I see you there.
Burning both ends of the candle. Working it out. Because you are about to get it all figured out.
I see you there.
Scrolling Amazon. Scrolling Instagram. Because one more hit and it'll be just right.
I see you there.
Crying hard tears over the life you always wanted because it backfired and the life you thought you'd own? It owns you.
You and I are going to hold hands to walk the hard walk of quitting.
I heard that gasp from the back pew.
"But what about running our race with endurance?", "What about finishing well?"
Those are valid points. And I promise I'll cover them, but first lean in really close because I'm going to whisper this question. I don't need it to bounce off you head, I need it to burn in your heart,
"What will people think of me?"
Persistence is a nobel goal. I just want us to make sure we aren't claiming persistence when what we are really holding on to is pride.
It's easy to get the two confused. I know. I've been a victim of this particular kind of pride. So how do we tell the difference?
Fear or love.
Because your motivation matters.
Fear is a bad motivator and a worse master. But it is tricky because even our fear can dress up in honorable clothes.
It can dress up in the elegant gown of the officer of duty. It can don the glamorous robes of the martyr. It can wear sparkling chains of an oath poorly made.
"So?" you say, "Duty, conviction, promise-keeper. Those are all good things."
Yes. Yes they are. They are beautiful things when we are standing before an audience of One. When we have stripped our hearts bare and found love underneath everything.
But we misrepresent God when we claim our perfection in the name of building His Kingdom while really building our own towers.
Short of the covenant oath of your marriage there is no ministry, no commitment, no conviction that we shouldn't be able to lay down at any moment. If it hurts too bad to to kneel low and say admit it was the wrong move and release the white knuckle grip to lay it down, then we have usurped the goodness of the gospel with our own goodness.
How do we know when to quit? When we are afraid.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18
(Yes, I just busted out the King Jimmy Version. You and I both needed to see that word: Torment.)
When we get afraid that our kids won't have enough if we don't do just one more thing.
When we get afraid that the ministry will fall apart if we aren't there.
When we get afraid that people won't see the gospel in our stepping-down.
It's okay to walk through fear, it's not okay to be driven by it.
Fear takes the things that we have been given in grace and grows them into cannibalistic beasts. We can't serve two masters. If fear is motivating you, then love can't and it's time to let go.
Perhaps finishing well means finishing. Sometimes it means knocking down your own tower so that someone can see the Kingdom that the Gospel of Jesus is building.
Possibly endurance means cutting the excess so that you can finish the work of the gospel. Sometimes persisting in the gospel mean repenting over and over again. A willingness to surrender yet again. Something bigger this time. Something even more meaningful.
When we cut away all the things fear is fueling we find that what is left is only what can be sustained by love. And that? Is life.