May 15, 2015

Can't: Hard Lessons From the Foreign Classroom

I know I’m supposed to be the teacher and all, captivating my Korean munchkins with the wonders of the English alphabet, but most of the time it is yours truly who does the learning. But it isn't the kind of learning that builds on top of previous knowledge until someday one has a grand coliseum of wisdom and understanding. No, for me I've been learning the same friggin’ thing over and over. Everyday the clear-as-a-bell truth that rings in my face and rattles my heart is simple. Do you want to know what it is?

I can’t.

That's it.

Because most of the time I think pretty highly of myself. “I got my stuff together, I know what I’m talking about.” So it’s like a boulder thrown at my head every time I (re)learn this not-very-fun fact about myself: that I can’t do it. God, I’ve come to understand, doesn't want me confident. He doesn't want me confident in me. He’s made this clear. And what better way to shrink my false confidence than to put me in a place—in front of a classroom—where I come face to face with my perfect inability.

Let me break it down in no uncertain terms. When a classroom of deviant, oft-lethargic, post-lunch second graders grace my chairs with their rear-ends, I am quickly met with The Nick That Can’t, the Nick of patient-less-ness, kind-less-ness and foul-mouthed-ness, not the Nick of supreme glee and agape.

I’m needy. But not for alms, for God Himself. The real me is Beggar. But often Beggar gets crowded out by other versions I like better, the Strong me, the Capable me, the Competent me. These versions sound good but they sure as heck don’t bring me to my knees.

Thus the lessons—one, two, three, four, five, etc.—are all the same: I’m untrustworthy to produce the virtues I need to obey God. Call it Adam’s seed. The only thing you can trust me with producing is more need. There’s a harvest full. So it works out because God is not frugal with grace (charis). We
export the need and lack and He imports to us all things that pertain to life and godliness at no cost (2 Peter 1:3). Isn’t this the way it is with Him?

Some of my classes I loathe, legitimately. I told a co-worker one time I’d rather go to the dentist for fifty minutes than struggle to curb the anarchy. I have literally held and carried kids around to refrain them from wreaking havoc.

It’s here, where I'm losing my mind, I surrender to God. If my heavenly Father didn’t withhold from me—dead and sinning, loser me—His Son to set me free from sin, than surely everything else I need to live a conquering life He’s freely given. And that includes the love, gentleness, faithfulness, etc. I need to teach.

Now, I do what Watchman Nee and David Wilkerson have taught me. I rest.

It’s second nature to strive and fight and try to conjure up the things we lack. Alas, it’s vain. This is what I’ve learned. I can’t. I can’t do it. I have nothing to offer myself. No matter what I do. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me (John 15:4). Branches don’t clench their fists. They don’t foam at the mouth. They don’t strive to produce what they can’t on their own. They rest, rest in the vine and suck up everything that flows from it.

The Christian Job Description: abide and receive the flow.

We're just weary deserts of skin and bones, but the Holy Spirit, that foundation of life, flows from within. Let's be proper branches, then, and rest in His divine power to supply us with everything we need, everything we lack (2 Peter 1:3).


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