I was recently called perfect. I snorted as gracefully as a woman can and laughed thinking to myself, “You clearly don’t know me very well!” The words have me a bit riled for a number of reasons, but mostly because it makes me feel like I’m portraying a very wrong message.
I’m not perfect in a thousand different ways. I wake up early to pray but sometimes I flip through instagram instead. I have myself convinced that I don’t NEED coffee in the morning because that would be an addiction and would show that my joy is in caffeine and not in Christ. Everyone around me before I have that first cup? – They know that my joy is in caffeine but are too scared to tell me the truth. I do not love my neighbor as much as I love myself. This shows itself by exactly how I’m not cleaning their houses for them or making them dinner or purchasing them things like expensive boots. I get angry when I make myself a delicious snack and then my kids want to eat it and I may have developed a habit of sending them outside to play before I dare make myself anything to eat. I’m selfish and can be kind of full of myself. I’m not patient or slow to speak and I just happen to question God from time to time.
So I just want to get one thing clear, in case I haven’t made my point already. I’m not perfect.
There was a time in my life when I truly believed I was good. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Have you ever looked at that person yelling at their kids in the grocery store and had a feeling of pride as your little one sits calmly in the cart using their pleases and thank-you’s? Or seen that couple who glare at each other across the table at the restaurant while you and your spouse hold hands and laugh, and felt like your marriage was superior? There are a thousand ways that we can feel above others when we look around. Maybe you have a masters’ degree in the perfect lawn or a food prep award?
The flip side to being good is that it gives a sense of self-importance and a feeling of earned favor. If I am a good person, surely I am better than those ‘other people’ out there and God clearly loves me more than the “bad” kids, right? If I continue to be good then I can keep my seat in heaven saved. I just have to keep showing: my best, my upstanding character, my morals, my good.
There are a couple of problems with this thinking. Unfortunately, it took me half a lifetime to learn them.
If we think we’re good then that means that we think others are bad.
If we think we’re good then often that means we think we’re better.
This kind of thinking is sad and so far from the truth.
This isn’t an Us versus Them deal.
This isn’t an, I’m better than you, thing.
This is a Jesus thing and from His perspective, we’re not any different than anyone else in this world.
There’s another huge problem with this perspective: if we’re good – then clearly we don’t need help. Cause the thing is, if we know how to cook dinner – we don’t need anyone to make it for us. If we know how to drive – we don’t need a driver to get us where we want to go, and if we are able to earn enough money – we don’t need a donor. The bottom line is that I was seeing myself as good and in so doing I wasn’t recognizing my need: for a Saviour.
As we near Easter and a special time of contemplating the cross I can’t help but see the deep ickiness in my heart. I can’t help but be humbled by the many ways that I fall short and thus, the so many ways that I need Him to carry me. I am nothing apart from my God, who sent his son Jesus to the cross. He put my sins on Jesus on that cross. He made a way for me to be saved. I see now that I need him desperately. I need him even when I think I can manage on my own. I need Him for all that He is and all that I’m not.
I know I’m not perfect. But the incredible truth is that when God looks at me, He sees me as such. He sees me this way because I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. He sees His beauty instead of my filth.
It’s Him that’s perfect. Not me.