When All You Do Is Not Enough
Photo by John McNamara

Photo by John McNamara

"To obey is better than sacrifice." (1 Samuel 15:22)

What else can I do? I've put in the time. I've done my duty. I've fulfilled my obligations. And still, still it's not enough. Why do you tease me with dreams, when they dissolve with ease and without care to my heart?

Even though I doubt, I still persevered. And for what? For character? What will that get me?

I return to my first love, over and over—it's resonance shaking me within and without. But though I love, I do not overcome.

The straight is so narrow, I lose my balance. But the path seems to end—weeds and thistles reach into the path and cut. Where does this path lead anyway?

How can Habakkuk speak those words? "Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines … yet I will rejoice in the Lord."

My heart is no God target; he does not pull his bow to unleash his hot arrows upon me. I do not lift up idols. I am not running from my task. Why then, the travail?

And yet, my heart knows nothing else but the fierceness of his love. I walk. I run. I bound up the mountain set before me. I fall back to the place where I began. Broken bones, broken spirit, I sit in a heap.

The wind blows my name, and pushes me back to the mountains side. "Climb," it says. "Climb, my son."

The dead-end path of narrow thistles landed me here, in front of this mountain. And a spirit wind speaks to me.

"We are not responsible for success," writes theologian Klaus Bockmuehl, "but we remain responsible for obedience."

And so, I climb.




Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.