“Easy is a soul word, not a circumstance word … The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke.” (p. 126 Soul Keeping, John Ortberg)
For over 25 years I worked with a national sales company. The products fit my life style and extrovert that I am, I loved the party plan.
My achievements led to my significance. Sustaining that significance offered acceptance by the company and by my peers and ultimately for me.
But oh the burden. If I didn’t keep it up, my acceptance floundered.
Achievement > Significance + Sustenance = Acceptance. ”
Climbing the ladder of Works.
For a while I could do it. The new relationships, the fun of the party, the income fueled my motivation. The acceptance followed. But it depended on WORKS! Eventually the paradigm crumbled.
A good thing. After 26 years, I hung up that hat.
Reading Soul Keeping last summer, this story came to mind illustrating again how diametrically opposed works is from grace.
As the meeting that evening at our church drew to a close, and the sanctuary emptied of hundreds of ladies, I sat rooted on the pew, tears streaming. I got it. I realized I had made a sub-conscious vow that caused me to live with the goal of proving I was good enough. The Holy Spirit through the speaker brought awareness. My ladder of success was leaning against a wall that could not support it. I worked hard to achieve and was somewhat successful; my significance glowed when others noticed.
Grace starts with realizing my acceptance, my child of God status that is never in jeopardy. As I meditate of my acceptance (sustaining it), my significance is secure. And as I live out my significance, there is achievement fruit (in Bible words). My child of God identity (my acceptance) yields the achievement, not the other way around. My soul thrives; the yoke easy.
Acceptance + Sustenance > Significance = Achievement.
Experiencing the ladder of grace.
When Jesus was baptized, before his earthly ministry began, the Spirit affirmed his identity,
“You are my beloved son.” Jesus heard these same words right before the cross on the Mount of Transfiguration, “This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased.”
His beloved-ness, his identity (his acceptance) ushered him into ministry and was God’s affirmation at the end of his life. It fueled his life. His significance secure in the love of his Father.
But sometimes I get tired … really tired! If Jesus’ yoke is easy, why is life feeling so heavy?
I’m forgetting. The temptations the devil offered Jesus all depended upon his forgetting his acceptance as the beloved. It didn’t work. Unlike Jesus, sometimes I forget my identity and believe my achievements depend on my works, not grace, not living out my acceptance as a beloved daughter.
Sometimes it’s my calendar. I let my times of solitude and listening get squeezed. Or white space takes on a hue.
Sometimes it’s my thinking – you know, it’s all up to me.
Sometimes it’s forgetting those other things that are life-fulfilling … like Scrabble with Bill, my walks with my dog, coffee or a good movie with a friend. These keep my yoke easy.
An easy yoke communicates grace and that my achievements rest on my acceptance. My soul breathes holy air. It is good.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Psalm 23:1-3 (bolding, mine)