Red Letter Day

I was sitting in my car one morning, waiting for my daughter, and was kind of mentally reviewing the previous day. I had the thought that it was a “red letter day”. (Just in case you don’t know – cause I didn’t – the phrase “red letter day” comes from the practice of marking celebration and holy days on the church calendar with red ink. So now you know.)

This “red letter day” was one of those days where everything just seemed to go right, there was a great deal of joy and enthusiasm, everything I put my hand to just seemed ordained and anointed. I said to a friend that evening that God had been so good to me that day. I had to correct myself immediately, because the Spirit reminded me that He is always good, but I don’t always see it. So the accurate statement was that I was able to see His goodness that day.

I’m thankful there are days where my mind and heart are clear enough, or He is loud enough that I can see His goodness. Because there are plenty of days where I think too much or too little, or the distractions of this world are too loud and obnoxious. It wasn’t too many days after that one that I found myself in a morass of fear and trembling. Yet He is still good.

I think that is such a core concept, such a basic, foundational truth, that it is easily missed. I’ve likely written these thoughts before, but I guess they bear repeating. It bothers me that so many people, believers and non-believers alike, don’t really have the foundational truth that God is good. I was listening to a message the other day on the justice of God. It’s hard to look at this world and believe in His justice, as so many bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. Where is the justice in that? Yet, His word says He is just.

Even though He has spent much time teaching me these core truths, restructuring my foundation, I still have trouble seeing His goodness day to day. Oh, I have the concept. I understand and accept that He is good, but I think I question it, or at least don’t stand on it when my days don’t go right, or when He seems so far away, so far removed from me and my circumstances. At these times it is reduced to head knowledge rather than heart knowledge.

I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing, now that I think about it. Isn’t that what faith is? Believing even when you don’t see it? I am awed and overwhelmed to think that Creator God has worked so personally and persistently with me over the last year that He has altered my foundations to the point that even when I can’t see it, I still believe it. I have to interject here that He is just so good…in big things and little things, and sometimes the little things mean a whole lot.

I think where I run into stumbling blocks is that I still rely on my feelings as the barometer of His presence in my life. There are days where I am filled with His presence, brimming over with His joy, walking in the light of His countenance. Then there are days where I have to remind myself to talk to Him, where my Bible reading and studying is done out of habit, where the praise and worship music I’m singing feels flat and empty. I think, even after all this time, all this study, all this getting to know Him, I still have the concept that every day is supposed to be a red letter day.

Feelings are unreliable. I know this. It’s a big “duh.” Why my brain continues to insist that I’m supposed to “feel” Him all the time, I can’t answer. (Even as I’m writing this, there’s a part of me standing over to the side asking “Are you sure? What if you’re wrong?” That internal skeptic has interrupted me all my life.)

I think what happens with me a lot of times is, when I don’t feel Him, some part of my brain assumes either a) I’ve done something wrong – and I go into panic mode; or b) I enter the “out of sight, out of mind” zone and go on autopilot. The last scares me much more than the first. I’ve been on autopilot. That’s the way I lived for years, and I crashed and burned. I’ve written before (can’t remember which post now) that I still have a fear of failing, of messing up. Instead of FOMO – fear of missing out – I have FOMU – fear of messing up. To me, autopilot is the crest of the slippery slope down.

On those “black letter” days, the days that are just normal, where I get up and do my normal routine, my normal study, my normal writing, my normal everything, and I don’t feel His presence keenly, I worry about slipping back into the former life. Maybe I’m hypervigilant now. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

I know I miss Him, miss His closeness on the days that are just “normal.” Admittedly, it’s not always right away. Sometimes I’ll go through a good portion of the day and realize that I haven’t sat still before Him that day, that I haven’t worshipped Him that day. I feel guilty. I feel like I haven’t done my part, haven’t done what I’m supposed to, haven’t checked the boxes, marked those tasks off my list. I feel like I’ve failed. On those days, I determine that the next day is going to be better. I’m going to get up and “do the things.” I’m going to get it right tomorrow. I’m going to work for and earn the “red letter day.” If I do a, b and c, I’ll get the good grade, the pat on the back, the appreciation, the acknowledgement. He’ll come sit with me and love on me.

He is so patient with me, and I’m so thankful. Re-reading that, I see how I am still “performance oriented.” But He is good whether I perform well or not. He loves me whether I “do the things” or not.

I can’t earn a red letter day. For example, yesterday would be another that I would classify as red letter. It was a great day. And yet, it came on the heels of a day where I had come so close to messing up. It came after several days of errant thinking, of allowing my feelings to guide me, of forgetting Who He is and what He has called me to do. Of being on autopilot, going through the motions.

I can’t tell you now why yesterday was so good. Or why the other day, the one that sparked the red letter thought, was so good. I’d like to. I’d like to pin it down and define it. Cause then I can repeat it. I can “do the things.” But that’s not the way it works. The red letter days He blesses me with are indefinable, nebulous and ethereal sometimes. They materialize out of thin air. They just happen. I can’t work for them, I can’t earn them. I can’t define them and produce them myself.

Because it’s not about me.

After the “red letter day” thought, I thought about the song “Red Letters” by Crowder.

There I was on death row
Guilty in the first degree
Son of God hanging on a hill
Hell was my destiny
The crowd was shouting crucify
Could’ve come from these lips of mine
The dirty shame was killing me
It would take a miracle to wash me clean

“Red Letters” WRITTEN BY Edmond Martin Cash / David W Crowder

But then I read the Red Letters. I love that part. I love the “but’s” that come with God. The turning things inside out, the “there’s no way” and He does anyway. I love knowing that it’s not about me, it’s about Him. It’s about His love, His grace, His mercy, His justice and righteousness. His faithfulness, His truth. It’s about Him.

I can’t earn it. I can’t make it happen. I never could. I couldn’t earn His love. When I was His enemy, yet He still died for me. This is the root of a red letter day. Whatever goes wrong or right, whatever happens that is good or bad, or just normal, it is still a red letter day. Because He is the Author of the Red Letters.

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