And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
-Romans 8:11 (NIV)
Last week I posed the questions “What Would Jesus Practice?” and “How Would Jesus Practice?” In this post I first wanted to address another vital one:
What kind of lawyer does God living-in-me lead me to be?
For a long time I thought the best approach to life was trying to model Christ’s life exactly. Many positive things can come from doing so. But this view of incarnational ministry led me to legalism and self-righteousness when left unchecked.
A friend, another lawyer, helped provide that check. She reminded me of something vital, worth remembering year-round and especially around Easter:
God lives in us. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. And he is moving and changing us and the world around us.
I forget this despite it being a lived experience and tenant of my faith. I often don’t feel spirit-led. That’s because I’m sinful, lazy and selfish. I’m unwilling to do the difficult work of rooting out sin and choosing Christ daily. In effect, I plug my ears so that I can’t hear Christ’s quiet voice, beckoning me to follow him down a path unique to me. While we can try to emulate what Jesus did, taking that too far steers us from the things God would have us individually do. Trying to conform to some idealized mold is a disheartening thing. Because of certain innate traits or fostered skills, I can’t do what others can and they can’t do what I can. I need to accept that these limitations are beautiful and, ultimately, liberating.
But we can take this thinking too far. Just as you don’t want to force yourself down a road God isn’t taking you by ascribing to a one-size-fits-all model for Christian life, you don’t want to stay stuck in the mud on a road he’s trying to coax you down. We can easily believe God wants us in a certain place because it’s quite simply where we want to be. Growing up in a suburban Evangelical subculture that too often focused on piety and being right with God to the neglect of matters that burden God’s heart, I’ve chosen and seen many others choose materialism, easy distraction, and distance from the needs of others because of Christ’s supposed “calling” on their lives. I think calling often has nothing to do with it. We choose these things and Christ has to shrug and say, “I wish they had gone my way, but because they’ve made their choices I have to work with what they give me.”
God works in astounding ways beyond our expectations and despite our disobedience. Christ’s triumph over death through nonviolent submission to the violence of the cross to save us from ourselves is the ultimate example, but we see many others. As God lives in us and we interact with the world through our work, try to clear out your clogged ears to simply sit and listen to where he may be calling you. Chances are it isn’t where you picture yourself.