We are a people always seeking, always moving, always striving for more: it is the American way. In our culture, the most dishonorable people are the people who don’t work toward anything and don’t want toward anything. Having a job is respectable, certainly, but it’s the striving that makes you remarkable. Striving is our barometer for praise, for respect, for worthiness. A person who’s not at least trying to be better is really just not worth the space they occupy. If you’re not trying to move upward, whether that be in corporate America or on the stairway to Heaven, you are not a person worthy of grace, of rest, nor even sometimes of justice. We may not articulate it this way, but our resentment of these types of people classify them as the breed of humans unworthy to till soil in the land of opportunity.
Most of us, with our desire to belong and be worthy, avoid feeling this way at all costs. We go on hustling and moving and rapidly trying to outrun the ominous voice of our culture that says to be satisfied with one’s status – no matter where that may be – is a sign of laziness and untapped potential. And what’s worse is that in all of our hurrying to get where we’re trying to go, most of us will run right past the joy of life because we’re too busy chasing the prestige.
It is that sadness that brings us here: lost, confused, a fully mapped out future without any sense of direction at all. Shouldn’t we be happier? Shouldn’t we feel content? Shouldn’t there be some sense of peace? We’re so busy in the planning and the prepping and the talking about what we’re going to do that we miss entirely the work that’s already been done. We miss the glory, the joy, and the stillness in our constant reaching for more. We never stop to realize that our existence isn’t about dreaming big or planning out all the things you’re going to do, it’s about reveling in what Christ has already done. We forget, as Christians often do, that life isn’t about the striving, it’s about the basking.
Basking is the labor we refuse to count as worthy. It is the hidden treasure we feel stupid for trying to find. It asks us to lay down our accolades, our achievements, our identity as someone worthy, and exchange it for a new name: the undeserving recipient of God’s endless grace. It’s difficult, you see, to want to be known for what someone did for you instead of what you’ve done for yourself.
Basking asks you to glory in a handout.
And what a disgrace to our American nationalism if our legacy of morality and identity is the equivalent of spiritual welfare.
But that’s what the Christian life is. It is to grab hold of one absolutely mind-blowing, never-ending, undeserved and unwarranted handout. It is to confess that no empires built, nor legacies left, nor names etched in history books the world over have any significance if Christ has not risen from the dead. That the only work worth claiming was done by a poor, near-eastern man willingly crucified for the sins of the world. Basking is the hard and holy work of choosing to claim Christ’s resumé over our own because the saving work of Jesus is our only hope.
Without such grace, our good works are tainted with self-importance and greed. We strive because we have no identity to rest on. We don’t just want a nice life and nice things, we want what our nice life might say about who we are. We want to fill our empty carcass of identity with anything that might give us enough ground to stand on. We’re not just working for department titles, we’re working for a name strong enough to hang our hats on at the end of this life. Achievement is useless if we don’t get to enjoy its fruit. But what good is the fruit if, in the end, it all burns up with the sun?
The good life is not good if there is no rest and no peace. It’s not good if we have to keep striving every minute of the day in order to justify whether or not we are worthy to be here at all. What gift is good unless it can be enjoyed? And what can be enjoyed that is always bidding you chase and yet, always out of reach?
The only thing in this life that never runs anywhere but toward you is the steadfast love and acceptance of God through Jesus Christ. The reason we can bask in the good news of the gospel is because it comes to us, for us, from the unchanging hands of I Am. It has, in a very real sense, absolutely nothing to do with us because we did nothing for it.
To bask in Christ’s glory is to stop counting on our good works and cling to the work done on Calvary. It is to soothe our restlessness with the cross and all its implications, and not with those things we count like sheep to help us sleep at night: quality minutes spent, dollars donated, days worked, “God bless you’s” uttered, people tolerated, corporate ladders climbed, sinners led to the Kingdom.
It is to move our eyes from us to Him.
Basking is the resistance, it’s the revolution, our very own rebel hearts up in arms against that which would seek to destroy us, that which would promise us honor and hand over our corpse instead. It is to stand against everything inside us that tells us to do more, be more, get more and to thank God for all he’s done, been and given.
Salvation comes from works, but when all the work has been done, and all our debts paid, what’s left for us to do but to bask in our deliverance?