“Eden explodes and we enter a dangerous, terrifying world, the same place where goodness, love, and kind intelligence lift us so often. The world has an awful beauty. This is a chaotic place, humanity is a chaotic place, and I am a chaotic place.” – Anne Lamott
“What would you want written on your tombstone?” My husband asked me one night as we were preparing dinner. He had thought up a line for himself, a perfect summary of his personality and the overarching purpose to his days. Yet I fumble for words. Anything that crosses my mind as a legacy worth having doesn’t seem to mesh with the life that I am living.
Why do I feel so different from the person I aspire to be?
Perhaps this is just part of the human condition. I have an ideal in my mind of the mother and wife and friend and citizen I want to be, but the reality is that I am “a chaotic place” — a constant battle between good and evil as both try to take more of my heart.
Paul describes this struggle in Romans when he writes:
“I don’t understand what I do. I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do what I hate to do… I know there is nothing good in my sinful nature. I want to do what is good, but I can’t. I don’t do the good things I want to do. I keep on doing the evil things I don’t want to do.” (Romans 7:15,18-19)
When I read these verses it’s like my soul breathes a sigh of relief. So it’s not just me, then. Phew! I am learning that even though I make choices I am not proud of, or do less of the great things than I wish I had done, God is always calling me to be more. Even on my worst days, when I feel farthest from the person I want to be, I feel pulled to more love, more joy, more peace, more patience, more kindness, more goodness, more gentleness, more self-control.
I don’t know why some people find this easier than others. But I’m figuring out that the answer for me, and maybe for you too, lies in the answer Paul gives a little further in the chapter.
“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but I am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (Romans 7: 24-25)
That’s it then. The glorious truth that Jesus has set me free from all my failed efforts. When I draw close, He can and will turn my meek efforts into something good. Maybe even something beautiful. It’s not about how hard I try, but how much I can trust in His love.
Earlier today, the boys and I sat at the edge of the pond as the sun was high overhead making the water sparkle and casting glimmering shadows over our faces and coats. Our smiles could not hide the splendour of it all. I think this is a perfect picture for my faith. If I want to live in the light and reflect light to others, I need to find my place near the source, each and every day. There is no other way to fight the chaos within me, than to surrender myself to the Father of Lights.
C.S. Lewis sums it up perfectly: “If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to what has them.”
Today the sun is shining but one day soon I know it won’t. And on that day I will pour myself a mug of ginger tea, I will curl up on my couch under my favourite blanket, and I will let these simple delights remind me that my God delights in me too. Not because of what I do, but because of who I am in Christ.
Sometimes the best things we can do in our faith journey is to perch ourselves on a rock and let the truth of His love soak into the deepest parts of our being, melting the icy parts into rivers of life. As His love becomes a fire within me, I believe it will somehow find a way to shine through me and light up the world.