Life hacks. Kitchen hacks. Studying hacks. Gardening hacks. Budgeting hacks.
What’s with all the hacks? Are there really any shortcuts when doing anything meaningful? And even if there were hacks, would I actually take them? As previously established, life is inherently inconvenient, but it is precisely that which makes it beautiful. We are all called to do important hard things and sometimes that means going painfully slowly.
I have spent quite a bit of time beholding the Lord and sitting in His presence and asking to know him (all that power of his Resurrection and fellowship of his suffering stuff). And I have been detaching from this idea of God that is very contractual and formulaic. I was (maybe I still am—I don’t claim to have been fully renewed) a pharisee—the type Jesus warned of who tithed on the mint, rue, and every herb, but neglected the justice and love of God. (Luke 11:42) In fact, growing up I participated in deep conversations of whether it was more acceptable to God for a person to tithe on their gross or their net income. And if they tithed on the gross, did they have to tithe on their tax refund? And if they got a rebate on an expensive purchase, what that tithable income? And did all income count or just earned income? What about birthday money? And what about non-monetary gains? Like just what if someone gave me a car? That’s big. Probably tithable. But, like maybe smaller gifts—not so much. Like I don’t have to tithe on a cupcake. Where exactly is the monetary line? Because it was a serious thing to rob God (Malachi 3) and it was easier to commit that sin than anyone could possibly imagine. But, if you got it right….God was contractually obligated to bless you. And by that, of course, I mean he will bless you with money. Get ready for your cups to run over. If your cup was not running over, reexamine the accounts—you probably robbed God and didn’t even know it. Tell me the loopholes that let God out of his end of the deal, for crying out loud!
And someone (me) could get that all right and still neglect the love and justice of God.
There is truth and there is such a thing as sin and there are consequences for actions. Sure. But who can measure how grace, beauty, charity, mercy, and surrender factor in. What is the weight of those things—which are every bit as real as filthy mammon? Can all those things possibly balance the scales? And who I am to say where those lines are?
Maybe heaven doesn’t even use earthly scales. Maybe it is far better to open up heart, soul, body, and bank account to God and say, “Here: take what you don’t want me to have. And then help me to manage what you leave me.”
The money thing is just one example, of course, of a religious hack— convenient little box we can check so we know we are pleasing God. It’s so nice to be able to tidily measure that.
Alas, there are no hacks to holiness. There are no three points and a poem that can get you there. You can do everything right and still live to regret it. You can do your best and still make mistakes and then throw yourself at the feet of mercy. You can aim for higher and let God empower you there. Or you can aim for higher and try to do it yourself by sheer grit. All I know is that there are no shortcuts, no matter what the social media influencer or pop-culture-pastor told you.
Because it is Lent I have spent a lot of time meditating on Jesus in the desert, fasting and longing for Jerusalem. I appreciate in that story how angels came to minister to him. If Jesus needed angels to come to minister to him in the desert, how much more do I need some bolstering in my own desert. After all, I am like Rilke, “still a novice concerning pain.” Maybe the angels deliver sound sleep, a kind word from a friend, a snow day when you need one, or extra sunshine when you just cannot handle another grey day. Maybe the angels offer you a glass of wine or a piece of cake—because fasting is a means to an end and not an end of itself. The end is sanctification. Just like tithing isn’t the hack to financial prosperity, fasting isn’t the hack to holiness. We get there, little-by-grace-filled-little.
Today was the Sunday of the hemorrhaging woman. This woman who lived on the fringe, but who dared to touch the fringe of his garment. She wasn’t even supposed to be there—contaminating everyone and exposing herself to ridicule. But, she dared to respond to Jesus and to reach out to touch his tassel of his cloak. It wasn’t the perfection of her religious service or the eloquence of her prayers that got her there. She followed no formula. She made no demands on the contractual obligations of God. She just had faith.
Well, she had faith and her own broken heart. Psalm 51 tells us that a broken and humble heart he will never turn away.