It’s very tiring, trying to be your own judge.
People often tell me that I’m hard on myself. For a long time I theorised that maybe I was being judgmental on my own heart to attempt to create a “right” to be judgmental on the hearts of others. Perhaps that was part of it. But the underlying drive of my heart is always to please my God. I don’t believe (rightly or wrongly) that I can do that, if I remain in denial of who I am and what I’m about; so I try (most of the time) to keep a close eye on my thoughts, attitudes, motivations.
It doesn’t help that I have a mind as slippery as soap. I can’t even pray for more than a few minutes without inner distractions. Perhaps there’s something to be said after all for the practice of meditation: I cannot remember a time that my mind was blank & infertile. Used up, yes; exhausted, yes; but never silent. There’s a constant soundtrack playing in the background, a thousand random queries hitchhiking their way through.
The things I keep an eye on are not necessarily things I can help or control – and much of the time I fail completely at taking control. For instance, I may be very aware that my feelings at a given point are based in childishness; but whether I pull myself out of them, or wallow for a while, is up to the whim of the moment. I’d like to say I police my heart ruthlessly, but I can’t. Too weak. So I often find myself coming before God and apologising for things I haven’t corrected, then apologising for the angles I haven’t noticed that need correcting, and apologising for only talking to him in “report” or “shopping” form. He kinda just shakes His head bemusedly and waits for me to get to the end of my sorry tangle, and then says cheerily, “Good to see you!”
I think perhaps God is less interested in my struggles than in my company.
I like to thank Him all day long. I thank Him whether He’s been directly involved, indirectly involved (still confused about that!), or just observing; but I get the feeling He likes it. Certainly it does my heart good to pull toward the sanguine rather than the melancholy. So I thank Him for answered prayers and parking spaces alike. When it comes to the heart, I am amazed at the changes in my own life, and hard pressed as to the correct attribution. If I say, “Thank You for where You’ve brought me,” well, okay. If I say “Thank you that I don’t stumble as much as I used to regarding xyz,” … um. Is that taking credit for His work? Is it okay to take credit for my share of the partnership we’re in? I’m talking grateful, not smug. (Smug is a waste of time; xyz might be sorted – until the next test – but lmnop isn’t!) Or is it a legitimate analysis of what He’s accomplished in me so far? I don’t know how to get it right. Or even if “getting it right” is more about pride than pleasing. At rock bottom, am I still trying to impress Him or win His love by good works? Or subconsciously trying to play one-up against my peers?
The good news is, things do seem to be improving on the judging-others front. Since I’ve been working as a school chaplain, SU Qld has taught me to open my arms a bit wider for people whose worldview is unlike mine. In fact sometimes it’s not til I feel shocked at someone’s behaviour that I realise I’ve been thinking them perfect (specifically, perfecter-than-I) without realising it. Should clear out my pedestal collection and let all of us kick about in the mud together! Or at least I could offer myself the same slack and understanding I try to offer others.
My son’s name is Daniel, which means “God is my judge”. If God is my judge, do I really have to go on being my judge? I’m sure to miss lots. Paul says, “I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” But then he says further that when it comes to Communion, we should search our hearts to be sure we’re understanding that it makes us part of Christ’s body together, before partaking – if we don’t want to be judged as behaving unworthily. The hint is “get there first” – judge yourself before God has a chance to. But perhaps I’m misinterpreting that. It could mean nothing more than “recognise a leveller when you see one!” At the very least, I’m grateful to have a Judge who, stern though fond, sees me as pre-pardoned.
The Bible says, “Without faith it’s impossible to please God, for whoever comes to God must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.” I’m really hoping that means that any reason to come before Him is a good reason. I’m tired of trying to unravel the percentages – 60% need, 30% error, 10% praise – all this sort of thinking is rather a deterrent to prayer than an incentive. In the end you can’t fall further than on your face, crying, “God, I don’t even know how messed up or together I am, but I believe You accept and want me, and here I am – Yours.”