Monday, June 04, 2012

Stop Trying So Hard to Pretend

For the LORD GOD is my strength and song,(Isaiah 12:2 NAS95)
This song of praise in Isaiah 12 follows God’s earth-defying promises of Isaiah 11. We sense that Isaiah has re-discovered the wonder of God anew. One of the phrases he sings is, “For the Lord God is my strength and song.” I wonder if it had always been that way for this prophet. It hasn’t for me.
Sadly, much of Christian life in conservative evangelicalism is shaped by “try harder” and “pretend.” Failures are met by renewed efforts, often accompanied by human strategies of mental determination and behavior modification. The key word in such action is not so much “grace” as “sweat equity.” Preachers urge their people to Just Try Harder. And that is right after the song leader urges the people to Just Sing Louder, and, by the way, Sing Like You Mean It. Understand, it doesn’t really matter if the song is a good song or a bad song, so long as the person singing is just going through the motions and playing the part and putting on an act. And so, I am afraid that this is what we get when the Lord God is not our strength and our song. 
Now what happens when a person actually and practically finds God to be his/her strength? No doubt, this discovery comes about due to the strange mercy of God - strange, because is sets itself upon strange people; and strange also because this mercy is often discovered in painful circumstances. So we can safely assume the person has been humbled and very well may have turned to God in desperation or as a last resort. Nonetheless, he/she is now convinced of one’s own weakness, and is living in regular and consistent dependence upon God. Prayers are not far spaced. Pausing for spiritual direction is the order of the day. Asking for the right thing to say, or, not to say, guides conversation. There is a sense that one is not alone in any situation, but that God’s Spirit is in the wings or on the shoulder. Waiting to see what develops is not unusual or maddening. Can you see that this is not a “try harder” religion? “The Lord God is my strength.”
Similarly, we can understand that “God is my song” in much the same way that “God is my strength.” If I am more aware of my sin than that of others, then I am also more aware of God’s perfections than I am impressed with my abilities. The pattern of God coming through characterizes life as an adventure, as an exercise of discovery, and each new experience is God-soaked, and it makes you want to - sing. “The Lord God is my song.”
We can know our theologies and study our Bibles and preach and teach, etc., but if the Lord God is not our strength and our song, then we really need to Stop Trying So Hard to Pretend.

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