practice not perfect

Not Your Mama’s Practice

My soul is messy and crowded with things that have no business in here. Man, there is a lot of dross; you know, that stuff we long for God to burn up in us so we can be pure and holy and useful (Proverbs 25:4). It feels heavy and I feel sluggish. I want that junk out and I want it out now.

Actually, it feels more like, “I want them out,” like there’s a bunch of hooligans running amok in my soul. They grab fistfuls of cookies without asking, sneak peaks at things not meant for their eyes, yell foul and unkind words, knock over furniture, scratch and tear up the woodwork, and upset and upend the quiet, good me I long to be. I am trying to boss them around, tell them we know how to behave, they know better, my soul knows better.

I am full of broken instincts and behaviors, failed best efforts and renewed resolutions. They are all ill-behaved children who refuse to listen to parents and reason.

I am hoarse from yelling, “Out, wearying worries and useless tail-chasing! Out, old, worn thinking ruts and circular thought patterns! And I’ve got a stick I’ll use on ya if you come back this way!” Maybe if I just threaten the broken, failed parts of my soul and thoughts and choices a little more, get really good and fed-up and determined, it will finally work.

Maybe I will finally not be so broken.

Part of me so wishes it worked like that. I get bossy and take control, and even pray some more and ask God some more, and hope something goes “BAM!”: I am the repaired, good Christian I long to be.

Interestingly, God seems in no hurry to turn things upside down and shake out the garbage all at once. Even if I get fed up with it all at once.

Instead I get practice sessions at being a new creation in Christ. And while I am confident that, in terms of salvation and being seated in the heavenlies, the whole “new creation” thing happened instantly, I believe that in terms of refining me in the flesh in which I still walk, it certainly did not. It appears I have the opportunity in that sense to be a new creation every day.

Make that every hour.

Okay, every minute.

Maybe even every 3.8 seconds.

And it’s not the “Practice Makes Perfect!” kind of practice I know so well, either. It’s not the ruler-on-knuckles piano practice, the shoot-hoops-till-fingertips-are-bloody basketball practice, the play-till-you-can’t-stand-or-see-straight football practice, the write-this-word-1000-times-till-your-fingers-cramp spelling practice. The goal is not perfection the way I have always thought of it, no errors ever, no fumbles, no fouls. Never a missed note, nary a turnover.

It’s the practice of believing and and walking with my Good Dad, the Holy God who says, “I am pouring out grace and opportunities and grace-laden opportunities for you, my daughter, to both see who I am and be like I am. No matter how your last effort turned out, and no matter how this effort turns out, I love you. It’s unshakable. I am shaping you. And I am unshakable. I’ve got this, and I am your practice. Walk intimately with me in delighted, active trust and love, and I will burn up the dross, sometimes quickly but often slowly and in a way that reveals more of you and more of me. I will do it as you practice receiving and living in my love and grace that have the only real power to bring change, that you may see more of me in every interaction, every moment, both in you and out of you, toward you and toward others. I am your never-exhausted, never-weary, alive-in-the-Holy-Spirit-in-you, practice of love.”

So, what’s my prayer now, if I drop the stick I’ve been shaking and swinging at myself, and let my Loving Father be my practice?

Now I pray for the grace and courage to show up. Show up, and practice bravely believing all God has done, is doing, and will do. Practicing taking off my armor and opening my soul to its depths to hear, know, and feel all he says, all he is, and that his grace and love bring real change, lasting change. My coach is never tired, never exasperated. His inexhaustible love that desires and welcomes me right where I am even as he works in me is my first practice stop. The basics, the piano scales, free throws, and line sprints of my soul, so to speak.

Honestly, I have never been good at practicing anything, really. Flute, volleyball, softball, algebra equations. I want instant results now and I don’t like “failing”; even my friends have noted, I just don’t play games and sports I can’t win. I want guaranteed success and I want it immediately.

But I am starting to get the picture that for my soul, practice isn’t my performance; it’s remembering who my coach is.

In 3.8 second intervals. Over and over and over and over again.

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