Almost a year ago, desperately in need of prayer, I wrote the following email to a friend:
I can’t be what God wants me to be. I can’t do what he wants me to do. I can’t love people the way he wants me to love them. I can’t love my husband or my children or my friends or anyone the way he wants me to. You said that I need to take all of my “works” and put them aside. But my “works” are the only thing that makes me feel like I have even the tiniest right to pray or worship or have any type of communication with God. I get that it’s not good “theology” but this has been my LIFE. And I can’t do it. I can’t do it. I can’t be good enough, no matter how hard I try. I’m never going to be good enough. I’m recalling something you said not long ago: “if [‘m never going to be good enough], then why even play the game?” This has been my life. I feel like God is changing the rules and I don’t want to play.
I can’t begin to tell you how I felt when I wrote that. Suddenly, I had come to realize without a doubt that I would never, ever, be “good enough” for God. No amount of planning would ever keep me from slipping up, no methodology would ever prevent me from sinning. I was heartbroken. To recognize that there would never, ever, come a day when I could stand before God and say I’d done everything “right” was devastating to me. When my friend called to talk and pray with me after receiving that email, he said something profound. He said I was striving to get to a place where I didn’t need Jesus anymore.
He was right. I wanted to be able to “get it right.” I wanted to be able to search the scripture and know God’s perfect will for me, and act on it. I wanted to be able to figure it out on my own. I wanted to be able to find the perfect bible translation and commentary so that I would always know exactly what God wanted me to do – and then have the strength and personal fortitude to do it. I wanted to get to a place where I didn’t need Jesus’ sacrifice and forgiveness of sin.
It was a hard lesson – that I’m never going to be everything God wants me to be. I’m never going to know His perfect will, I’m never going to walk in perfect truth. God is always going to take me into new, uncharted territory, and I’m always going to have to rely on his voice and His grace to lead me where He wants me to go. And I’m going to get it wrong. I’m going to go too far in one direction, and not far enough in another. I’m going to trip and stumble and fall, and run a hundred miles in the wrong direction. The other day, my friend read to me the following prayer, by Thomas Merton. I’d been questioning some things in my life and wasn’t sure what God wanted from me. I share it now as a ray of hope to those who are struggling, who feel they don’t know what God wants from them, or are afraid of not hearing or understanding Him correctly:
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.