11:00pm. 12:00am. 12:30am. 3:00am. 4:40am. Those were all the times my son got up last night. And he was wide awake at 4:40. Uuf da.
There are so many wake up calls when you become a parent. And not just the ones in the middle of the night. I’m talking about the wake up calls of character. It turns out I’m not as patient, kind or gentle as I originally thought. I just never encountered anything that riled me up too badly.
As 5:00, then 5:30 then 6:00 rolled around with no signs of Emory slowing down, I decided to make a pot of coffee. I grabbed my old favorite mug – wide rimmed, rustic country style with a picture of corn on the side. It reminded me of all my early morning quiet times pre-children. Fond memories for sure, but they came with a bitter edge this morning.
You see, I used to think I was so spiritual. Up at 6 of my own accord to read the Bible and journal while I sipped coffee with a splash of cream – that was my picture of the ideal Christian life. But here is what I realized – it is easy to be spiritual and not holy.
“Spiritual” is a word thrown around with nauseating frequency these days. Worse, it is a non-word, empty of any significant meaning. People use the word to describe situations or experiences that give them the tingles, but don’t transform their lives. They are “spiritual” and carnal at the same time.
Spirituality is an individual pursuit. It is you worshipping in the context of yourself. It really isn’t anything short of idolatry.
Holiness, however, can only be worked out in community.
Holiness is being like God. It is reflecting His image as purely and consistently as we can and we only know if we are being successful if there is someone else to see it. The presence of another human being reveals our hearts far better than hours spent alone in private meditations.
I am not holy unless I am holy at my absolute worst. When everything is against me, when everything is rubbed raw, when I am squeezed to a pulp – what comes out? Trials don’t build character, they reveal it. I don’t get to explain away my feelings, words or actions by saying “I’m tired,” “I’m hungry,” “I’ve been around too many people,” “I have stress at work or at home.” I don’t get to do that because God doesn’t do it.
It humbles me to think of how God interacts with me. I throw tantrums and pity parties enough for six people, I can’t imagine how He deals with me so gently knowing that He deals with the same stuff in each of the 7 billion people currently on planet Earth. What humility. What grace. What patience.
And I am made in His image and likeness. I’m designed to reflect and incarnate His character. I have His Spirit and His Mind. I have a new heart that longs to please Him.
I also have a long way to go in this journey of holiness. I have recently become aware of a whole host of things that were previously hidden from me. It is more than a little discouraging, but I’d rather know what is there so I can deal with it than continue in dysfunction and unholiness and hurt the people around me.
So here is to being decidedly unspiritual and embracing the work of carrying my cross of obedience and holiness. Here is to working out holiness in the context of community and seeing people as a blessing. Here is to giving up my unBiblical ideas of the pseudo-Christian life and embracing what it means to be the Body. I know this won’t happen perfectly, but that is precisely the point. I don’t get better at being Jesus in the worst of times unless I get to practice.