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, were those offering the 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, catalog my pantry, or cook organic in my crock pot.
If I didn’t. Then I wasn’t.
Half of my formative years were spent racked with guilt for failing to be that woman. If I wasn’t failing, I believed I was succeeding—and I’m not quite sure which is worse.
The perfect Christian woman does not exist.
I needed to hear that. Maybe you do too.
While pillars of faith make great examples, they will inevitably fall—because they aren’t God. They will encounter Christ, but not the same way we will. My walk with Christ will look different from yours, 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. 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 5:4-6 MSG
Our self-devised absolutes and out-of-reach expectations root us in works. When we focus on the should and have-to, we cultivate a faith dependent on our strength, rather than God’s sacrifice.
This world 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.
Jesus doesn’t want our obligation. He wants our 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
Jesus forgave her multitude of sins—not because she brought a costly token, washed in perfect circular motion, or cried crocodile tears in a crowded room—but because her faith was evident through her great act of love. Her faith was willing to risk it all.
If we’re not careful, we’ll get so caught up in “how” we approach God, we’ll forget that the “why” is so much more important. Jesus doesn’t need us to be perfect. He needs us to believe that He can change everything.
Our Savior isn’t after obligation, empty deeds, and to-do lists; He’s after our heart.
And friend, that’s the very best thing we can give Him. ♥
By His endless grace,
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This post was edited from archives and originally posted on Simply for One.