You know how you hear something often enough, that it just becomes truth by osmosis? It sinks in, makes a home, and though you can't remember from whence it came, you sure do hold strong to it. (And if for no other reason that we don't, as a people, like to admit when we're wrong...especially persisting for, oh, in the neighborhood of decades.)
There were many things I used to believe, some of them tied to my idea of Christian faith, that I look back on in regret. Not regretting that I believed them, per se, since many of these pearls of wisdom (which later turned out to be moth balls painted a glimmering white), were passed along with good intention, to try to shape me and instill goodness, with hopes of a better person spilling out the other end. No, I regret all the times that I put my hands on my hips (a behavior that is positively genetic, y'all), and self-righteously proclaimed these inherited "truths," lacking any sense of personal conviction...save for the conviction that I was awesome.
I remember very vividly having a conversation with M before we were together. I think we were still in the getting-to-know-you phase (also known as the I-was-already-totally-smitten-and-trying-to-play-it-cool phase...which was a hot fail and fooled all of no one), and I was very, very young in my walk. (Of note: I had attended church while young and was even baptized circa junior high, but my path was a bit wayward, to say the least. I wasn't the worst kid, and I wasn't the best, but life was all about me and my precious wants/needs/hastohaves...which remained true through most of my 20s, bless all the things.) Apropos doesn't matter, I uttered that infamous phrase. "I know, God helps those who help themselves..."
M, in his sweet and graceful nature, eventually offered a gentle correction that has been one of many moments that helped me leave behind a diet of milk and move onto spiritual meat.* (Figuratively, of course...I'm both lactose sensitive and vegetarian, so that'd be an interesting detour, indeed.)
In the eyes of the World, worth is measured by status, accomplishment, and attaining, and striving is the name of the game. Christ, on the other hand, is radical in many, many ways, but one of my favorite characteristics of our motley savior is that He is a champion of the poor, the meek, the disinherited who have and seek nothing. To say that God helps those who help themselves is TOTALLY.MISSING.THE.POINT. ("Alright, I'm shouting. I'm shouting, I'm shouting, I'm shouting.") If we were even remotely capable of helping ourselves, we wouldn't have needed Christ to get up on that rugged cross and suffer a horrid death. If we can just pick ourselves up by our proverbial bootstraps, we don't need prayer. And what of those who couldn't possibly help themselves? The penniless, the uneducated, the heartbroken, the castoffs, and the lost? Well, He is nearest to them, y'all.** Not the maddeningly ambitious who work their fingers bloody, all the while looking behind them to ensure everyone KNOWS how much goodness they are all up in.
God helps ALL. The most effort we can put toward the matter is whatever strength it takes to lower ourselves to our knees, or to whisper the word, "Help." He doesn't bless those who are the most Christianest of all the Christians in Christiandom. It's not about earning a gold star from God. (I love the way that Max Lucado's story You Are Special drives this point on home.) Nor is he a genie, waiting to grant wishes. No. He is the Almighty God who loves, who knows and see souls, and who made a way--through Christ--for us to be saved and reconciled to Him. The helping has been done. Christ was the ransom paid. For you.
How easy it is to believe that we must earn our faith, that we must do something to attain it. Rarely, this reflects a wrestling with our pride, but more often we're just so not used to being given something freely, out of pure, unconditional love, that we struggle to truly reach out and take it, accept it, and rest in it. Yet that, my friends, is why Our Lord is so radical. Scandalous, really.
Would you be so bold as to drop your tools, and set aside your doings, to take His hand and walk with Him, in faith, and to truly know that IT IS FINISHED***?
*1 Corinthians 3:2