We woke up to what had to have been a doozy of a storm the night before. Tree branches and sticks were strewn all over the yard. I made an announcement to the kids before we started school that we were going out later to pick up the debris. Ian, our then four-year old son, decided he would take on that mission on his own since he didn’t have the encumbrance of school. My little man dutifully put on his boots and tromped out the door to take care of the task at hand.
About a half an hour later, Ian came through the door as proud as a peacock, and asked me to look at his handiwork. I looked out the door, and there, on the front porch, he’d gathered several limbs, some of them being rather large. It was hard to imagine how he’d had the strength to transport them all the way there. I had to wonder what he was thinking setting them on the front porch instead of in the back yard on the burn pile.
I was tempted to ask Ian why in the world he’d dragged those branches where he had, causing extra work for the rest of us, but then I realized he was incredibly proud of himself and of how helpful he’d been. I knew that being as small as he was, he was feeling a great sense of accomplishment. And though eventually we would have to move those branches to the backyard without making him feel badly about it, he had done what I’d asked and he’d worked very hard doing it. So we all praised Ian for being so strong and doing such an awesome job. We talked about it throughout the day as a family. We marveled aloud at his manly determination.
Recalling this incident reminds me of how I often feel inadequate and burdened by my inability to lead a holy and God-honoring life. I want to have a strong resolve to walk in obedience, but I feel dogged at times by my many failures and defeated by the fact that I am nowhere near what He intends for me to be.
But when I think of this story of Ian and the branches, I smile, because like Ian, my accomplishments--though often very small--are nonetheless impressive, given the measure of my own depravity. And I take comfort in knowing that the growth in my life is evidence of God’s promise in Philippians 1:6, "I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Satan often kicks us when we’re down and tortures us with thoughts of failure and despair, telling us that even our good deeds are just too few and that our accomplishments are not that impressive. Yet, this isn’t the way God views our attempts to please Him and walk in holiness. He knows better than anyone our frailties and sinful condition. Before coming to Him we were spiritually dead. So, even the smallest act of obedience on our part is cause for celebration.
God is our Father in the truest sense of the word. And just as we delight in the attempts of our children to please us, God even more delights in our efforts to walk in obedience to Him. The fact that we desire at all to follow His commands is truly a mark of His saving grace in our lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we adopt a “no big deal” attitude toward sin. Cheap grace is an affront to God to be sure, but so is a failure to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So the next time you drag a few oversized branches to the porch, know that your Heavenly Father is smiling and rejoicing over you.
“But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ. “ ~Philippians 3:13,14
Blessings as you walk in obedience,