The robot named “me” was beautiful. At first.
Have you ever tried to be someone else? Have you ever tried to change who you are? To make yourself better, or smarter or just different? I have and for a whole semester it worked.
I built a robotic version of myself during the Christmas break of my freshman year of college. I didn’t want to, but I found myself on social suspension for a disastrous Halloween prank, without any real friends and about to academically lose all my scholarships.
So while everyone else was being festive, I mentally constructed an entirely new version of me. I didn’t have any plans and certainly didn’t crack the Bible for guidance in this transformation. I decided instead to rely on what had always worked for me in the past. I built an opposite machine.
Pure and simple, I determined to be the exact opposite of who I had been the first semester. If I was a jerk to everyone in the fall, I would be nice to everyone in the spring. If had pursued questionable ladies at nightclubs, I would pursue wholesome girls at church. Never studying became relentless studying. Constant time with bad influences became no time spent with bad influences And so forth.
I just did the reverse of everything I had ever done first semester. The results? My grades went from 2.4 in the first semester to 4.0 in the second. I got straight A’s and kept my scholarships. Life was great and everyone liked me. A girl captured it best one day in the library, “You were such a WORD YOU DON”T SAY ON CHRISTIAN BLOG last semester, but I really like you now.” (That’s not a backhanded compliment, that’s a punch you in the neck compliment.) It was amazing. It worked so well, and I secretly thought inside, “Forget God, when I’m in a jam, I’ll just whip out the opposite approach.”
The opposite approach served me well for a while, but in the summer of 2005 I ran into problems that were just too big for that small coping mechanism. I had done serious damage to my life in some catastrophic ways. As the consequences of my actions approached, I realized I couldn’t just do the opposite of what got me there. I couldn’t disconnect and build a new robot. I couldn’t run in the opposite direction of all the messy parts of my life. If anything, I had to engage myself in them.
Every trick I relied on to solve problems failed. And when I cried out to God about why he wasn’t fixing the situation, I felt like the answer was because I kept expecting the fix to come from my menu of options. I kept, qualifying my cry of “help me.” What I was actually saying to him was, “help me in one of the following ways that I’m used to and have tried before and understand and approve of.”
But God doesn’t work that way. He doesn’t take the recipes for success I’ve always tried and then just add some God flavoring. That’s frustrating, because that makes it really hard to manage him or life for that matter. Isaiah 55:8-9 speaks to this point: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” I used to rage against that idea, because I wanted God to be like me. To fix things like I would. To handle things like I would. In my time frame, in my way.
But the truth is, his way is always more patient and loving than mine would be. If it were up to me, extreme punishment and years of back breaking penance would be the first thing I received if I ever ran away from home. That’s what I tend to feel is in order when I fail. Guilt and anger and shame are the first things that jump into my mouth when I mess up. But not God, because he’s different than us. He’s not restricted to the human understanding of cause and effect, action and consequence. His way is different. His way is Christ. His way is grace.
Ultimately, God doesn’t just replace our solutions with new solutions from him. He replaces them with him. He knows that if he gave us a new list of action items, we’d worship that instead. When pushed into a corner, when darkened by stress and turmoil, we would seek comfort in our printed out list of instructions, instead of the instructor.
So instead he offers us a savior instead of a solution. He offers us a relationship, not a routine. Full of mystery, full of creativity, and yes, sometimes full of frustration.
Today, I’m curious, what’s on your menu of fixes? When you find yourself in a hole, what’s the shovel you use to dig yourself out? Is it just trying harder? Is it a “just do it” kind of mantra? Or something completely different?