I am not a good legalist, but that doesn’t seem to keep me from trying. Let me explain myself. I am not one of those capable types of gals who got straight A’s in highschool, jogs 5 miles a day, keeps a house that is consistently in order, bakes her own bread, trains her children to read at age 3, and makes her husband’s lunches everyday, complete with heart shaped sandwich and note of encouragement. I know girls like these. They are amazing. I’m not accusing them of legalism, but if they had the inclination to be legalists, it would be understandable – they are good performers; they are achievers. I, on the other hand, consider myself the poster child of mediocrity, and that could be an overestimation. I made average grades, hate jogging, can’t open my linen closet without an over crowded towel or two tumbling off the shelf. My daughter can’t read, but knows her letters and sounds because of a leap frog dvd, the closest thing to homemade bread I make comes in a can, and my husband drinks a slimfast shake for lunch these days sans any little notes of encouragement from his wife. It would seem to me that my mediocrity would set me up nicely to know that I will only be able to do this life in a manner worthy of the gospel by the grace of God at work in me. Even more convincing should be the astounding number of failures I experience each and every day. But still, when I consider the standards of God’s Word with regard to glorifying Him as a woman, rather than consistently cast myself upon the grace and mercy of my Savior and pray for the help of the Holy Spirit, my reaction is often to reduce the standard to something even I, the mediocre poster child, can maintain. I get frustrated by the biblical principle, so I set my eyes on some practice that I can do without the Helper. This is foolishness. I was reminded of this again when I read an article by Paul Tripp.
“The fool doesn’t need grace because he keeps telling himself that he is able. In order to convince himself that he’s able, he erects a human second-best standard that he can meet. That’s what legalism does. Legalism, in rejecting grace, erects a human second-best standard that I can keep.” Paul Tripp Wisdom in Counseling from the Journal of Biblical Counseling Volume 18, No.2; Winter 2001
If this is foolishness, what is wisdom? Again, Dr. Tripp is helpful.
“The wise man is not afraid of his inability, because he knows that Christ’s grace is sufficient. However, the wise man is afraid of the delusions of human strength, because those delusions will keep him from seeking the grace of Christ. The wise man can glory in weakness because he knows of the sufficiency of Christ. The wise man is approachable, able to be corrected. The wise man is humble, waking up every morning saying, “I am a person ingreat need. Thank you Lord, that you are in my life. There’s hope for me.” (from the same article)
When my capacity collides with my calling as a wife and mother in particular, my reactions can range from self-pity (poor me, I’ll never get this thing right!), anger (why am I not changing!), legalism (hey, I may not be loving my children with a tender affection right now, but I did take them to the pool today) or humility (God, I need You). In other words, I can be a legalistic fool, pursing a pitiful standard that I can keep, or I can be a wise woman casting myself always on the mercy and grace of God.
So the next time I try to run with the achievers and end up either crashing and burning, or seriously simplifying the course, may I see my foolishness and run to the throne of grace, boasting in my weakness the entire way.