Maybe I'm alone in this, but I doubt it. So often when I awake in the morning, I'm like a dog with his tail between his legs. Be it actual sin or imagined sin or maybe just some ambiguous feeling of "I could have do that better", I wake up avoiding eye contact with God.
Why is this?
The root answer is shame, shame leads directly to avoidance and seclusion. Adam and Eve hid when they sinned. They were ashamed.
But why do I do this? Sometimes I can't even remember why I'm ashamed, yet I still act like God is in the armchair across the room looking over his glasses at me wit ha knowing disapproval.
Sad. Sad and religious. We are half baked Christians in some ways. We get grace, we get that we don't have to do anything to earn our salvation. Praise God! But once we start touching things, as soon as we lay a hand on life - things start breaking and we try to fix them. And here we meet moralism and half baked religion.
The little voices sound something like this: "If you had only spent more time in scripture, you would have known not to get angry at that man." "If you had only spent more time in community, you would not have made those choices." "If only you really feared God, you would stop sinning." "If you really loved God, you would have been more excited about that friend's conversion." "If only, if only, if... if... if..." All true to a degree. All heavy and binding. What can you say in response? "I'll do better next time."
And so we do. We black out time to read more, we send daily scriptures to our phones, we sign up for one more community Bible study group thing, we try to listen to worship music more... all to show God that we are serious about following Him.
We change our life to attempt fix the things we know we fail at, not because we succeed after the changes, but because we are trying to show God that at least we're trying. Isn't he pleased with that? Isn't that good enough?
Praise God the answer is no.
"Is such the fast that I choose,
a day for a person to humble himself?
Is it to bow down his head like a reed,
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast,
and a day acceptable to the Lord?"
This was written pre-Christ and still God is saying, "Is the purpose of fasting, of religious action, so that you can show me how humble you are? How pious you are? Will you show me your righteousness by your works?" We are no different than our predecessors, we measure our faithfulness in terms of attendance and service. We look at how much our outward life reflects obedience and give ourselves a grade before we go meet with God. The Pharisees measured days fasted, we measure Christian acts of service. But this is not God's measuring stick.
“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[a] go free,
and to break every yoke?"
Cutting of bonds, breaking yokes. That is what fasting looks like in God's eyes. What is a yoke? It is a big wooden thing we used to place on cows so they could plow fields. A yoke is a burden, a heavy thing. Like religion.
Jump back to the beginning of this discussion. How often do we wake up with a yoke on our necks? The yoke looks like "not good enough, not enough scripture, didn't pray enough, haven't stayed pure enough. Not enough... not enough... not enough..." That is heavy as hell. Indeed that is hell - a place where your shortcomings and willful apathy scream in your face for eternity.
Yet God, the creator, the weaver of desires and human life, would smash these yokes. He would have me awake and smile with joy. I am free.
“I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins."
"... you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you."
Precious. Honored. Loved. When I awake in the morning, it is not with a knowing disapproval that God greets me. No, he sees me come out of my room sleepy-eyed and yawning and with an embrace the God of life says,
"I am glad to see you."
- Isaac Griffin