The final countdown to the end of a school year never fails to bring out the worst in me. Gone are the once lofty goals set in the freshness of crisp autumn mornings. Lost is the motivation to use each hour to its maximum and do my best at each task set before me. High hopes for a strong finish have crumbled, the determination to achieve excellence is in shambles. All that is left is a gritty trudge to that light at the end of the tunnel. Fresh starts and clean slates are for September or January. May is for pushing to the end.
It’s embarrassing, actually, to look back at my lists and plans set at the beginning of the year. All those intentions to do my best, to work ahead, to do more than the minimum, and most of all to live fully in the moment are dimly flickering in the back of my head, reminding me of what I wanted to do, of what I felt I should do, and all the many ways I fell short. And all those times I could have stepped into someone else’s world to extend extra care but instead stayed put in my comfort zone? All those times I could have approached my work with joy rather than with complaints and tears? All those days I had the opportunity to give thanks for the beautiful life I had to live and instead whined my way through the hours, concerned only with retreating to my bed as soon as possible? These moments are pricking the corner of heart, mocking me as I push them aside and press to the end. I don’t have the energy to confront the hundreds of times I failed, the thousands of moments I was disappointed with myself. I shake my head and sigh, I’ll just try harder next year.
Do you ever wonder if God is also shaking his head? Do you ever get the sense he is up in heaven sighing over yet another one of your stumbles, muttering to himself something about how he can’t believe you messed up again. I gave her a whole year of opportunities and blessings and she squandered it all? Do you ever feel like God is disappointed with you?
I’m at my perch on the kitchen stool, pulling out my Bible as I peel back my eyelids. Morning after morning I’m there, gulping down hot coffee and trying so hard to not give in to the six a.m. crabbies that are always lurking around my disposition. I’m reading all the familiar Bible stories in The Message translation, trying to get a fresh glimpse of God, trying to get closer to actually knowing him and not just collecting facts about him. Here’s the Israelites, wandering through the dessert, whining about anything that doesn’t go their way, ignoring the grace lavishly poured out on them day after day. Here’s David, sleeping with another man’s wife, and then killing that man to cover up an unplanned pregnancy, treating the God who brought him from shepherd to King with brazen contempt. Here’s Solomon, chasing after a thousand women and on the way trampling over the wisdom and riches so graciously given him.
This is the story of humanity: God gives and gives and gives, and we are self-centered, greedy, and never satisfied, and then God forgives us and continues to give.
I used to think the moral of these stories to be something like this: suck it up, get over yourself, and be grateful for what God has already given. But that is not it. The moral of the story is always this: God loves us anyway.
Yet God, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh.
I’m over here giving myself a pep-talk about how I need to step up and stop being a baby; how I need to muster up my determination and make a better game plan for the next school year. And all the while God is extending his grace, eyes creasing in a smile as he simply shakes his head with compassion. You have it all wrong, he whispers to my striving heart. I know how your heart works, I’m not expecting you to be anything but human. I know what you are made of, I haven’t forgotten that you are but flesh.
God knows I will fail. He knows I am a broken person walking through a broken world. And He chose me as his beloved child anyway. This is my story, this is your story, this is the story of humanity.