I like to think in boxes, where everything is "either or.” Good or bad. Left or right. Right or wrong. Up or down. The boxes of “yes or no” make life simpler - but it also makes it false. Life is not easily packed into neat boxes. Our lives are complex and therefore there is enough confusion to go around. Here's an example of what I mean.
There are phases to the life God is shaping inside us. One author calls it the "rhythms of grace." I'm learning that I need to recognize and surrender to the rhythm. (Discard any images of me dancing!) Spirituality entails both an active and passive phase. In the active phase of our growth, we discipline ourselves with certain activities. (Bible study, prayer, community etc.) With these efforts, we go out looking for God. We give ourselves to matters of our soul with energy and the best intentions. By the way, those good efforts actually work, but we begin to think that it's our disciplines that are creating the growth. It feels like growth is all up to us! Of course most get tired of the disciplines, become inconsistent and they drop off. We wind up covering the same territory in our hearts, going in spurts and sputters to stagnation and stalemate.
We forget (or didn't know) that there is also a passive phase of growth. There is a fall and winter to every spring and summer. The passive seasons are times when God carries our spirits to fruitfulness and maturity, that can't be measured or correlated with our inconsistent efforts. It feels like growth is all up to God! So which it is, God's work or ours? You know the answer.
We're told in Jn. 15, that we’re the branches of the Vine. Here's the point. To make a vine fruitful, you have to water and weed -play the part of the farmer. But every farmer knows that growth is not just because of his work. He can water and weed a stick all he likes but there won’t be any grapes - it's a stick with no life in it!
I am learning that I need to care for matters of my soul - that's the active role I play. I shouldn't expect fruit without tending my spirit. But even with that, life isn't up to me. God alone can play His part. Life comes from Him. And without His Spirit acting in mysterious ways through His own rhythms of grace- I am just a stick.