Am I Enough?
I've written about spiritual practices, both rhythms and regimens, to supplement to the Following the Masterstudy. Spiritual disciplines do not directly cause growth but rather put us in the stream of God's grace so the Spirit can do His work in our hearts to transform us. In an earlier article, I reference Dallas Willard saying, "God's address is at the end of your rope." What did Willard mean and how does this connect with the spiritual disciplines?
When the apostle Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, he described as a "thorn in my flesh," some kind of persistent, prolonged experience that caused him discomfort or pain. He pleaded with the Lord to remove it from his life. God's sovereign denial comes in the form of an assurance: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” These are the words of the Lord marked in red! How different this is from the mask we like to wear that shows the world a self that gives the impression of power, is enough, and has our act together. When we embrace our weakness, our finitude (I'm not omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent), and our brokenness, that is where true power comes from.
When we jump into the spiritual practices, we’re likely to confront some false beliefs. We all have them. For instance, take the good Christian who acts out of their strength. They give this sense that they have it together and if they are broken, they mention it only in vague terms. While they might share a belief with you that God is sufficient for their needs, in actuality the deep belief they have in their heart is they are sufficient. That self-sufficiency is demonstrated every day in how they approach life and others, and it’s psychologically unhealthy. To keep this up requires a person to "split" between the public and private person. Also the gospel is unwittingly presented as "works righteousness" as one carries this tremendous burden to be sufficient in life. Our sufficiency comes from God alone (2 Corinthians 3:9, ESV).
What the spiritual practices do, particularly the regimens, is confront the "beliefs" we tell other people with the real beliefs that are deep in our heart. They lead us to embrace our weakness taking apart the belief that somehow I must carry the burdens of the world on my shoulders. Take fasting for example. The point of fasting is not to fix. The point of fasting is to put ourselves in the position of realizing our real hunger is not merely for physical food but to be nourished by God's sustaining and abiding Word (Matthew 4:4). Fasting clears us out and opens us up to intentionally seeking God's will and grace in a way that goes beyond our normal habits of worship and prayer.1 It’s a retraining of sorts. Having abstained from something I need in order to focus on the One who is all I need, I find Jesus is completely sufficient to meet every need. He is the source of life we should hunger for.
So when Willard says, "God's address is at the end of your rope," what he means is God shows up when you realize that you are not sufficient for all of life. In fact, the sooner you realize that you aren't sufficient you will be in a better place to actually grow. The spiritual practices disrupt, they confront and take us apart, and they reveal our deep belief that we are enough and it's up to us to carry the weight of life. They lead us to realize that it's not about our sufficiency but his sufficiency in all of life. God is the one who grows us, but it's up to us to decide just how much of ourselves we offer to God.
1 Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook