I became a Christian on a snowy Sunday at the beginning of a now legendary blizzard - or rather - series of legendary blizzards that hit my home town so hard when I was a kid - that when the school closings were announced the next morning - it was for the entire week. We ended up being off half of the following week too.
What I mean by "became a Christian" is that it suddenly struck me like a bolt out of the blue - that I believed in Jesus and that He was the One I wanted to follow with my life. My very next thought was that if I believed that - but didn't follow through on it - I'd be a liar - and not just any kind of liar - but the kind of liar who lies about Jesus. Which at that age was about the worst thing I could think of. I still remember feeling my face flush as we sang that Sunday - and my hands go cold - and with my heart pounding - I slipped out of the row and slid around the rest of my family and walked across the creaky old wooden floorboards forward to where my dad stood delivering the altar call.
Before I knew it - the whole church had decided that despite all the weather reports forecasting severe winter weather my family did not head home for warmth and safety from the impending storm. Instead we all drove the complete opposite direction to another church - because ours was too little to have its own baptistery. I remember that afternoon vividly still - and I especially remember how I felt coming up out of the water.
Middle and high school were not fun - and my faith took quite a hit. But as a freshman in college I met some people with not only amazing walks with God - but the ability to explain to me how they got that way - and I dove in. I read my Bible cover to cover; several times. Started journaling. Went to Bible studies. Spent hours in one-on-one discipleship. Gave up casual dating. Memorized dozens of chapters of the Bible. Evangelized on campus - lots. Invited class mates to the campus ministry. Led Bible studies. Volunteered. Went on missions trips. Fasted. I went on long solitary trips into the wilderness to pray. Committed my life to ministry and have worked hard to live a surrendered life. Over the years I've read so many books on walking with Jesus that if I put them all in one pile - I could build myself a new house out of them. None of those things is what actually grows us - Jesus grows us - especially when we want Him to. There has never been anything I've wanted as badly was to walk as close as I can with Jesus.
Nothing - no conference, no music, no book, no conversation - nothing - has altered my life so subtly, pleasantly or as powerfully as the Grace Habit. After the first day - I remember thinking, "Huh. That was interesting." That first day felt more accidental than momentous. Now - something like 1000 days later - I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude. I still want to give God a solid effort every day - but there's just something about sacrificially laying down one day at its end - and stepping into God's love - and meditating on it - reveling in it and letting His love be the last word on the day.
20 some years ago I remember talking with friends and co-workers - and musing how true I'd found Matthew 26:41 to be: "The spirit is willing - but the flesh is weak." - as I struggled day after day with the same things. Sure - year over year - I could see some growth - but it fell short of what I'd hoped for. I had a sneaking suspicion that I was somehow the biggest thing getting in God's way - but I had no idea what to change. So I tried harder. Worked harder. Prayed longer. The metaphor that emerged was that it was as if that day in the garden - immediately after the "apple" - a light-switch had been flipped - and though I was saved, and though I was baptized - and though I had every assurance of who God was in my life - I just didn't quite know how to flip that switch back on again. I'd pray about it - and pray about it - and pray about it. Drawings of light-switches flipped on started showing up in all of my journals.
While I have no regrets as to how much effort I poured into my walk - I am incredibly grateful for the Grace Habit - which has slowly but surely - replaced all the angsty uncertainty and lingering doubt I once carried with calm trust, unparalleled inner peace, and a level of resiliency I'd barely dreamed to fantasize about before. The change has been so extreme - that though it's been three years now - it's startlingly encouraging to glance back at 1000 or so days ago and notice what God's done. And to be clear - I take no credit for any of it. It was all God. If God can do this for me - I cannot even wrap my head around all He's ready to do for everyone. There is simply no generosity like the generosity of God - especially when we stop telling Him what He has to give us - and accept the gift He wants to give us.
There's an aspect of chasing God - that can tire. I still would not choose to live otherwise. And happy as I am with the Grace Habit - whether or not it is "the light switch" I've been looking for - or one of several - or one of many - all I know is it seems that the very familiar pattern of wanting to obey, falling short and feeling frustrated by falling short - has given way to a very different pattern. And - I recognize that I say this in a season of manifestation - not hiddenness - but the Grace Habit itself started deep within a long season of hiddenness. (see yesterday's post) I do not say any of these things lightly. It's been three years of testing, meditating, studying, talking, and seeking more wisdom on this new development in my 30 year search. I'm still searching for more wisdom - but the search, the struggle, the growth - all feels new, different, - fresher and more hope infused than I could've imagined.