Building a dam- a work in progress

“Any control I thought I had just slips right through my hands while my ever-present conscience shakes its head and reprimands me. Then and there I confess- I’ll blame all this on my selfishness.” -Relient K, When I Go Down

It’s one of those days- I can’t find words for the feeling that’s snuck up on me.

There are so many things that I could be doing, that I should be doing right now. If I dwell on what I wish my life looked like, I will feel like an utter failure. Sometimes when I reflect on my ideals, I am absolutely revolted by the stark difference between who I want to be and who I really am.

What difference am I making in the world? What is my purpose for being here? If you judge by the way I behave, you would certainly find that I’m living for myself. My purpose is self-gratification. I’m too caught up in the moment-to-moment of my own existence to dedicate myself to other people. The desire is still in my heart, but it’s buried so deep. I can hardly recall what it’s like to not be intrinsically focused. Disgusting.

Even my love is selfish. The people I love most are the people who love me the most. How gratifying…how effortless. It’s not enough. I want to love the people who could care less what happens to me. I want to love in ways that might not have any kickback benefits for myself. I want my life to be defined by my love for other people, and I want it to be genuine.

Lately I’ve been working on changing my life by focusing on my attitude rather than my actions. Actions are deeply important, but they are only the tangible proof of the underlying character. Trying to better myself by changing the way I act is a vicious cycle of frustration and failure. I convince myself that I want it, I try hard, I struggle, I try harder, I get tired, I mess up, I get frustrated and eventually I stop caring.

When I focus solely on changing my actions, I get ridiculously wrapped up in works-righteousness. I must be better. I must make myself better. All I have to do is try harder, try harder. I know God loves me no matter what, but my relationship with him will be better if I just focus my life on living the way he wants me to. If I just get rid of all the crap that’s getting in the way of holy living. If I can just make myself a usable vessel. But I can’t. All my works are like filthy rags. Why can’t I? The sneering voice in my head says I must be a despicable person.

It’s like I’m standing in the middle of a river, the water raging all around me, swirling between my knees and threatening to knock me over. And I’m splashing handfuls of water up onto shore. I’ll never stop a river that way, or even slow it down.  But working towards change by focusing on my attitude is a much different approach. Character is the root of actions. Actions will never successfully/permanently change without genuine attitude backing it up. If I can change my attitude- really get at the root of my character- I’m building a dam to stop the river. It’s not all my strength. It’s not something I can just bully through. And I can get help. Instead of a futile struggle, I’m looking at a feasible plan.

Building a dam is frustrating. It’s slow going, and a lot of water gets past while I’m working on it. It’s so tempting to stop what I’m doing and splash desperately at the water. It’s easy to panic and think I’m running out of time. It’s my nature to want to finish it all by myself. I’ll tell people about the water I’ve held back once I have some progress to show off. But that’s not the most efficient way to get things done. I need to tell the people I trust about the water that’s rushing past me, and how much I want to stop it. I know they’ll help me. Then I’ll have an arm to grab if I start to get swept away, and I’ll have people stacking up rocks next to me. The dam won’t ever be perfectly waterproof, but there’s no reason to get upset about the leaks. When I notice one, I can work on patching it up.

I know this, but still there are setbacks. I constantly slide back into my old way of thinking. I see each mistake as a sign that I’m wasting my time. I’m tempted to start loathing myself. But then I remember that I am a beautiful work in progress. The Creator loves his creation, despite all its weaknesses and flaws. My worth is not based on my actions- it is intrinsic and unshakeable.

I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and let mercy and love flow over me.

“Yet you love me, and that consumes me. And I’ll stand up again, and do so willingly. You give me hope, and hope it gives me life. You touch my heavy heart, and when you do you make it light. As I exhale I hear your voice, and I answer you, though I hardly make a noise. And from my lips the words I choose to say seem pathetic, but it’s fallen man’s praise, because I love you. Oh God, I love you. And life is now worth living, if only because of you.” -Relient K, When I Go Down


About Nicole

Daughter of God, wife, mother, volunteer youth leader, substitute teacher, aspiring writer, rabbit owner, nature lover. These are some of my titles.
This entry was posted in Life as we know it, Relationships and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Building a dam- a work in progress

  1. Jon says:

    This is my favorite part from a book by Bo Giertz:

    To begin with, this struggle against sin is pure joy to the awakened soul. It is as when a home owner begins to clear the land around his new house. The stones fly and the spade digs happily. But when a person is at work on the field of his heart, he gradually makes the dismaying discovery that there are more stones the deeper he gets. He keeps discovering new sins right along, and they become more difficult to move the more deeply they are entrenched in his inner life. One might possibly break with drinking and profanity and desecration of the Sabbath in a single evening, But pride, that desire to talk about oneself, or to find fault with others are likely to remain still after many months of penitential struggle.
    Then one day, when a man is battling sin and is trying to clear the stones from the heart’s field, sweating at the task yet hoping finally to get rid of the last ones so that he may really see the garden grow, his spade strikes solid rock. He digs and scrapes on every side; he tries again and again to budge the rock. Then the terrible realization draws; it is stony ground through and though. When he has hauled away load after load of stones and dumped them outside the fence, he still has not succeeded in making a garden that can begin to bear fruit for God. He has laid bare a ledge of granite, which never can support a living, fruit-bearing tree.

    Outside Jerusalem, there is a hill of yellow, naked stone. Ugly and hard as a dead man’s skull. Long ago men bored a socket in this rocky hill and planted a cross there, and on that cross they hanged the only One of our race who was righteous and had perfectly fulfilled the law. God permitted this to happen because, although He had tolerated sin in former ages, He wanted once and for all to show that He was righteous and that sin is followed by condemnation and punishment, and the He will not countenance any tampering with His standards of holiness. But so wonderful is God that he let all the curse and penalty of sin fall upon the innocent One, who freely gave himself in death for us. He was made a curse for our sakes. Thus He redeemed us from the condemnation of the law. He was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree, and by His stripes we are healed.
    That is why the rocky hill of Golgotha is the most holy place in the world. The way of obedience leads to the foot of that cross. There one stands, a poor wretch, like Peter on that first Good Friday, full of shame and despair, looking upon his crucified Savior, whom he had been unable to follow. There it becomes apparent that the Lord’s best disciples are unworthy of Him. They are all betrayers and deniers, sharing in the guilt of His death. But there, at the cross, it also becomes clear that the Lord himself makes atonement for their sins. Where the way of obedience ends at Golgotha with judgment upon us, every one who believes may nevertheless stand on this Rock of Atonement. There are way of grace begins, the new and holy way through the veil, the way that is sanctified by His blood.
    The stony soil of our hearts, the rock foundation of our corrupt human nature, needs not, therefore, be the basis for judgment upon us. It can be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus, just as the hill of Golgotha was when drops of blood fell upon it and it was transformed from a place of execution to the Rock of Atonement. God marks the evil heart with the sign of the cross and makes a man righteous in Christ. The whole sinful rock of man’s natural heart is lifted and made to rest on the Rock of Atonement. It still remains flinty rock. Man, as he is in himself, remains a sinner. But the guilt is atoned for, the curse is lifted, and he can come confidently as a child into the presence of God and, thankful for the wonder of redemption, begin to live to the Savior’s glory. Then the fruits of faith begin to appear. A fertile soil now covers the rocky base. It is the good soil of faith, which is watered by grace. Gradually something begins to grow that would never grow there before. Thus the backsliding Peter, when he had experienced the great grace, the grace which the penitent thief received on Calvary, could become both an apostolic leader and a martyr witness to the faith. Yes, he then witnessed no longer concerning his faith, but concerning the Savior, and could finally make the supreme sacrifice of his own life with confidence, the sacrifice he was unable to make as long as he lived by his own resolutions and his own righteousness.

  2. PeterDallas says:

    After reading how self gratification seeking you are I am tempted to start loathing you as well but then you remind me that God loves you/us so better hold back on that! Okay Nixs enough of the serious stuff how about a wickedly humorous blog – I bet you could do it!!

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