I love routine. It means predicability. I know what to expect and how things will go. One routine I cherish is spending time in the Bible before my day begins. I enjoy sipping on my coffee, reading Scripture, and if I’ve given myself enough elbow room in the schedule, some journaling and prayer before I get ready for the day.
A year and a half ago all of that changed when our first child, Addy, was born. While my husband and I were thrilled to settle in as a family of three, bringing a child into the world dismantled any sense of routine I had previously set. That early alarm sound that used to be an invitation into a warm, slow start to the day had suddenly evolved into a siren signaling my own demise. Now, the joys of parenting are many and nearly impossible to put into words, but the inconvenience paired with the sleeplessness is not. In fact, I think most of the words on that list are four letters.
Routine interruption brought with it a sense that I was somehow letting God down because I didn’t know what it looked like to spend time with him now that a newborn was in the picture. Due to the exhaustion that came with the transition, when Addy napped I felt like I had to spend time with the Lord when all I really wanted to do was rest or sleep. I wasn’t being gracious or kind to myself, and I felt like the pressure was on me to maintain my relationship with God, because after all, relationships require time, right? Oddly enough, this narrative (and my false understanding), appeared to come from the Bible itself.
Philippians 2:12 says, “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” What does it mean to work out our salvation? What is it that I need to do in order to maintain my salvation or secure God’s love for me? It’s a daunting thought because what if I don’t “work it out” right? What if God isn’t pleased with the way I pursue and love him?
Then add 1 Peter 1:14-16 to the mix: “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.”’ Be holy in all we do? Oof! But, again, I have a kid now, and I’m just so…tired.
Left to my own devices, these passages can work together to shape an unhealthy narrative in my mind. They make me feel that it’s on me to please God and if I take a wrong turn, my relationship with him is on thin ice. For me to be holy I need to spend 30 minutes a day in Scripture and journal afterward. Or in order to work out my salvation, I need to serve in three areas at my church and make sure to always be there when a friend is in need, no matter the cost.
But here’s the thing: while none of these things are bad pursuits, they put me at the center of my spirituality, and not Jesus.
Earlier portions of Philippians 2 frame the context of what it means to “work out our salvation.” It reads, “[Jesus,] who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
Working out our salvation involves accepting a gift we did not earn. This is easier said than done. It comes with accepting all that Christ has done for us and trusting that the work that he completed on the cross is sufficient, since Christ is the one who has, ultimately, worked out our salvation (Phil 2:13).
A friend recently reminded me that good works aren’t even meant to be thought of. They’re something that come from a place of love, out of our belief in the gospel and our orientation toward his sacrificial work for us. Good works belong in the “left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing” category. That’s been a balm for me, now just days out from meeting our second daughter, and having renewed fear over what my relationship with God might look like during those first few months. But, his love for me will not change. Afraid or not. Anxious or not. Tired or not. Routine-centered or not. His side of the relationship does not ebb and flow based on my participation. I have no category for this!
Even during the times it doesn’t feel like God is at work, or we don’t feel like we’re “working out our salvation”, the Lord is working in us. His grace is new in the middle of the night when I wake up to feed and care for this new baby. He’s at work when he reveals to me my lack of patience towards our daughter or my husband due to the sleepless nights. When friends and family come to help or bring a meal, he reminds us through their gracious acts that he loves and is caring for me through his people. And when fatigue gets the best of me, he’ll be the one to quiet my heart and remind me that he is for me (and for you), always.