This morning I took a look at how my handlettering skills have changed in the last two years since I started learning.
The 2018 one is just . . . laughably better. But not by practice alone. I have learned new skills, purchased workbooks, researched, learned, listened, watched, taught myself Adobe products–I’ve worked very hard to get to the reasonable success I’m at now. And I can’t help but think it was way, way easier when it was just me and a notebook and a singular felt tipped pen.
But the product was so much worse!
Can we have a life where we can do the least amount of work but yield the best results? Of course not. Yet, especially in faith, I find myself longing for that on the reg.
One of my favorite prayers of all time, from one of my favorite saints of all time, St. Augustine, goes like this:
Lord, make me pure–but not yet!
St. Augustine was a wayward man who knew that there were better things out there for him but he wasn’t ready to find them. Man, I get that.
And for good reason. Because I have found that, as counter as it seems, the closer you get to God, the more you will struggle. I always think that getting closer to the Lord is going to mean that I’m getting further from struggle and pain, but in reality, we’re all just walking further into the belly of the beast.
Life is harder the closer you get to God. You learn more; you’re aware of more; you’re accountable for more. No longer is it acceptable to show up with your felt tipped pen and lone piece of notebook paper and say, “I am a calligrapher!” You have the burden of knowledge now. You know what it takes to do God’s will.
It’s logical when you think about it. In any battle plan, there is a consensus to attack the weakest link. But wouldn’t it stand to reason that you wouldn’t use your best guys on the weakest link? You’d use your weakest guys to fight their weakest guys. Then when you get to the real fight, with the Goliaths of the opposition, you’d bring in your truest, scariest forces to be reckoned with. We’re the ones being targeted.
The battle between good and evil is no joke, friends. And the devil definitely uses that strategy. The closer we draw to God, the more of a threat we become to the devil and his army of evil. Which means every step closer to walk with God is another bullseye on our back.
However, it’s also more armor. Our margin for failure goes way up when we take more on. But it’s those moments that instead of turning away and abandoning hope, we have to remind ourselves myself that God is bigger than our biggest failures.
I think there’s a tendency to get really discouraged and start defining ourself by our failures. For me, it’s in the form of a habitual sin and I kick myself every time I give into temptation because I’m like, “ERIN. You literally know better in every way. Are you even trying to be holier?” Psyches can be really mean.
And that’s what I unpacked in confession last week. I said to the priest, “I don’t want to assume God’s grace. I come to confession with the same sin all the time. At some point, won’t he say, ‘You’re clearly not making an effort to be better’?” And Father said:
God’s love is bigger than your biggest failure.
When we’re aware of what’s being required of us, we get tunnel vision. And when we fall, it feels like everything else has been in vain.
I have close friends who work intimately with the pro-life movement. They have committed enormous parts of their lives and hearts to helping pregnant women get the help and support they need to feel empowered to have their children. The more families they save, however, the more broken families they meet. As their involvement grows, so does their awareness. And it’s a blinding spotlight on a pained world, brighter every day. It’s easy in those times to get bogged down and overwhelmed by the weight of what more you could be doing, instead of recognizing the glory in the triumphs you’ve already faced.
We cannot continue further into the battle of good versus evil without remembering that God is by our side and He’s so much greater than these empty spaces. These places where we haven’t found victory or the scary places we haven’t even seen yet. These moments of failure and shortcoming and giving into temptation or realizing how long the journey ahead actually is. Those empty spaces seem daunting and insurmountable. But God is bigger. And He’ll give you just what you need.
Bonus. In honor of my fave saint and his awesomely authentic prayer, enjoy this free download of this “Saint Augustine, pray for us” print: