By: Abby Watson
Lately I’ve been noticing the gap between what I say I believe and how I actually live. For just one example, I believe God is my Provider, yet I find myself obsessively checking my bank account to make sure I’m financially comfortable; that’s a gap. This kind of thing is nothing new to me. When I notice a shortcoming in any area of my life, my everyday response is to rush right to repentance. I am all too ready for forgiveness, for the bright light of conviction to blaze past me and move onto someone else so that I can move on in relative comfort.
Even in a season of the happiest transitions (new husband, new city), change is still change. One morning I sat in my living room in my favorite ratty, old Christmas pajamas, so frustrated with myself. Why couldn’t I just open my Bible and START this quiet time? Why did my heart and habits feel so blocked? With a quick, “Lord, help me to establish regular time with you in my new routine,” I repented of selfishness and spiritual laziness and washed my hands of the whole affair.
I expected to hop off that couch with a lighter heart, but I couldn’t move. My heart still felt unsettled. You see, God revealed to me that perhaps the bigger force at work was not my sin itself. I’ve run ruts in that road. No, the bigger, better force to consider was what my behavior revealed I actually believe about God’s character. If you had asked me that day what I believed, I would have told you that God loves His children without requirement. End of discussion, smiley face, yellow ribbon, done. Yet my behavioral response was avoidance. I avoided my quiet time because I was afraid of my own inadequacy to make it pleasing to God in form and function. Does that sound like a child who trusts the goodwill of her father? No. In my heart, I believed that God only helped those who helped themselves have great quiet times.
It was as if my eyes were opened! I felt like Paul when the scales fell off his eyes. Suddenly I saw my behaviors not as the end of the repentance process, but rather the beginning. If my behavior was the flower, my false beliefs were the root. Moving beyond the flower to the root began by asking God the million-dollar question: “What does my behavior reveal I believe about You?” This question is an invitation for the Holy Spirit to sweep away the cobwebs of our hearts and tell us true, beautiful, good things about Who our Savior is.
God was faithful to answer me. He reminded me of my security as a child of God, (Romans 8:1) and His abiding and active love for me (1 John), soothing my fears of inadequacy. But most important to my heart that morning was the reminder of God’s eternally creative nature and His title as Creator (Genesis). Knowing that I was made in his image freed me to meet with God in a variety of forms and functions, rather than a spiritless routine modeled after the habits of others. If I wanted to sing at 5 am and “wake the dawn with my song,” I could do it. If I wanted to pray deeply before bed, I could do it. If I wanted to listen to my daily Bible reading during my commute, I could. If I wanted to break out the heavy-duty highlighters and study Bible, I could do that too! Only when I understood God’s character did I feel the freedom I craved. I no longer felt frustrated, blind, confused. I was now free to respond to God’s character. And wouldn’t you know? I picked up the Bible the next morning, same pjs, new heart.
Our understanding of God’s character is the most central piece of our spiritual life, second only to God Himself. I continue to learn this lesson on a therapist’s couch, during long talks in friends’ driveways, and through text messages coming in at just the right time. It’s written all over his Word. “We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
So I ask you, where is your “gap”? Where are you facing a dead-end road of over-confessed sin with no redemption in sight? Where do you feel frustrated, ashamed, stuck? Confess, yes, by all means confess! But where you confess, also ask, “Lord, what does this gap reveal I believe about You? What do I not understand about Your character?” Then prepare your heart for joy. Prepare yourself for the freedom and abundant “riches of grace” He died to give you.
To know Him is to love Him is to obey Him is to delight in Him.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper to be with you forever…. The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” John 14: 15-16, 26b-27a
Abby is a 20-something believer with a penchant for black coffee, Meg Ryan rom-coms, and overthinking. In a world that offers chains and calls them freedom, she is passionate about sharing the ways that Jesus offers life and life more abundantly. She loves putting that passion in action through the local church, in the non-profit world, and of course, as a Wholehearted Writer!