For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. [2 Peter 1:5-9]
I’ve recently spent a lot of time thinking about the choices we make and how today’s choices have a profound impact on tomorrows outcomes.
See my last post from Sunday [here].
One of the things we need to be aware of, if we are to achieve our future goals is the fact that, no matter how hard we try how fast we run or how deeply we desire something, we simply can’t have it all right now. That’s basic stuff but what is a little harder for some people to grasp is the idea that we shouldn’t want it all right now either. Unless you know for a fact that you’re going to die tomorrow you have to leave something undone for your future self to work on. Life goes on and you need a reason to get up in the morning. As the preacher at my grandmother’s funeral put it, “you need to be preoccupied with living.”
My paternal Grandmother died suddenly of a heart-attack at 78 years old. She had her first heart-attack in the spring of 1989. When the local preacher went to visit her in the hospital she didn’t want to talk about her brush with death, all she wanted to talk about was how proud she was of her family. That summer four of her grandchildren were getting married and she was feeling great pride and hope for the future. This young preacher, only in his mid twenties himself was amazed and blessed just to sit and listen for several hours while my grandmother recounted story after story of raising her family. Just six weeks later she had a second heart-attack and died. Grandma never lived to see any of those weddings but she was present at every one of them.
My father is the fourth of eight children. At the time of her death my grandmother had 25 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren. And for all of her nearly 8 decades on this earth she never grew disinterested in any of them.
When I think of my grandmother now, over 25 years after her death, I remember a woman who loved life and was full of grace. She personified what the apostle Peter was talking about when he said we must possess these qualities in increasing measure. She was never satisfied or rested on her laurels. Even though every one of her children faithfully followed Christ into adulthood and nearly all of her grandchildren are active members of the church, she was never tempted to take a victory lap. On the contrary, she knew what it meant carry grace and in so doing grew deeper and deeper in love.
I was reminded of my grandmother recently when having a conversation with a religious legalist. Almost immediately in my relationship with this person it became obvious to me that they were broken and beaten down by circumstance. Also a child of a large family, 14 children I believe, and the same age as my grandmother at the time of her death, this person can neither offer nor accept grace in any measure. The rules, however arbitrary, are made to be followed without question and maybe, if you’re lucky, you might get enough of them right and earn your way to acceptance. This person is trying to fix their brokenness with legalism.
“My son, my son what are you striving? You can’t add a thing to what’s been done for you,” sang Keith Green in the 1970s. That’s grace and it’s all you need.
When we buried my grandmother we sang “Bind us together lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken, bind us together with love,” that’s grace too and it’s all my grandmother ever wanted for her family.
Legalists go through life waiting for the other shoe to drop, they don’t only cry over spilt milk, they rage, blame and shame over it. But grace shows up with a roll of paper towel under her arm and says; “Pobody’s Nerfect, let me help you clean this up.”
Being preoccupied with living in this way, continually growing and learning “in increasing measure,” and finding grace in the small stuff, I believe is the secret to a fulfilling life. That’s the way my grandmother lived and she died happy, still thinking about tomorrow.
Not a bad way to live if you ask me.