Confessions of a moralist

I’ve been fanning (v. being a fan). My particular fannism (n. manner in which ‘being a fan’ manifests itself) is moralism. Moralism is ‘a legalistic, effort-based attempt to be good’*. It’s thinking that you need to win God’s favour somehow. It’s thinking you need to be perfect to be good, and that you have to be perfectly good. It’s about you, not about God.

It’s misery. It’s frustration.

And you don’t notice. You’d think you would. You’d think you’d notice that church and other God activities become anxiety riddled. Suddenly you don’t have the time. You’re too tired. You’ll do it tomorrow. It’s not so bad, you did your good deed for the day – that buys you a few more hours of procrastination without inciting wrath or rejection. Sometimes you’re too exhausted even to come up with a reasonable excuse. Sometimes you admit, I just don’t want to talk to You right now. But tomorrow – definitely tomorrow.

Prayer becomes an excruciating activity. I’m not good enough. I didn’t try hard enough today. How can I amount to anything? What more can I do? I’ll try harder. Don’t leave me.

Do you want to know the truth? I’m terrified of losing God. Oh, I write posts to the contrary, but I’m really just trying to convince myself. Intellectually I know I can’t. God can’t be lost. I’ve been at the receiving end of His advances after all. He’s kind of like a stalker. You move, change your number, change your locks, change yourself, but He hovers. He’s a hoverer. The Almighty Hoverer. Who spraypaints “I GAVE YOU MY SON!” on your garage door.

But emotionally?

It comes down to grace, yes? Sola fide. Sola gratia (you see?! I know the Latin!) It seems almost too easy.

Could it really be that easy?

Well…

“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s spirit is in them – living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life.” — Romans 8:5-6 (Msg)

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” — Romans 5:1-2 (ESV)

“Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” — 2 Corinthians 3:18 (Msg)

A part of me distrusts this simplicity. The rest of me? It’s hard to describe. It’s…gladness. It’s love. It’s gratitude. Realising (again) that God’s love for me isn’t because of who I am, but because of who He is (and He never changes), is liberating. I’ve been miserable, trying to consolidate my moralism (disguised as faith) with the things I’ve been learning – e.g., Luke 9:23, where Jesus talks about taking up your cross and following Him. But it didn’t make sense to me. Things weren’t lining up. (Maybe this doesn’t sound so bad to someone else, but I’m an INTJ. I need systems to line up.) Because from a moralistic POV, this cross sounds like a burden. How do you joyfully submit to God when that entails lugging around this hindrance, this constant reminder of how broken and wretched you are?

But when you look at it from the perspective of being absolutely loved by God, it changes. It becomes something different entirely. It becomes an act of freedom. It becomes an extension of His love.

I think I get it now.

My name is Liana, and I

— have been saved

— confused ‘stationary’ with ‘stationery’ until quite recently

— am amongst other things, not a fan.

– – – – –

*Kretzschmar, L. 2005. Ethics & Spirituality. Pretoria: Unisa.

Get some napkins cuz you've just been served!

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