Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Why being perfect doesn’t matter to God

Does your brain ever grind to a screeching halt? Where it simply refuses to think one more useful thought? It’s like your mind hits a brick wall and the only thing it generates is an overwhelming desire to eat chocolate and watch Doctor Who. Maybe that’s just me. =)

I didn’t used to need to write anything down. I could keep track of everything in my head. Then I hit high school. Then I hit college. And after that? Well, everything changed. Let’s just say I realized yesterday that I’m going to have to start keeping track of everything I do in a notebook because my brain just can’t keep up.

Why? Because I missed something. I forgot something. I misplaced something important. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s going to be a huge pain in my backside.

There’s too much going on. I’m trying to simplify, and it’s helping. But kind of like cleaning your room, you’ve got to make a bigger mess before you can really start organizing, and I feel like that’s where my life is right now. And that can be really depressing if you think about it too long,

Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Psalm 94:17-19.

Unless the Lord had helped me,
    I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave.
I cried out, “I am slipping!”
    but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind,
    your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Life is busy. Everyone is busy in some way or another. If you aren’t, I’d love to know your secret.

Being busy is good as long as it doesn’t take you away from the things that really matter in your life, like your relationship with God and your family. But no matter how hard you work, no matter how much of a perfectionist you are, you’re going to screw up.

You will. Don’t argue.

That’s not an excuse to underperform. And just because you know you aren’t perfect doesn’t justify not even trying. But I know I get so wrapped up in dotting every i and crossing every t that sometimes I don’t even want to take the risk that I’ll screw up. And that’s not how we’re called to live.

We aren’t called to hide in the shadows for fear that we’ll make a wrong move. We aren’t called to hunker down in our safe little bubbles and cover our heads so we make sure we never fail.

We are called to be warriors. Conquerors. More than conquerors, actually. And with God on our side, there’s nothing we can’t do. With God on our side, there’s no fall we can’t pick ourselves up from. That doesn’t mean we should plan to faceplant, but when we do, we shouldn’t let it throw us.

Like the Psalm says, God is there to help us. If not for Him, we all would have been destroyed years ago. God’s love is unfailing, which means that even when we don’t perform at our best, God loves us anyway.

God’s love isn’t dependent on our performance. Aren’t you glad for that? Can you imagine having to do a song and dance to keep God happy? I know some people live their lives that way, and I couldn’t do it.

We don’t have to pay God off. We don’t have to get straight A’s in school or make it through a month without a speeding ticket. We don’t have to keep perfect records or walk on eggshells. God’s unfailing love supports us no matter what. And we should take comfort from that.

If you’re in the same place today that I was yesterday, that should cheer you up. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to know all the details. I don’t have to get everything right. God loves me in spite of all that, and He is going to help me get through it.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try my best. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t aim to do the best job I can do. But it does mean that on the days when I don’t get everything right, when I forget something, when I make a mistake–He isn’t going to drop me. He isn’t going to forget about me. He isn’t just going to walk away because I’m too much trouble.

When you have doubts, when you start making mistakes because life is too busy for your brain to keep up, remember who God is and remember what He’s promised you. His unfailing love will support you. No, it may not look like what you think it should, but since when did real love look exactly like you expected?

So stop being so hard on yourself. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself bloody for missing a step. God doesn’t hold it against you. So you shouldn’t hold it against you either.

Old elm tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Good enough

Being a good person makes me happy. How about you? But how many good people do you know? I know quite a few myself. Good people are the kind of people who always do the right thing, who never overreact, who never get in trouble, who never do anything to hurt someone else intentionally. I’m not lying. I do know people like that. I’m not one of them. But sometimes when you’re that good I imagine it could be difficult to remember that you’re not perfect.

One of the difficult places I’ve discovered as a Christ-follower is that dangerous place where you learn how to keep all the rules and follow all the traditions, where you find that careful balance between obeying the law and still saying that you trust Christ. Not saying we shouldn’t obey the law. The law is good. God gave us the law to establish order and peace, and–well–many of the Ten Commandments are moral law too. It’s just a good idea.

But where it becomes dangerous is when you convince yourself that you can be good enough. And for a little while, you’ll be okay. Because if you’re a good enough person, you can be a good enough Christian in comparison to others, but what happens when you screw up?

Old elm tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Old elm tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Philippians 3:2-4.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

There’s a lot happening in this section of verses. Too much to really go into in a brief morning devotional, but what is important to understand is that during the Early Church, there was a group of people going around who believed people had to do certain things in order to be saved. Honestly, they weren’t much different from the church leaders during Jesus’ life. Honestly, they aren’t much different from the religious experts in any time. There has always been and probably will continue to be people who believe we have to earn salvation.

Paul is basically calling them on the carpet here. What he’s saying is that those people who believe you have to do something in order to be saved are trusting in their own accomplishments and not in Christ. Thsoe people are trusting in what they can do rather than in what Christ has done. And I find it ironic because our world and even the Church is still full of people who believe this. I know tons of people who talk about how Christ has saved them, yet they’ll turn around and tell everyone how they’re supposed to dress, live, eat, drink, speak, etc. in order to be right with God.

Watch out for those people.

There is no human effort we can make that will make us right with God. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. If there were, Jesus wouldn’t have needed to do what He did. So is Paul saying that we shouldn’t strive to “be good”?

That’s not the case at all. Part of having the Bible is knowing how to live. The Bible is a roadmap to life. It’s a guide that explains how we should make decisions and why. But the trouble comes when you take the lifestyle that the Bible promotes and turn it into something that redeems us. No lifestyle will redeem you. No dress code will make you perfect. All following the Law does is show us that we aren’t good enough.

Yes, being a good person, doing what I know is right, does make me happy. And it should. It should make everybody happy when you do the right, even though sometimes doing the right thing isn’t pleasant. But take a minute to scrutinize that happiness the next time you do something right. Are you happy because you did the right thing? Or are you happy because nobody else did the right thing? Are you comparing yourself to other people?

You can’t be good enough. Neither can I. Trusting your future entirely to your behavior is the quickest way to be disappointed, because even if your conduct is spotless, there will come a day when you screw up. And you’ll fall into a tailspin. When you spin out of control because you made a mistake, you have two options: You can compare yourself to someone else and tell yourself that what you did isn’t as bad as what they did. Or you can compare yourself to what the Bible says and recognize that you screwed up and that God forgives.

Which do you think will make you happy? Maybe at first glance, you’d think comparing yourself to someone else. Because after all admitting that we’re wrong won’t make us happy, will it? You should try it sometime. It’s funny how much a relief admitting wrong is.

Wearing the burden of perfection is exhausting. Take it from someone who has been there. You can’t be perfect, and even if you could, it wears you out. Trying to be perfect doesn’t bring happiness; it just bring weariness.

So do what’s right. Obey the law. But don’t trust your future to it. Because you’re not good enough. The one person who was is Christ, and He took care of it. So trust Him and let the rest go.

“Good” Christians need God too

Are there any “good” Christians out there? Would you agree that when you’re a “good” Christian and you follow the rules generally and try your best to read your Bible every morning that sometimes it’s easy to forget that you don’t have it all together?

Maybe it’s just me, but I forget sometimes. That’s why I appreciate verses like Psalm 139:23-34.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
      test me and know my anxious thoughts.
 24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
      and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

When we’re doing what we think is right or living the way we think we’re supposed to, it’s a good thing to ask God to search our hearts to make sure that what we’re seeking is what He really desires for us.

I don’t know about anyone else, but my heart is a scary thing. It doesn’t always know what it wants. It rarely makes a decision and usually just leads me in circles. And if it ever does make up its mind about something, it usually isn’t something that God would have me do.

I know I’ve been struggling with a lot of choices and decisions recently, and my heart would have me drop everything and do what I want to do. But I don’t think that’s what God wants.

So I need God to look at my life, to look at my heart, and I need Him to tell me what I should do. I think I already have an answer, but I don’t want it to be my answer. I need it to be His. I want Him to look at me and tell me what needs to change in my life.

I get so used to being a “good” Christian that sometimes I forget that I’m not perfect. I mean, it’s not that I forget it. I know I’m not perfect, but it’s easy to fall back on my own wisdom or even my own interpretation of Scripture as truth. And just because I interpret Scripture some way doesn’t make it truth. Doesn’t even make it right. I need God to show me what is right and how to live and how to make decisions. I need Him to show me the areas of my life that need to change or disappear because I’m blind to them.

I guess the bottom line this morning is that I need God. I need to learn to be humble about things like this. To ask Him to look into who I am and be willing to change what He tells me to change. Because if I can do that, He’ll take me down the path He wants me on. And whatever He wants out of my life isn’t good for me anyway.

I need Him more than anything else in my life. With Him, my life make sense. It has purpose. Even when everything feels like it’s falling apart, I know it really isn’t because I have Him.