But we had an absolutely fabulous time. Despite teenage antics and speedo-clad Soviets, we relaxed—truly relaxed—for the first time in months.
These past two years in Kosovo, we've been pretty heavy laden. Sam described it best in Turkey when he told me, "I always knew I could do better, but I also knew that I couldn't do better, given the circumstances." He was talking about work, but we both agreed that it was true of almost every aspect of our lives. We wanted to do our very best, and we knew that if we worked hard, we could do it. Except for one problem: there was only so much superhuman energy to go around, and in Kosovo, that easily got slashed in half.
Yet, despite these shortcomings, God has given us both an increasing sense of grace and peace about finishing here. In Turkey, this was more palpable than ever. The vacation—free because we were chaperons—was a sweet gift of rest and processing time. It felt like God was releasing us, untying the burden we'd carried the whole season, and saying, "Well done, you carried it all the way. Now sit and catch your breath."
As I lounged poolside, watching Sam go down the water slide for the hundredth time, I nearly wept, I was so relieved to see him having fun. He looked so childlike, so totally unburdened and free. And I felt the same way he looked: joyful and free. Thankful that we made it through. Thankful that God wasn't disappointed in us.
Later, one of the students engaged us in a conversation about religion. He was a devout Muslim and, as I later found out, had a habit of proselytizing everyone he met. Lucky for him, I tend to like these conversations and have a few things to say about my own faith. We chatted for hours, debating the nature of God and the pitfalls of religion.
Mostly, though, we talked about sin and how to be free from it.
My young friend, who really had such a tender heart, was convinced that he needed to follow every rule in the Koran to keep from sinning. He needed to set up hedge rules: not a drop of alcohol, not an inch above the ankle. He needed to pray at the right time, the right way. He needed to stay away from sinners, lest they lead him into temptation. Beyond that, he needed to hate them, as God hates sinners.
He seemed, more than anything, afraid. Perhaps he would call it a holy, healthy fear. But I just call it the fear that comes in the absence of love, the absence of grace. I call it slavery.
I told him that I wasn't afraid of sinning or falling short, because Jesus' sacrifice covers me. Because the Holy Spirit lives in me and mysteriously, amazingly makes all things work for good. Because my one desire is to be in the presence of God, and that is a far greater incentive to run from sin than a bunch of rules. I told him about God's freedom, and how it feels to live in it.
His response: "That's intense." Yes, my friend, it is. But in the best possible way.
When it comes to faith, I'm often in the "I know I could do better, but I also know I couldn't do better" boat. And I'm so thankful that, in Jesus, I don't ever have to graduate from that. I can always be weak. I can always fall into prayer and worship, absolutely desperate for God's presence. I can always repent and receive grace. I can always hand my life over to God and ask him to make up for my failure, to carry the burden I can't bear anymore.
I don't have to be perfect, and neither do you. If your life is in Jesus' hands, you are free. Even if you are in a season of burden, you are free from doing perfect work, from having it all together. You are free from legalism, from rules and hedge laws and fear of sin. You are free from productivity. You are nobody's workhorse: you are dearly loved and held together.
If you're like me, and you can't do better for God, let him do better for you. He will set you free.