When I was four years old, we lived in a tiny country town in Jones County, North Carolina that was called Trenton. I remember only a little of the town and the church that my dad pastored, but I do have memories of the house. I remember the backyard, where I made mud pies during the summer. And I remember that during the winter, we had a fireplace with a wood insert, where we would heat the living room using the wood that Daddy had cut.
A couple of my earliest memories took place around that hearth. One was the night that my parents sent me, freshly-bathed and towel-wrapped, to get warm in front of the fire. Apparently, I got a bit too close, and my tushie has never been the same. But my other memory is how from time to time, Daddy would have me hold my arms out, and he would lay a piece of wood across them for me to carry in from the woodpile. I was Daddy’s little helper.
Mind you, Daddy would never have let me use the matches. He would never let me get close to the fire when the screen wasn’t in place. And he would never have expected me to build the fire or stoke it. Those things were beyond my four-year-old ability. And so, while he let me help with the part that I could help with, some of the task, only Daddy could complete.
In Chapter 8 of “Discipline of Grace,” author Jerry Bridges explains:
“We must not try to carry out our responsibilities in our own strength and willpower. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit to enable us. At the same time, we must not assume that we have no responsibility simply because we are dependent. God enables us to work, but He does not do the work for us.” (Bridges, 130)
It’s quite a balance — to do one’s work while accepting just the right amount of responsibility and just the right amount of help. Thank God He gives us wisdom — if we ask — to help us to achieve that balance. And the pursuit of holiness is just the process of getting to know God well enough to know, hear, feel, and anticipate how to keep that balance. As we saw in the last chapter, it requires being present and intentional in our relationship with God — talking to Him and listening to Him and then walking out those things we’ve talked about. There’s no shortcut. There’s no cheat-sheet or Cliffs Notes version. There’s no substitute for putting in the time and energy.
God will always do His part, and if we listen, He’ll help us with our part.
This chapter sent me back to one of our previous book discussion books by Corrie ten Boom — The Hiding Place — where Corrie’s father tells her: “Some knowledge is too heavy… you cannot bear it… your Father will carry it until you are able.” Thank God that He’s that kind of good Father.
I’m back!! This post is part of a weekly book discussion on Jerry Bridges’ book, “The Discipline of Grace.” I’ve been out of town for the last two weeks, but hopefully, my co-facilitator, Jason, was a gracious host while I was gone. You don’t have to read the book to follow along with our discussion, but if you have read the chapter and written a blog response, please feel free to link up at the widget below. Then, go visit my co-facilitator at his place!