Within and Without

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
— Philippians 2:12 & 13

I could tell I was stuck. I’ve been here before. I know you’ve been there too. It’s a part of our humanity and it sneaks up on us. The realization that we’re not living abundantly, I mean. 

I know myself enough to know that in order to thrive it requires some form of self-expression. And I know that means communicating something, to someone, somewhere. Maybe that’s the part I’ve been avoiding. Or maybe it’s just blatantly disobeying. 

We’ve all been given gifts. Some of us know good and well what those gifts are and that God wants to use them to serve others. But because we’re afraid, or even lazy, we don’t. What we often don’t realize is that those gifts are an expression of God’s incredible grace given through the sacrifice of Jesus. When we neglect to operate in God given abilities we deny people the opportunity to experience a facet of God’s grace in our lives (1 Peter 4:10 & 11).

Disobedience makes you sad. It makes me sad. Please hear me, there is power in that realization. There’s freedom in finally admitting it to ourselves.

(I do feel the need to add that not all sadness is a result of disobedience. There could be so many other factors involved, I’m merely using a fairly recent example from my own life.)

Too many of us are just surviving, not willing to face that something isn’t quite right. But if there is something wrong let’s not ignore it any longer. Let’s not gloss it over and pretend like it isn’t there. Maybe, you’re even covering it with busyness…maybe you’re even telling yourself it’s for the sake of the Gospel.

If you want to stay in that sad place for a while, sometimes the easiest thing to do, when you feel the Holy Spirit calling you out of your slumber, is to immediately turn it inward, taking the proverbial stethoscope from the doctor and insisting you can give yourself a more accurate diagnosis.

How did I end up here again? How can I get myself out? Why does it take me so long to figure it out? Why am I such a failure? And then, finally the resolution: I’ll always be a failure. So why change?

Grace is grace because sin is sin.

And you will not know grace until you understand why you need it so desperately.

It took me far too long to come to terms with the fact that I heard the Holy Spirit and yet, I was trying to do the work. And then, I told my husband something was wrong, which is almost always the hardest part because I don’t know how he’s going to react and, for Pete’s sake, I want to fix this on my own. Rarely, does he ever react wrongly to the freight train of my emotions barreling towards him. He usually handles it well.

But can I put words to my vulnerability? Can I take this first timid step into the light?

When I initially tried talking to him the words wouldn’t come. Blah blah blah. Still sad.

Then he came in the room and said, “Don’t grow weary in well-doing, babe” (Galatians 6:9).

You know? He’s the best. And he made an assumption about me that was so sweet, but not true-that I was “well-doing”. And I wasn’t. At least not in this area. The reality was that I was “not doing” anything except looking at Instagram and watching "The Office." Self-medicating at it’s finest. 

No, it wasn’t that I was supposed to keep going. It was that I was supposed to pick up where I left off. I had left my plow in the field (Luke 9:62). I had looked back and decided it looked safer and more comfortable at home. I was not fit for the Kingdom. Oh, how I wish I could conjure it on my own. But the Holy Spirit in His grace whispers, “Pick up your plow, Casey. Pick up your plow.”

And I am utterly wrecked. Because while He’s working in me, it’s my responsibility to submit to that work and pick up my stinkin’ plow.

There is a sweetness that follows obedience. A confidence. A rest. A sigh.

He wants better for us. He wants so much more. And we keep taking. Taking for ourselves what He knows will only bring us harm. "Don't you want me to enjoy myself?" we say, accusingly. Because at the heart of our begrudging is a fundamental lack of trust. And we take one more... one more bite, one more look, one more. And in that moment, we succumb to less. No abundance for us. We already took what we wanted, we accepted the lie and made the exchange: more for less.

But if you’re reading this, it’s because I’ve decided to pick up the plow.

There is an extraordinary joy waiting for me in calloused hands.

When left to my own devices, I choose comfort. I choose safety. I am willingly deceived. We all are.

I’m so thankful that He began the work in me and He has promised to complete it. He hasn’t left me. Why? Why does He always promise to be there? Time and time again in scripture, He says He’ll be there. He won’t leave. The promise of His presence must be enough. He won’t leave when I’m numb. He won’t leave when I’m disobedient. He won’t leave when I’ve made the exchange of more for less. He has decided He loves me and He’s going to stay.

And He’s with you now. Wherever you are, reading this. And He whispers, “Pick up the plow. We’ve got work to do. I work within, you work without.”

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that He powerfully works within me.
— Colossians 1:29

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