I find myself nearly caught up with my to do list. Seriously guys, I’m killing it right now. I’m in a rare moment of being ahead of the game with work, the pile of “to be graded” is low and there are well thought-out plans waiting for next week’s lessons. I’ve made time to not only work on my art but actually sell it, I’ve kept up with chores, and I even went on a run yesterday!
I think I wrote about this at the end of the summer, but the school year brings out this side in me- mind in a constant simmer of tabulating to-do lists, attempting to bring the art of multitasking to an Olympic level. More often than not, I have the feeling of treading water, head barely bobbing above water, but by some fluke, right now, my ambitions for productivity have actually been realized. While there is an undeniably sweet satisfaction to crisply check things off of my to do list, the whirlwind of a feverishly productive life has me feeling slightly disheveled and more than a little uptight.
Sneaking up alongside this momentary living up to the expectation of “perfection” are these glimpses of a self-important, easily irritable, task-driven monster. Interactions with others this week has been characterized by a distracted distance, of barely contained impatience, causing more than one painful cringe as I relive the moment later.
Subtly, I’ve slipped into the illusion that our worth is defined by what we do, and how efficiently we can accomplish things. I find myself operating out of my own version of a more “conventional” Beatitudes:
Blessed are the spiritually successful,
for they are living up to the gift of grace.
Blessed are the always accommodating,
for they are desired company.
Blessed are those that have it all together,
for theirs is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power.
Blessed are those who think and act like me,
for they are getting it right!
Well… hmm. That’s gross. Seeing that written down exposes the illusion for the ugly and self-focused lie that it is. And while I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not the only one who thinks those thoughts, it doesn’t make it any less disgusting. To borrow Brennan Manning’s phrase, “I’m a bundle of paradoxes.” Right on the heels of a moment I am feeling prideful and self-righteous comes a wave of shame and insecurity, desperate for approval and love. I am increasingly aware of my brokenness and less dismayed in shame than I was a couple of months ago, but realizing the ways I’m not living out of the gospel, being able to articulate doesn’t immediately change the current state of things, the thoughts that pop into my head, or my knee jerk responses to my daily life. It can be paralyzing. Because let’s be real. This is the reality of living under the above assumptions:
BlessedExhausted are the spiritually successful,
for they are
living up to the gift of grace.trying to write a check they can’t cash.
BlessedNot known are the always accommodating,
for they are
desired company. trapped under a suffocating mask of pretense.
BlessedDeceived are those that have it all together,
heirs is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power. we are all far worse off than we can imagine.
BlessedJust as broken and sinful are those who think and act like me,
for they are
getting it right. also in desperate need of a Savior.
I am broken, fickle, and oh so very weak. But just as I’m about to sink into despair over that realization, I am caught up in the tender embrace of this nonsensical but beautiful reality.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of God.
Listening to this passage in a sermon last week, I was struck how this statement is a declaration. Not Step One in a prescriptive, self-help program to living “The Blessed Life.” It is a reality. To be human is to be spiritually empty. Regardless of how productive or “successful” we are, we’re all prone to wander, quick to mistrust and run to idols. And while that is a blow to our ego, that’s not the end of the story. Because in that state of empty-handedness, illogically and bewilderingly, we are actually blessed. Clearly not out of our own merit, we are abundantly showered with Love given access to the Kingdom. “Loved, not because we are lovely, but because He is love,” as C.S. Lewis put it. Stepping into that reality, embracing it lifts a burden off of my shoulders in a way that an encounter with honest truth can.
Regardless of the status of my to-do list, I am fully loved and accepted and blessed. Because of my empty handedness, I have been given everything.