I find within myself this burning, consuming need to be perfect…
to be seen as perfect by others…
to practically be perfect for myself…
to live up to the standard of perfection set by God.
But somewhere in between changing over the laundry and chasing a crawling baby around the living room and trying to ignore the tight hand of anxiety closing around my chest, it hit me…
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I will never be perfect.
Not next year.
Not on the other side of this trial.
Not when I’m sixty.
Not even on the day I die.
And I don’t know if that thought is jarring to you. It is to me.
Because I know the theology of it all. And I would tell you that I never for one minute would think that I will be perfect this side of heaven, but then I catch myself tied up in anxious knots over my own failures to be perfect.
There’s always something nagging at me telling me that if I could just learn to do this or be more consistent at that or learn not to react those ways then I would be okay.
But the truth is, I will never be okay…ever.
Because my definition of okay is perfect. And I will never be perfect.
I can’t be. I’m a broken, sinful person in a fallen world who is slowly, painfully, beautifully being remade by the God of miracles.
And His greatest miracle of all is that He can take a broken human like me and make me perfect. Because He will make me perfect, but that work won’t be completed till heaven.
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
I won’t be complete and perfect before that day, I know that, but I also know that He is working His good work in me every day that I am alive on this earth.
So when I pray…
“Never let me doubt You or lose faith”
”Keep me from failing ever again”
”Don’t let me make this mistake anymore”
”Let me always seek You first”…
When I pray these things, I know that because I am human and sinful, these prayers cannot be answered. It is inevitable that I will fail and sin and lose faith again. And not just again, but again and again and again.
But by God’s abundance mercy, I can instead pray, ”Lord keep me from failing and falling, but thank you that when I do fail and doubt and stumble, You still love me and have already forgiven me and will be right there to catch me.”
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He will not love me less when I struggle because He already knows that I will.
Instead, He will use those struggles to build my faith and to draw me closer to Him. And in one of His grandest miracles of all, He has promised that He can turn even my sinful failings into good opportunities for growth in me and for His glory to shine through me.
Although I know I’ll never be perfect this side of heaven, I do know that He is working in me to make me perfect once I reach heaven. And when I do sin and doubt and fall, He can use even those wrongs for His glory and my good.
I will never achieve perfect.
The anxiety driving me to do and be more and get better will never be satisfied through accomplishment. But it can be satisfied in the arms of a Savior who promises to work in and through me and my failings, and who promises that someday, not in this life but in the next, He will make me perfectly like Him.
What a miraculous gift for my anxious soul.
I’ve been studying through 1st and 2nd Peter for awhile now. Too long, probably, but I’m pressing on slow anyways. And a few days ago, these words seemed to hang out in front of me in the air, waiting for me to grasp their significance.
“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”
2 Peter 2:19
Peter is discussing false teachers: their lives, their deceptions, and their destinies. He was warning the church against listening to or being led astray by false teachers.
The defining feature of false teachers in this passage was…
They promise freedom, but they themselves are not free.
As I read, I paused to think on this…that we can’t offer to others what we ourselves don’t have. And it struck me that this is exactly what our adversary the devil tries to do.
He offers peace, but he has no peace to offer.
He offers power, but he knows that his power will be taken away.
He offers riches, but he will ultimately be stripped of all he has.
He offers happiness, but he is fueled by rage and envy.
He offers freedom, but he himself is bound to earth and destined for eternal death.
All the promises of this world, all the riches and fame and joy and peace promised are simply lies of the deceiver himself, just reshaped and repackaged by those who have unknowingly fallen for his lies.
And I wonder what we’re listening to and what we’re preaching…
Because you can’t offer what you don’t have, and if you try then you’re following in the steps of the deceiver, the Father of Lies.
My pastor has said over and over, “If I’m not filling up on Jesus, then the best I can give people is myself.”
And I once again find myself looking deep inside and asking…
What do I have to offer?
What do I promise to others?
What has overcome my life?
What am I filling up on?
I don’t want to be a false teacher.
I don’t want to resemble a false teacher even for a moment.
I don’t want to promise freedom if I myself am in bondage.
And I don’t want to give anything other than Jesus.
…because, in Jesus I am alive and can offer life to the dying.
In Jesus I am forgiven and can offer forgiveness to others.
In Jesus I have peace and can offer peace to a broken world.
In Jesus I’ve been given freedom and can offer freedom.
We are free and can offer the freedom that is in Jesus to a broken and bondaged world.
This post is full of more questions than answers, because only you know your answers to these questions. I’m unsettled in writing this because it doesn’t feel tidy. But sometimes we need to simply be left with messy questions…messy because they dig into the messiness of our own hearts and lives.
So I’m not leaving you with a tidy post today…just the mess of questions that I’m asking myself. And I’m inviting you to join me in asking them. Will you?
We moved to South Florida with no promise of anything but hard work, serving Jesus, and gorgeous beaches.
No promise of a church building.
No promise of an ordination certificate.
No promise of a paycheck.
No promise of a job or a house or any form of security.
But really, since when are any of us promised that?
We might think we’re safe. We might think we’re secure in our 5 year contract or our comfy mortgage. We might think we’re secure in our relationships in the town we’ve lived in for years and the places where everyone knows our names.
But are we?
And is safe and secure what we really want?
Our pastor later told us, “I didn’t want you to come for any reason other than that you knew God had called you. So I made it sound as unattractive as I could. I tried to discourage you to test your calling.”
Because church planting is hard. And church planting is lonely.
Because moving 3,500 miles away from everything and everyone you’ve ever known is painful and scary.
But serving Jesus is sanctifying and satisfying. And obeying God’s call is rewarding. And living by faith is so worth every hard night and every long day.
And it took me to realize what our pastor said a few months ago, that “faith isn’t faith without faith.”
That stepping out in faith isn’t stepping out in faith unless it takes some faith to actually take that step…unless you don’t have every step of the way figured out in advance.
And stepping out in faith does’t always look like moving across the country or planting a church. In fact…those steps were the easy ones.
The hard steps are less obvious…the more daily ones.
The decision to live a radical life.
The choice to step outside of my comfort zone.
The continual choices to reach out and to love people and to talk to strangers and to live differently.
Truly, those are the hard decisions. The scary steps of faith.
And they are the decisions we are all called to make. We’re all called to live differently, to live questionable lives. Faith isn’t usually lived out most vibrantly in the big, life changing moments. It’s lived out in the everyday ways.
In the choices we make to live with less in order to love others more.
In the choices we make to love and keep loving even when it hurts.
In the choices we make to keep Jesus at the center of our lives.
In the choices we make to step out of our comfort zones to touch the hurting and comfort the morning and love the searching and rescue the sinking.
And we’re not promised that it will be safe, but we are promised that it will be hard. But we’re also promised a reward in heaven and joy in the midst of sorrows and a purpose that’s greater than just us.
So we went. With no promises except a call from God. With no promises except the promise of sanctifying struggle and eternal reward.
Will you go? Across the street or across town or across the country or around the world or simply behind this screen in your own home. But wherever He’s calling, will you go? With no promise of success or fame or earthly reward? Will you go?
“What if God, whose wisdom and justice are beyond our understanding, decided to rain down severe suffering upon Job without feeling the need to tell him why? Do you want to love a God who would do this? Could you love a God like this?”Erasing Hell by Francis Chan
Sometimes I think I have no room to speak into hurt and pain in people’s lives. I tell myself that my life has been too easy, that I’ve never had any real pain to deal with.
But when I stop and start recounting my life, I realize that’s not true.
I haven’t experienced other people’s trials…I’ve had my own.
I’ve experienced pain.
I’ve experienced loss.
I’ve experienced hurt.
I’ve experienced anxiety and irrational fear.
And I’ve seen myself and my friends handle these hardships and more, and I’ve read the words of others handling those same hardships and worse… And I hurt for those I’m watching go through pain, but I think that there is nothing I can say because I’ve never experienced exactly what they are going through.
And sometimes I can’t know exactly.
But more often, pain is pain and God is good and there aren’t any answers to give anyways, just comfort in Jesus.
But I want to give them answers.
And I want answers for my own struggles.
I’ve asked my questions of God, but even in the darkest moments, my heart has been afraid to be harsh with the God whose hand allowed those troubles. Because even in the darkest storm something in me has always known that we don’t fully understand.
For years I thought it just was me. That I was too young, too ignorant, too inexperienced. But as the moments of my life pass quietly by, I’m learning that it’s not just me that doesn’t understand.
Because why would the creation expect to fully understand the Creator? Why would the clay expect to be able to philosophize the mind and intentions of the Potter?
“And…Job arrived at the most important point: It’s not about figuring out all of the mysteries of God, but embracing Him and cherishing Him-even when He doesn’t make perfect sense to us.”
Erasing Hell by Francis Chan
In the end, how can we be anything but grateful for the understanding we have been given? Because we know that He is good, that His love never fails, and that we have an eternal hope.
I’ve been reading the book quoted above and part of me keeps wanting to put the book down and never pick it back up. But it’s like drinking Pepto-Bismol when you have the stomach flu. You know it will bring to the surface a lot of ugly and pain, and yet you also know that it is the best way to bring life and healing to your body.
Because it can be painful to face the fact that I may never get answers to some of my deepest “whys” and to realize that God is still good and God is still love.
Because I hurt when I watch others go through the thick of the questions and the whys and the railing at God, and I hurt because I want to give answers but I know that I don’t have them and probably never will. And I want to grab their hands and drag them into the truth of how much God loves them and show them how tight He is holding them even as they are kicking and screaming at Him.
But I can’t.
So I’m silently watching with a heart hurting and prayers flowing.
And I wish they could see the comfort I’ve been shown. I wish they would reach out and cling to the comfort and healing of Jesus for themselves.
Because I know the pain and the confusion of life, but I also know the peace that passes understanding and the joy in the midst of broken.
So I pray hard and seek to speak life to them and I think again and I remember that my own heart still needs telling. And I ask myself again, “Could I love a God like this?”
A God that allows pain and suffering without explanation.
A God of ruthless justice.
A God I can never hope to fully understand.
A God who doesn’t promise us that it will always make sense.
And I must say yes.
I must say yes, because this God I can’t comprehend is also a God of love.
A God who subjected Himself to unthinkable pain in order to love me.
A God that promised to wipe away all my tears in heaven someday.
A God of mercy and grace beyond anything I can imagine or give.
“Could I love a God like this?”
“Could I love Him?”
For me, the answer is, I must.
For without Him the answers are even less, the path far more confusing, and the hope far less certain.
For with Him there is hope in the midst of tragedy, peace that doesn’t make sense, and joy that cannot be explained with human logic.
“Could I love a God like this?”
Yes…because He is God.
It’s as simple as grace.It’s as simple as Jesus.
It’s as simple as a God who loves us passionately.
When it all seems so clouded and confusing…
When we’re attempting climb intellectual ladders to heaven…
When we’re studying that one verse over and over until we can’t remember why it’s even there…
It’s as simple as the fact that He loves you.
It’s as simple as the grand story of His Word…He loves you.
It’s as simple as the reason He came to this broken, messy world…He loves you.
And as intellectual and theological as it gets to study His Word…
And as deep and wide as His truth and wisdom is….
And as hard and confusing as it is to apply His Word to loving others…
It’s as simple as the fact that He loves you.
And He suffered the worst the earth has to offer to tell you that.
And He wrote a book to tell you that.
And He bled and died to tell you that.
Because He loves you.
And all the hard and the theological and the life application suddenly becomes clear in the light of this one mysterious, amazing, awe-inspiring fact…He loves you.
The God Almighty…loves you.
And sisters, we have to, we must, view all of God’s Word, view all of life through this lens.
Because when you are perfectly loved, you are free to be perfectly holy.
Because when you are perfectly loved, you are perfectly humbled.
Because when you understand perfect love, there is nothing on earth as beautiful or important.
Because when you understand His perfect love, His Word screams of nothing else, and every law becomes a delight, every theology becomes a love song.
And that love, the love He has for you, is so deep, so complicated, so wide, so hard, so simple…you can never fully know it. So let’s keep climbing those stairs of theology and intellectual understanding as long as they point us to nothing else but a God of love so great that we are completely compelled to love Him back.
And let’s long for heaven…when we will finally and fully know the depth of His love.