Ever volunteered to do something with someone else or give something away, not really wanting to do it, and then find out that your offer was turned down for circumstances you did not know about? I have quite often. Just last week at work I volunteered to help a woman out who need me to give a one-hour tour to some visitors. Yes, I had no meetings scheduled at that time, but I stay very busy at work. But the morning of the scheduled tour, it was cancelled, and I got a gracious email saying that I had been kind to volunteer. So I got the “points” toward a good reputation without having to make the actual sacrifice. Did I really deserve to be viewed as kind if my heart wasn’t in it? Didn’t the whole affair turn into a selfish act on my part to build a good reputation?
This principle has its negative counterpart as well. When I deserve to be found out about something that I did wrong, and I try to confess, and end up being let off the hook by a friend who says tat I am being too hard on myself, I can easily credit myself with a repentant heart that did not have to undergo the shame to which it was deserving (and perhaps, badly needing.)
JVG ends up experiencing all the shame and offers himself up fully in the courthouse. Still, he was somewhat at the mercy of the circumstances, and t seems would have accepted the outcome as God’s will if he had arrived so late to Arras as to miss the trail altogether. The best quote appears early in the chapter when he finds that his trip was substantially delayed, and expecting such a reprieve:
He did himself the justice to feel that it was not his fault. But at bottom, he was not sorry for it.
So what am I to do? Indulging in the circumstantial reprieve can easily slip into a self-deception taking the comfort and giving only half the effort at a good confession. To be wary of this self-deception is only to look out for my wandering away from the love of God. It means that I am resting more on my outward comforts than my inward position as God’ accepted child. To guard myself from this pattern, I never tire of well doing, and must seek anonymity for deeds of grace when possible. To nurture the inner heart of integrity more than the outward comforts. But thanks be to God who delivers me, for I am a naive child in this complex game of motives.