People are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners. (Romans 4:5)
Relate: My mom lives out in the country, but she is not really built for country living. Don’t get me wrong, she loves it where she is, but she doesn’t really take advantage of the outdoors like she could and almost all of the seven acres she owns lie fallow. She owns about a half acre of beautiful, well trimmed lawn and another 6.5 acres of overgrown forest.
Now, I am even more of a city boy. I couldn’t tell the difference between an oak from an elm, a… well, I am trying to think of the names of flowers and weeds to compare, but I just don’t know any to throw in. You get the picture anyways. I am not just a city boy, I am practically proud of my horticultural ignorance, even when such ignorance gets me in trouble.
So anyways, because of some visa issues I have been spending a lot more time than I would like back in the States. While I have been bouncing between staying with a few different people, a good chunk of my time has been up at mom’s house. I figured if I am going to be here for who knows how long then I needed do something to “earn my keep” and set about clearing out some of that overgrown brush so that much more of her property can be seen and enjoyed. I am sure that some of you at this point know exactly where this story is going. A couple days after venturing into the backyard to work, a few spots started appearing on my hands. Within twenty-four hours those spots spread to where everything from my elbows to my fingertips as well as my cheeks and neck was covered in poison ivy rash. I have had minor cases of the stuff before but never anything even beginning to compare with this.
React: For the next three days I could barely bend my fingers. It hurt to do even the simplest of things like buckle my belt and grip my fork as it brought food from plate to mouth. I spent a good three days doing nothing but sitting on a chair binge watching a couple seasons of Star Trek DS9 and focusing with a supreme act of will on not… touching… anything. The urge to scratch was as great a temptation and my not once doing so through those first three days was one of my greatest life accomplishments. (jk) Eventually, the worst was over but it took a good week more to completely disappear and another week after that for all the dead skin to peel off. As I struggled through those first few days, one complaint I offered up at least once an hour went something like this: “Really, God? I try to do a little good. I try to help out, and this is my reward?”
How often do we try spiritually to do the same thing. I know that I don’t have to “do” anything to be part of God’s family. He welcomes me with open arms despite my failures, weaknesses, and ignorance. Sometimes it seems that I don’t have a spiritual green thumb either and my attempts at “doing good” are as fruitful as digging around in a huge patch of poison ivy. I know better but even still I act around God as though I need to “earn my keep”. God loves me and welcomes me with even more open arms than my mom does. She didn’t welcome me any less when I sat for days on a chair doing nothing but moan and watch TV and any more when I was working away in her yard trying to make things beautiful. In the same way I can never do anything good enough to ever make God love more and I can never act bad enough to make Him love me less. With Him it is all about grace. I couldn’t possibly “earn my keep” and there will never be a need.
I can never thank You enough for being such a loving and caring Father. I know You love me. To the depths of my soul I know it and yet still there are times when I feel the overwhelming urge to do something to earn that love. Forgive me for the stupid paths such thinking tends to lead me down. Forgive me for the ignorance that tries to work off the salvation that has already been bought, paid for, and given with open arms. You are good, Father. Help me to be good because I want to be more like You rather than as a fruitless foolish attempt to earn Your love.