Maybe you’ve seen the poet’s answer to that question:
“Oh but my darling, ‘What if you fly?’”
It’s a beautiful sentiment, full of optimism, and I understand the point they are trying to make.
But it doesn’t really answer the first question to my heart’s satisfaction. Really though, what if I fall?
As we covered last week in Physical Therapy for the Soul, being self-aware isn’t the same as changing. So let’s just assume, for the sake of argument, that we all haven’t arrived at perfection since last week.
Chances are, if you wrestle with anxiety, doubt, fear, depression, or some other negative habit, you will struggle with it again.
But wait, isn’t the plan to move forward? Why would we talk about the next time we fall? Isn’t that just setting ourselves up for failure?
I don’t think so.
I think it creates more problems when we spend our time denying the specific areas that we struggle.
We don’t like the way we feel about ourselves when we fall. The light it sheds, revealing our less-than-best selves to us and to the world is embarrassing. And so, we pretend rather than prepare.
My Train of Thought
It doesn’t even matter what it’s about. For me, the pattern goes like this:
The thoughts won’t stop churning around and around in my head and I’m pretty sure that I have finally found the one situation that is completely outside of God’s control and sovereignty. All the other ones He could handle. But this one is different.
But wait, that doesn’t sound true. As I listen to myself think these thoughts, maybe I mercifully hear the absurdity of my claim.
Then comes the crucial error.
I turn from overwhelm to exasperation. Why do I always do this? It’s like I haven’t grown at all. It’s so annoying. Why can’t I be normal like other people? I am so pathetic.
Beating myself up for falling apart feels like I’m out of the ditch, but I’m not. I’m just in a different ditch.
I often swerve away from freaking out, only to veer off to self-disgust. I may have moved, but I didn’t move forward. I am still just as off track, maybe more so.
Self-disgust feels righteous—like you are aligning yourself with how God thinks of you.
Only that’s not how God thinks of you.
You are believing a blasphemous lie.
I believed it deep down for years, never questioning its validity. Maybe I wouldn’t have said it outright, but the way I reacted to my own failures exposed my core belief.
The logic seemed sound. God was righteous and holy. And when I exhibited the opposite qualities, He looked at me with disapproval and disgust. It was a lie mixed with a grain of truth.
God is holy. And I am sinful. But that’s not the whole story.
The Night Shift
Not until I had my first daughter did my water-tight logic start showing its cracks.
Much of that sleepless-new-mom season of my life is really blurry, but this memory is clearly fixed in my mind.
It was about two o’clock in the morning. The house was quiet. And I sat in a chair, nursing my three-month-old daughter. Nursing itself had been a huge struggle, not to mention the emergency C-section after a midnight eclamptic seizure and ambulance ride to delivery.
But three months had passed since our wild first meeting and the dust was starting to settle.
I looked at my daughter, touched her tiny toes—the ones I could never get into socks on the first try—and my own mothering feelings started to present themselves to my world view.
As I looked at her, a deep realization settled into my bones. I would love this person forever. There was nothing that she could do that would make me stop loving her. I would love her until my dying breath and beyond.
The intense certainty I had welled up in my soul and cracked a wedge in that lie in a way I’ve never been able to fully gloss over, even in my darkest moments.
If I, sinful as I am, felt this way about my child, maybe my Father felt similarly about me.
What if He sees my feeble attempts to follow Him not as an angry judge, but as a caring father would?
What if I Fall?
I wasn’t disgusted when my toddlers tripped. I’m not exasperated when my middle-schooler can’t mow the lawn like a professional landscaper.
Yes, God is holy and righteous. And, yes, we fail to measure up. And we will again tomorrow.
But our correct response in times of failure isn’t to berate ourselves for our lack of faith.
There is a time and a place for self-reflection, absolutely. But when we are drowning, self-criticism is a waste of time. Wringing our hands at our weaknesses doesn’t solve anything.
When I am in over my head, self-anything is usually a decoy to keep me from simply crying for help.
God isn’t a peripheral God, one we are aware exists out of the corner of our eye. He’s a God to fix our eyes upon. One we can look to for help.
What if turning to the Lord for strength wasn’t an end-of-our-rope last resort? What if we knew how much He loves us? How ready He is to dust us off from our latest spill with the compassion of a loving father?
My friends, let’s bypass the self-disgust and shame of falling. Let us brazenly come to Jesus in the moment with our messes.
Let’s have the audacity to know He is waiting for us to come and is glad when we do. Let’s allow our weaknesses to help us cling all the more closely to Him, filling us with gratitude for what Jesus has done for us.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.Hebrews 4:14-16
This topic of running quickly to the Lord is very dear to my heart. It has breathed new life into me in a way I can’t describe. But also, it has become a mantra as I teach my children how to face their struggles.
All of us need to know how much God loves us and how quickly we can run to His throne.