I “grew-up” in the church. Not in the chronological, but in the formative sense. My early years were spent with eyes and ears wide open, my heart a sponge absorbing all that might help my tender faith take shape. I longed to nestle close to those whose lives were a deep well of God’s wisdom, whose bibles were tattered and torn, traveled cover to cover.
I’m grateful for every individual that lived out their faith by example. But mingled among them, I found those offering me a perfectly packaged version of the “Christian woman” and all the ways I would fail to be her…
If I didn’t read my bible everyday at dawn…
If I didn’t stuff down emotion to wear a quiet and gentle spirit…
If I didn’t serve to the point of personal sacrifice…
If I didn’t use a prayer journal, or catalog my pantry, or cook organic in my crock pot…
If I didn’t. Then I wasn’t.
Half of those formative years were spent racked with guilt for failing to be that woman. And if I wasn’t failing, I believed I was succeeding—and I’m not quite sure which is worse. Because the perfect Christian woman does not exist. (←Tweet that.)
And that’s really what I needed to hear.
While my pillars of faith were well-intentioned, they inevitably fell—because well, they weren’t God. They encountered Christ, but not the same way I would. I’ve walked with Christ, but not the same way you will. And that’s okay. Patterns of faith are good, but they aren’t a personal relationship with Christ.
We don’t need a secondhand Jesus.
This is not a dig on discipleship and mentoring—those practices are both profitable and fruitful. But it’s a slippery slope when we interject our example as the rock on which to stand, because if we aren’t mindful, we’ll steal God’s glory, and more so His grace.
“I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens.
When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ,
you fall out of grace…What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.”
Galatians 5:4 MSG
Our self-devised absolutes and out of reach expectations root us in works. And works do nothing but make us weary unless they are motivated by authentic faith. When we are intent on the should and have-to, we cultivate a faith dependent on our own strength.
This world and the enemy of our souls would have us believe that in order to be more, we must do more. But apart from Christ, we are simply a flawed people striving for empty goodness. It is through God’s very present spirit at work in us that we are able to run—our race, God’s way.
God doesn’t want obligation. He wants an outpouring of love.
Remember the woman bound up by sin, who puddled herself at Jesus’ feet? She came with her most prized possession, a flask of perfume, and poured out every last drop. Using her shed tears and her length of hair, she washed and anointed Jesus’ feet pressing kisses where dirt once dwelt.
“And Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you.'”
Luke 7:50 NIV
He forgave her multitude of sins—not because she brought a costly token, washed in perfect circular motion, or cried a hundred tears in a crowded room, but because her faith was evident through her great act of love.
God isn’t after perfection, empty deeds, and to-do lists, He’s after our heart. (←Tweet that.)
#inHimican: Let’s encourage one another as we travel through the mountains and valleys of faith. As you live, see, and create images and words that set your heart ablaze for God, join me on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #inHimican. I’d love to see what He is doing through you!
You can also find these words linked up at my favorite spots: Jennifer Dukes Lee (#tellhisstory), Holley Gerth (#coffeeforyourheart), Bonnie Gray (#onewordcoffee), and Kristin Hill Taylor (#threewordwednesday).