While on vacation recently we visited a local church meeting. It was a wonderful experience. I loved it. My wife loved it. My kids loved it. Christ was magnified. God was glorified. The people were warm and friendly. The teaching was outstanding. As a guest our family was served so well. We went away encouraged and grateful to God for our time with other Christians.
However, as I was reading through some of the material they gave us I noticed something that confronted my limitations. In short, I’m not a bright person. At best, I am average. I have given up the Utopian notion that I will be above average in anything. It will never be.
Here’s the good news: I’m okay with being average.
However, where being average comes to the fore and presents its most habitual sin problem for me is in the area of sanctification. This church’s literature brought my “average-ness” to my mind again and I felt a slight angst rise-up in my soul. To their credit they had some guiding principles that they value and in their desire to serve their people these principles were laid out in a list for clarity, precision and hopefully encouragement. My problem is that when my “average-ness” collides with a sanctification list such as this I can feel a functional, spiritual illiteracy oozing over me.
Sometimes I convince myself that I can do this and I go off with much zeal and hope that I am “more than a conqueror through Christ” only to find after a day or week or month that I can’t keep up with the varied Christian disciplines. I’m not consistent and even worse I’m typically overrated in my mind. I’m a 40-pound spiritual weakling. And when these realities settle into my soul I’m tempted to sin. I tried to overcome and I failed, again. I gave it my best shot only to land hard upon the heap of lists, priorities, to-dos and goals…again.
This local church had goals to shoot for like prayer, evangelism, bible reading, bible study, fellowship and confession. Now these are all good things. These are things I want to do. These are things that I need to practice on a daily basis. AND in addition to this I want to be a good neighbor to my world, a good husband to my wife, a good dad to my kids, a good brother to my Christian friends AND I want to learn how to be a leader, be humble, be consistent, be repentant and more. My problem is that sometimes I feel like a juggler with more to juggle than is humanly possible. Or at least impossible for the average Christian (Read: Me).
Typically my average-ness only allows me to juggle one thing at a time. Multi-tasking in the spiritual disciplines is not part of my gift mix. This is a hard truth for me to “fess-up” to. I’m a proud person. I love me and my loyalties to myself sometimes cross lines to the point that I live in self-deception. It has taken me multiple decades to embrace my dumbness. Am I discouraged by this? Absolutely not! I am not discouraged at all. I only get discouraged when my self-deception inflates my head to the point where I am striving to impress others. This is twisted.
I can easily be tempted toward a higher view of myself. I realize it could be sad to think I’ll never be a Major Leaguer. It is even sadder when I sinfully strive in situations that only lead to frustrations and temptations through my ill-advised efforts to make the “Bigs”. Accepting my place is not failure. It is a practical reality of how God has made me and now I can live robustly within these parameters.
I’m a pretty good Little Leaguer.
It is not giving up or a failure/fatalistic mentality. It is actually a better definition of success. I could be a very successful Little Leaguer when I realize my gift mix does not allow me to be a Big Leaguer. This is biblical thinking. The key is to recognize who you are and fulfilling fully God’s plan for you as you are empowered by his Spirit within the grace-gifting you have received.
James hinted at the dangers of striving beyond your grace-gifting in 3:16: For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. I get in trouble when I selfishly strive in areas beyond my limitations. I’ve come to realize that my average-ness is okay with God. A “widow’s copper penny” is huge in God’s mind if that is all she has.
Now what do average people do who struggle with spiritual-multi-tasking? This is a good question. What are we to do when we can only do one thing at a time? How does the bible speak to this? Well here’s more good news. The bible only asks us to do one thing. The bible only has one value, one task on its list, one “to-do”, one priority.
More on that later…