Go Low

7:11 AM

If the Christian life could be a picture, I'd say it would be a road. It passes through valleys, mountains, rain, sun, night, day, minutes and epochs. The end is sure but unknown; the distance is measurable. People walk that road, some going backwards, some plodding forward, some running hands-to-the-sky, most milling around and some sitting, exhausted. And at the beginning of the road, just after the narrow gate, there is another wall-like structure. No door. Too high to climb. Too far to go around. It's certain that the traveler who makes it past the gate is on the road -- no questions there. But he is stuck at this wall. He is stuck. Some make it through -- they must, somehow, because the road stretches on. But for the most part there is a whole crowd standing beside that wall, clogging the road, jostling the seeker who tries to get close.

For the longest time, I remember standing outside that wall, staring it up and down and around to figure out how to get past it. I could hear the singing of those on the other side, their feet pounding the ground as they moved closer and closer to the finish line -- and I wanted what they had. Badly. My heart thrilled whenever it thought of the possibilities on the other side of that wall. It was everything I desired. But it was always like an outsider looking in: I wanted it, but I didn't have it, and I didn't know how to have it. I had no part in that business beyond the wall.

That business? The Obsession. Knowing God. Getting past the ups and downs and finding rest in Jesus. Walking by faith, walking by the Spirit. Growing. All the stuff comprising the true Christian life that heroes of the faith embraced. All the stuff I didn't have.

It's strange how quietly we keep this wall to ourselves -- how it's rarely preached on or talked about post-service. It's strange how books like Crazy Love, Radical and One Thousand Gifts -- books expounding the nothing-held-back response to a nothing-held-back God -- hit the bestseller list and Christianity remains starkly unchanged. For the longest time, I thought maybe that kind of faith was only for the truly heroic, the disciplined, the passionate, that I was doomed to sit by that wall forever.

But I found the way through. It's so counterintuitive, so radically different from the Christianity I preached and lived, and so true. If you want to get through, you've got to go low.

Take, for example, a spiritual high. The walk seems easy then: we feel like we're (at last) moving in the right direction. The excitement that finally, finally this might be the change that will change everything keeps the spirit pumping and the heart clear. Then something happens -- we never know why -- and we run smack up against that wall again. We haven't moved forward. Just in circles. That wall is made up of many things -- doubt, confusion, sin, insecurity, pain, ignorance. It's the point where we were so close to making it over and it didn't happen. So we give up.

Don't give up, but do give up. Go low.

I could track my spiritual highs and lows: a good week would follow a bad week and vice versa. It was an endless cycle, always me messing up again, losing enthusiasm again or getting hurt again. I'm trying to find words to describe that feeling, but if you know it, you know it -- you're up against a wall. You're frustrated. You're confused. You're not doing something right. You wait for the next spiritual high and ride it out as long as possible until the next crash. Repeat ad nauseam.

Stop. Stop trying. Go low.

The key to the Christian walk is getting started when you're giving up. It's not tacking on extra Bible reading, praying special prayers, doing lots of chores to assuage guilt. It's repentance, humility and daily crucifixion.

We get this idea in our heads that amazing Christians are perfect Christians, so we box up our sins and veil our true selves and play charades with the people at church to see who can be more religiously fake. We know everything about God but we don't know God. We know everything about convictions but we don't know piety. We tell others how to walk to the Christian walk but we don't actually walk it ourselves. Sometimes, our heart matches our religious exterior: we really do enjoy reading our Bibles, praying and pressing on through temptations. Most days? No.

We grown up in Christian homes especially get this wrong. We of all people know the extent of our depravity, compounded with guilt because we went to church since the diaper stage and ought to know better by now. We of all people ought to repent and humble ourselves and let the grace and mercy of our loving God wash us and forgive us and heal us. Instead we stop short: we mess up and we hide from God, like Adam, like Eve.  We run from His cleansing lest He see that we really aren't as Christ-like and sanctified as we'd like to be.

The other day I felt nasty inside. Messed up. I'd run into another wall, my passion dropped, I had been distracted by people and had lost my Jesus focus. I didn't know how to shake it. I tried a pious prayer or two but felt too fake to stand before God as sinful as I was. I tried ignoring it. Then I just booked it away from God to try to clean up my act before approaching the throne of grace. The Spirit convicted me: You're doing it again -- hiding. Stop trying to climb the wall. Go low.

I fell broken before the Lord, pouring out how I had failed to keep my focus, how I missed His presence, how I needed His forgiveness and help to get past this wall. Because now I know -- God doesn't want perfection. He wants humility. He doesn't want religious exteriors stiffened by guilt. He wants a stripped naked heart. He doesn't want Christians full of their own righteousness. He wants to fill us with His righteousness.

Decrease. Give up. Go low. There's an entire road ahead.

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9 impressions

  1. "We know everything about God but we don't know God." Oh, Bailey. How true this is for me. I can fake like no one else can, and yet I find myself struggling under the surface and pulling on a mask.

    I just went back and read your comment to me from the "Obsessed" post and it nearly made me cry. Thank you. I'm going to do some deep soul searching, praying and Bible reading this afternoon, and continuing on to this week. If being obsessed comes out of it, cool. If not, then I'll keep praying for the grace of Jesus to overwhelm me, for His hope to give me peace and His Joy to give me that insane happy feeling.

    Either way, I'll keep you posted.

    Thank you, Bailey.

  2. Sweet Lindsey, I think you're on the edge of the Obsession. Just so you know. ;o) This prayer of yours is God's will -- it's His deepest desire for you -- and it WILL be answered. Keep praying, praying, praying and expect God to meet your desire to desire Him, for it is impossible to please God without faith. It took me a year to know God, but I waited too long to trust Him. Praying for you! Do keep me updated -- I'm so excited for you!!

  3. I've been reading your last three posts very intently and thoughtfully (not to mention repeatedly). I keep trying to translate what you are saying into terms I can accept and relate to. At the same time, I know you are already using metaphors and imagery to translate into words an experience that must be pretty indescribable.

    I wasn't going to comment at all because I feel like maybe it is not my place, but I was left with three somewhat clear feelings or ideas to communicate, so here they are:

    I am a little afraid for you when you talk about "peace and joy that lasts forever". I think to myself, what will she do if it doesn't? I know you are well aware that you will continue to have bad times. Your new obsession seems to be separate from good days and bad days and so maybe it will last forever. But if it doesn't, I know you are strong and will survive. I just hope if that happens it is not too terribly painful.

    I am very impressed and full of admiration for you that one of your first responses to your experience is to want to share it with others and help others achieve this joy. Impressed, but not surprised. :-)

    Third, and most importantly, I am very happy for you.

    In peace,

  4. Oh, Adele -- thank you so much for commenting. This experience is indescribable -- how can I put into words what it's like for God to live in me? GOD HIMSELF.

    To be honest, I used to wonder whether this peace and joy will last forever too...if it's just a phase that life will kick to pieces. But this is a peace and joy that transcends circumstances -- that transcends even my ability to "keep it up." It's not a feeling. It's not me blocking out pain and conjuring up happiness. It's Jesus living inside of me. And I can't describe it...what it's like to know God...you'd have to experience the relationship yourself to fully know what I'm trying to convey.

    These past weeks have been hard, because I'm not strong. I'm very weak. But I'm not pursuing God in my own strength -- it's His strength that sustains me. And it's something anyone can have, if they're willing to go low.

    In Christ's love,

  5. Thank you so much, Bailey. I have really appreciated your last three posts. The stripping away of yourself is NOT easy. But, it’s the ONLY way to know God.
    There were two points you made (one was in the last post) that I want to remember:
    - The Obsession is a discipline
    - Go low (Humble yourself)
    Praise our wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the amazing work He is doing in your life! God is working in my life too, drawing me closer and closer to Him, and showing me that I can’t live without Him.
    I read this verse today in my Bible reading. I know you know it, but THIS is really what the Obsession is all about -
    You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
    Many Blessings to you, Bailey, as you continue to get to know the amazing God we serve! -Katelyn

  6. Yes! This is exactly what is happening in my life. I was just contemplating it this morning, how every time I think I'm getting somewhere, I discover that I'm not, and I run into that wall. I can see through it, and I long to be a part of what is on the other side, but I can only seem to bang my head against it over, and over and over.

  7. Interesting Mark 10.26 reference.

    I think you will find yourself in other instances of the same event, struggling with the same issue.

    That seems to be the case with every disciple of Christ. It is both amazing and not humanly possible.

  8. Oh Bailey.
    Oh My Word.
    You have hit the proverbial nail right on my head.
    Reading this post almost had me in tears. This is exactly what I've been struggling with for almost three years. I could never quite put my finger on what I was doing wrong, and as the aspiring president of The Most Perfect Christian Girl Association, I always just attributed my failing faith to my inability to be as perfect as my heavenly Father. I can't describe the feeling of release that I got as I read this and realized that my own desire to "get it right" for God (and maybe for me) was my joy killer. More than anything else, I want to move past this wall. This post so ministered to me. Thank you.

  9. Oh, Madison -- I'm so happy for you! Praise God! :D


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