God keeps telling me, It's never gonna happen. But that plan was a good one. It was perfect. So I spend my life tapping my feet and twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the candle I snuffed out so long ago to magically re-ignite itself.
God could do it. I'm sure He could. But he doesn't. Why doesn't He see how perfect that plan was before?
St. Leo the Great puts it this way: "Christ's inexpressible grace gave us blessings better than those the demon's envy had taken away." If you've ever had something not work out the way you planned, if you've ever lost a file on your computer and had to re-write it from memory, if you've ever had to start over, you know that God's way is usually infinitely better than our own. We come up with Plan A, with a back up of Plan B. But God's will is usually one that takes our imperfection, our sanctification, and his glorification in account (and we typically leave those out). He's the God of Plans C... through Z.
God could give us back the Original, but He aims higher than a prototype for us. Our hopes for perfection and people's radical transformation to our will is not only delusional, it's simply not good enough for Him.The Glory of God is this – when we have sinned, when we do start over, we have a deeper joy and maybe even a deeper appreciation of what we do have because of what we’ve lost. (Philippians 3:8, Romans 5:20)
The glory of God is in God’s way of redeeming us. He fills in. Imagine we are like a glass of milk. With sin, our glass tips over. We break. Milk goes everywhere. We tip ourselves back up again, broken and shattered and kinda upset. And got pulls it back together. Heals it. Fortifies it. We stand up straight with grace. And He fills us up. Imagine that feeling of being filled back up again. After you’ve stood there, empty, remembering what it felt like to be filled with whole, white, creamy milk, and then God pours it back in. Chocolate this time. Whoa.
And our eyes are opened. Our peripheral vision grows, seeing more than it did before. So it is good, and maybe even better.
That’s the human condition. Originally, maybe we were supposed to be white milk. But we’re not anymore. So we have two choices. Should we stand there, an empty glass, getting more and more sour as we sit there on the counter, crying over – you guessed it – spilled milk? Or do we let God pour his sweet, frothy, fulfilling goodness back into our cup until it overflows like it did in the land of milk and honey?
My theory is this. Canaan isn't a place anymore. Canaan is your heart. The Promised Land is wherever Jesus is - because the law of the Lord goes with us now, in Him - the word, the law made flesh.
I don't like being imperfect. I want to do things right the first time. But God isn't glorified in superheroes. God is glorified in the sinners who become saints. Those who were good before and now they're even better. In essence, redeemed. The imperfect perfectified.
My testimony is only so good as the way that God tugs me back like a fish on a line. But I always come back. And by me, I mean, He always gives me the grace to look over my shoulder and remember what happiness feels like. I’ll pray for the chance to reconcile with him and slowly, it starts right there, my heart begins to change. I start making the choice to start new then. Things stop satisfying me that led me into sin before. I’ll stop taking a second piece of chocolate cake. I’ll stop racing towards my car in the parking lot and reverse back, at least walking by the chapel and looking at Him before I leave.
And then it always happens. I get a chance to go to confession. My spiritual director will call me or my Saturday afternoon plans will cancel. One time, I had a sob session at a retreat I was helping with and was up on the Pinterest humor board trying to console myself when I got a text from Fr. Richmond at 2am that said, “Praying for you. Do you have an update for me on Monday?”
Who wouldn’t believe that God wants you when you get a text like that?
Like, Hey. You’re having a rough night. Here’s someone who wants to talk to you about it when you get home, okay? Oh, and I left you some chocolate cake in the fridge because I know you’ll be tired. You should eat it and then take a nap. But first – love these teens for another day. Then you can rest. But I’ll give you the strength to get through it, no problem.
Who wouldn’t love a God like this?
I think the definition of glory is sort of what I mentioned before. The glory of God is that man, even in our fallen state, is just as good and maybe even better. Why? Because we get to fall in love with Jesus. Made in His image, made to Love him, we get to respond to God’s love through Christ. Glory.
When we first started our youth group, before Life Teen, we called it Glory. Teens suffer a lot. The Glory of God is in their blessed brokenness, what the culture calls "obnoxious insecurity" which is actually a lot of pain due to imperfection. If you're an adult, remember you've had a lot more time to cope and heal with other people's failures, and your own. Isaiah 60 and 61 tell us it's time to shine because of the Glory of God is upon us. When they talk about setting captives free, I know they're talking about the young, imprisoned by short-sighted vision. They often just can't see past the lack of fitting in to see the big picture. And I love them for it. It's a joy proclaiming the good news to them that the glory of God is not that they have to be sinless. The there is another standard out there than the ones they feel they just can't meet and that yoke is easy, and the burden light.
St. Irenaeus tells us, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” God wants them to be excited, beyond adrenaline. Belonging beyond exclusive cliques. Fulfilled beyond achievements and status. Satisfied beyond instant gratification. Better than happy - joyful, and even in knowledge of their past sin, their faces will not blush with shame.
This is what it means to be fully alive.
If you're like me, maybe you think fully alive means everything still must be perfect. That you learned how to not sin anymore. Like a Sandals commercial, or an American Girl doll. All body parts proportionate, BMI at a healthy place, cancer screening came back normal. Perfect friends of with clear skin and white teeth.
To which I would say your plan does not include God.
After the Fall, perfection isn’t the goal of life anymore. It's the opposite. His mercy isn’t the twelve step program to the picture of happiness. Life in Him isn’t always going to be happy. It’s amplified. It’s courageous. It’s purposeful. If we’re going to have hard days anyway, why wouldn’t we suffer with Christ instead of without Him? Why wouldn't we be fully alive instead of fully exhausted?
I was on in a bible study with teenagers once when we were discussing weaknesses. We talked about why we fail, when we are tempted. Our Achilles' feel. I asked them what they thought God's weakness was. The response was immediate:
Love for us is God's weakness. Too merciful to be just the way we deserve. Too in love to look at us and see failures. Too enamored to hold back on heaven. Too wondrous to leave us out of His goodness forever.
The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.
The weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Cor 1:25)
Redeemed is better than self-righteous.
Loved for being imperfect is better than self-idolatry.
The Glory of God is better than human achievement.
How things will be is better than how things were.
Who you are is better than who you think you should be.
Who you are is better than who you used to be.
Resurrected is better than life before death.
Needing Christ is better than anything, anything else. If it takes until Plan Z-999, He will always work with you, take you back, love you, and look past all that you looked to instead of Him. A heart that genuine desires God will always win. Never give up. He'll never give up on you.
Look to him and be radiant,
and your faces may not blush for shame.
Where, o death, is your victory?
Where, o death, is your sting?
1 Cor 15:55-57