute kids,  and I have powered up some extra kindness from myself today soooooo, in a way, God is kind of lucky to have me in His club."

NO NO NO. Paul tried to ram this home: there is nothing I can do or that can be outwardly measured: no act, no "try", no inherent awesome, no "well, at least I don't ____,"  in me that can possibly make me one millimeter closer to being clean and or good enough for God. Jesus is the only thing that covered that distance, and He is adamant that the journey be exclusively His. 

All my "look at me I'm a good Christian" trophies are worthless; they add nothing to Christ's gift of grace and any faith I put in them actually puts me back into chains.

PREMISE #1: I need to stop thinking that if I somehow do enough of the right things, I could actually improve upon or add to what Christ has already done for me.

Okay I got that. So I am just letting Jesus be His magic, world-saving self in me. But then Galatians also says that the byproduct of having Jesus in my heart (aka Holy Spirit) is actually something that SHOULD show on the outside.  A Christ-filled heart should produce a life marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness goodness, and self-control. (Gal 5:22)

PREMISE #2: When God's Spirit is alive and active in my heart, there should be outward signs/fruit.

I paint myself into a corner sometimes when I feel like the outward signs just aren't pouring forth from my life.  I figure, well, if they aren't coming on their own, maybe I can force them out by trying to "man-up" in my own power (aka premise #1) to get the byproducts of premise #2. 

This is impossible because the fruit of the Spirit (from how I understand it) should just be a naturally-occurring overflow of the presence of God in me and of my gratitude and devotion to Him. When I try to just summon patience (accio FORBEARANCE! ) because I know it's right or that I "should" have it, I can maybe squirt out ten to twenty minutes of it (and it's never fun or breezy).  But surely something is better than nothing when it comes to fruit?! 

NO. According to Premise #1 I gotta stop trying to make stuff happen in my own power that is outside of Jesus.

And then I just let the natural overflow of my heart make the outward change in me.

Okaaaaaaay, except...what if nothing happens?

PROBLEM: When I stop using my own efforts to squeak out cruddy little examples of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness goodness, and self-control, ALL semblance of those seems to disappear from my life.

What gives? Where did I go wrong in my theology? Is it me? Am I just terrible?

HYPOTHESIS: I have Holy Spirit antibodies that trigger graft vs. host disease and my donor heart just won't take because my wretched one keeps kicking it out.

But no. I don't really think that outside of the dreary little pity party I throw myself in an attempt to not take responsibility.

"Is this smoothie made from fresh Spirit fruit?" No, fool, it's clearly 100% freak juice.

The problem for me lies in Premise #2. The "alive and active" portion. It's not a puppetmaster situation where as soon as I put my faith in Jesus I instantly became this Bible zombie under the power of the Almighty-pilot and fruity Spirit rays just shoot out of me wherever I may roam. 

No, it's fruit. And the roots and the soil have to be tended. I guess I already know how that is done. I know that means praying more, reading my Bible (which I already struggle with), and just spending time with Jesus. I don't think I am looking for shortcuts there, but--aside from that regiment sounding so cliche--I feel like I have done those things in the past and it doesn't always seem to "work" (that sounds so manipulative-y.)  Does that mean I wasn't really doing those things with the right heart? Because dang, it felt right. 

I want God to draw nearer to me, and I know He promises that very thing if I draw nearer to Him, but what does that really look like? My analytic, not-touchy-feely, ultra-skeptic, cynic brain needs help on getting back there when I am feeling in a rut like this. I need access to that overflowing engine of love and I feel like I am blocking myself. I'm in a port-a-potty at Disneyworld complaining that the place isn't nearly as magical as people said it would be, when I just need help stepping out of the john. (or maybe I just have the secret flu).

QUESTION: What are some practical ways that you've found most fruitful for reigniting your relationship with God? Are there any verses that talk about this stuck-in-between feeling (no longer my power, but not yet feeling His) that you can share? That make YOU overflow?

I'm not just looking for one of those wonderful feelings-full encounters with Jesus (though those ARE awesome). I'm looking for a way back to the kind of life-everlasting and the utterly sufficient grace reservoir that doesn't make me shoot dragon eye daggers at my kids 14 times a day. I know it's a lifetime walk, but I am mature enough in my faith that I need to/should/want to be getting fruitier as time goes by.

I hate feeling like I am just bad at this. Just a stinky worm of a believer (I know, super red-flaggy that I am either considering Jesus lucky to have me or pouting). What gives?!


  1. I just LOVE how down-to-earth you are!!! Sorry but I don't have any answers because I'm in the same rut, but please do a follow-up post with suggestions later on!! And read this post I found not even an hour ago: http://momastery.com/blog/2015/01/13/parenting-and-life/. Talk to Jesse! That will not only give you some suggestions but also bring you two closer as well, and closer to Jesus as a couple, which is pretty awesome too. So it's a win-win! :)

  2. Hi Keight. I remember a blog post you wrote about 8 months ago where you said you are learning in Galations that the Christian life is not about what you do, but about what Christ did for you on the cross. You need to rest in that very truth. Rest in what Christ did for you on the cross, the grace and love of Jesus. His grace is sufficient for you (2 Corinthians 12:9). You will not rest in Christ and what He did for you on the cross if you are looking at yourself and your "lack" of fruit. Don't look at yourself, look to Christ. Accept who you are because Christ accepted you as you are. In Galations 3:3 Paul writes "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" Meditate on the truth of the cross. Stop looking at what you are/are not doing. When you first believed in Christ, you are justified. You will be with Him forever! Sanctification is a life-long journey. We still live in the flesh. We still sin. His changing us could take a lifetime. We cannot and should not put our confidence in what we are/are not doing. Our confidence comes from what Christ did on the cross for us. I hope this encourages you.
    P.S. I don't think you would be struggling with this if you were not a Christian.

  3. Psalms? There's emotion and drama and poetry and I think about David. It reconnects me. Any of them. And it's easy to find.

  4. Erica Gladden1/16/15, 2:01 PM

    Do you think that maybe you're just not recognizing your own fruit sometimes? I see your fruit. Your light is shining all the way over here in NC.

  5. Gosh, I love your words. Agree with Erica, your fruit is showing over here in Virginia. When I get stuck in a rut, sometimes a reset of my daily devotional helps. A new book or reading plan helps me get a fresh perspective. I loved SRT on my phone while I was nursing at odd hours, but now I'm enjoying an Elizabeth Elliott book. I also enjoyed Bob Goff's "Love Does". He talks about what fruit looked like for him. Much love to you!

  6. Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Life changing. Mommy friendly.

  7. Keight,
    I came across your blog by way of unusual circumstance! How all the internet / social media stuff "works" is way beyond my comprehension, but now I'm here. My son and Jesse, were high school football teammates is really the only connection we have that I can give you (oh, Legacy is "home" to a great number of long time friends from Southwest and Heritage). The questions you asked brought back many questions that I too have asked. Amazing that as we all walk this path, the Father places us in our little cocoons and lets us struggle to "free" ourselves, understanding that to "assist" us will make us weak and unable to "fly" as HE designed.

    Why do I feel compelled to respond? All I can tell you is that my soul ached as I read your words. They are the same that caused me to "seek HIM first"! Please understand, I was raised in the Christian Church (Southwest), studied and majored in Bible at Milligan College, served as SS teacher, deacon and elder throughout my many years. You could call me one of the "died in the wool" NT believers! Over the years, the questions never ceased (still haven't). The biggest one of all was this.....Why do I hold a book in my hand that is "ONE", yet I've been told that the first half is not relevant to the second half? Why the disconnect? Why would a God who chose a group of nomads, give them a set of INSTRUCTIONS (not laws) to live by (and by so DOING exhibit their love in return to HIM, see 1 John 5:3) Oh, how did that NT verse happen to tie into an OT thought? I'm sorry, I got off track.

    I do not intend to "hog" your blog space and apologize if you think this is out of place. I just wanted to make contact and let you know there are answers to your struggles. Answers that are not churchy, sunday school answers but ones found within the WORD OF GOD! Keep seeking and you will FIND, keep knocking and the door WILL be opened! You may find the attached link quite interesting.


    If you'd like to discuss things further, you may reach me via email: marchman.scott@gmail.com