I’ve been spending a lot of time lately pondering what it means to be a Christian. I know WHAT it means, I guess I’ve been more focused on HOW to be a Christian. What does it look like to be more like Jesus? And why is that so stinking hard?
I love Jesus. I’ve known and loved Him practically my whole life. I was given at birth that wonderful legacy of generational faith, all my people know and love Him too. And while I never had a Road to Damascus type of encounter, I can recall a specific moment where the power of the Spirit was so strong that I could have no more said no to Jesus in my heart than I could have stopped a moving train.
But preceding that moment, and following it, life was not so significantly different. There was no gutter to glory narrative for me. I was the one, when around the fire at camp giving testimonies, always felt that mine was, frankly, kind of boring. Especially compared to the stories of others with their broken families or drug/alcohol problems.
Mine has been a comfortable kind of faith. Like an old sweatshirt on a cold night.
But it has also been not at all like that. Growing to be like Jesus is not simple or easy for any of us. Just because I never dabbled in THE BIG SINS like sex or drinking, I certainly have plenty of inner (and sometimes outer) sinning. And the kind that is far more insidious and hurtful. The truth is: Sin is Sin. And God hates all of it. So I’m no better or worse than anyone on this planet, however I may judge their foibles to make myself feel better.
When I was a little girl I would pray, as I was falling asleep, that the next day I could have one perfect sin-free day, just like Jesus. I figured that if He could live a sin-free life, then certainly I could make it through a day. Then I would wake up and smack my brother, or sass my mom, or in general make life less pleasant for those around me. FAIL!
I’m a pleaser. I want people to like me, to think I’m hard-working, and friendly, and smart, and funny, and LIKE me. The worst punishment I could face as a child was when my dad would look over his glasses in disappointment over something I had done or left undone.
So I want to please God. I want to live a life that makes God proud of me. I want to do the right things, and obey the right way, and serve the right ministries, and be the good girl.
Except it doesn’t so much work that way. No matter how hard I try, I will never be good enough ON MY OWN. Besides, within heartbeats I can vacillate between wanting to be like Jesus with my whole heart, to barking at my kids, or flipping off the driver ahead of me. Oops. FAIL!
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around grace and what that means. I know what it means, theoretically, but how does that play out? How does it work in my life? And how do I actually extend it to others? I don’t want to be the wicked servant who was forgiven much, and then can’t pay it forward. But I feel like I am, so very often.
I’m forgiven. I know that. I get that. In my head. And sometimes in my heart, but not always. It seems to me, as an educator, that a student (me) can know the material, but when it comes to actually putting that knowledge into practice, can fall flat on my face. FAIL!
Part of being generationally Christian means that I know the lingo. I can fellowship with the best of them. (And exactly how did fellowship come to be a verb? This is one of those buzzwords that makes me kind of crazy. But that’s another topic.) I know all about grace, justification, sanctification, redemption. But if I can’t let it move from head knowledge to heart knowledge, what is the point?
So here is what I cling to. I’m a work in progress. There is no way that I can get it right. I will never be good enough on my own. And this is where I need to let Jesus step in. I need to let Jesus be perfect for me. I have to hope, to believe that when I stand before the throne, I can point at Him and say “Look at Him, not at me.” And in the meantime, I get up in the morning and try. And know that even though I FAIL, He never does. This must be an on-going and everyday process. It’s a good thing His mercies are new every morning.