I have fallen quite a few times this year. Would you like to hear about it?
After a gigantic snowstorm in early December, I headed to the back of our yard to snap some pictures of the beauty. In my excitement, I forgot about the ditch that runs along the edge of our property. I stepped confidently finding no solid ground and quickly disappeared into three feet of snow. I pulled my wet phone out of the arm length hole I had created when I fell, took the photos I had originally intended, and hurried (as much as one can hurry in thirty inches of snow) back to the house thankful that nobody had seen me disappear into the white abyss.
One morning, I was hurrying to complete my household cleaning chores for the week. I removed a grate covering the an air vent in our living room to clean some stray crumbs and dust. In my haste, my foot slipped into the hole and my entire body followed. Seriously, I feel through our floor and half-way into the basement. Only my hip stopped me from falling entirely to the concrete floor. I called for my husband who ran to help me to the couch to recover.
Tuesdays are long days for me. I had finally gotten the kids settled in bed, made myself some chamomile tea, and was settling onto the couch to read when the lamp on the end table flickered. It seemed to be slightly unplugged from the outlet behind the couch. As I moved the furniture to fix the problem, I created a new one. A bump to the table next to the couch sent the steaming cup of tea flying. Some poured onto the floor, but most ran right down the back of my calf. I yelled in pain as the recently boiling water seeped into my socks. My thoughtful kids came running from bed to see how they could help. They grabbed towels to soak up the carpet, new dry clothes for me, and even aloe for my burned leg. After the crisis, the evening returned to normal and I even had time to read a couple chapters of my book before drifting off to sleep.
Believe it or not, I can keep going. One Sunday at church I almost wiped out after tripping over the edge of some furniture. I was currently holding our youngest and didn't even see what my foot was catching. Thankfully, my husband and our other pastor were nearby to break my fall and protect my baby.
I have also fallen into temptation, reacting out of selfishness, speaking in anger, and walking without faith. I have failed to pursue God with my whole heart, choosing instead to settle for shallow replacements. I have tripped over my well-intentioned plans clinging to the idol of control as I fell into the ditch of exhaustion.
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
My bodily falls may have been just embarrassing accidents, but my spiritual stumbles reveal a deeper need. James reminds his readers of this need in his letter to the scattered churches. It is tempting to gauge the status of our spirituality on comparison to others and their sin. Doing this can often lead to a foggy picture of our standing before God. James spends a large amount of time in this book explaining the relationship between "faith in our glorious Jesus Christ" and the outworking of that faith. This short post isn't meant to be a commentary on this rich and often complicated book, so I will skip to the well-known verse in chapter 4.There's no doubt that my falls (both physical and spiritual) are humbling. I've noticed, however, that my response to the spiritual is often the same as the physical. Stand up, dust myself off, hope that nobody noticed, and get back to the task at hand. According to James' argument, this approach isn't sustainable. I will keep stumbling in my own strength. The humbling that comes from my spiritual inadequacy is actually right where He wants me. It's when I'm at my lowest and most broken that he can give me His grace. How desperately I want that grace, but how desperately I act as if I don't need it! I resist His loving hand reaching down to lift me up after I've fallen once again.