Me, My Faults and God9:30 AM
I ran my first red light Saturday.
It so happens that I had a green light, was turning left and was clear of cross-traffic. I would get confused of where my cross-traffic was, so I looked both ways before turning. By then the light must have been yellow, for when I entered the intersection and glanced at the light, it was blaringly, pitilessly, unmistakenly RED.
I had no earthly idea what to do. I was a criminal. I had broken a law. I could be fined, ticketed, thrown into a dungeon. Only, nobody caught me. Quite honestly, I wish an officer had set up headquarters right outside the Wal-Mart parking lot. At least then I could have accepted my punishment and apologized.
As it were, there was nothing for it but utter gloom. To make matters worse I ran a yellow light just a few streets down.
Epic, epic fail.
I felt this way during a losing streak in Alegbra 2. It might have been the week I got a C on my test, it might not. It felt like that week, anyway. I tried my best—I gave it my all—and does not God help those who help themselves? Why then did I end up doing an average of 7 corrections per day?
Yes, freely I admit I am a perfectionist. Freely. I know that if I asked any seasoned driver, any math professional if he is guilty of running a red light or flunking a week of math, I would walk away satisfied. To err is human.
That doesn’t diminish the sting, especially if one studied hard and drove cautiously. Especially if one did it for the Lord.
Regarding Algebra 2: I feel it is my duty and service to the Lord to study up and perform well, being diligent in even that little thing. That is, in my small way, my offering of love to Him. They say to give your best to the Lord, and since I’m a straight A student, my goal is as close to perfect as possible. Anything else means I’m not paying attention.
You can imagine, then, the let down of frustration when my best turned out to be something akin to worst. I tried, I cried to the Lord. I tried my very hardest. Why is it not working?
I’m sure there were hazy visions of tears and hands scrunching through hairs. I felt like I was going to snap—this was at the end of the miserable week. Then I realized something: if God was God—and He is—why could He not use my failure just as much as my success?
Several things supported this blasting of perfectionism:
- God understands the frailty of mankind (Psalm 103:14).
- Our shiniest successes amount to nothing, anyway (Isaiah 64:6).
- God works good out of every situation for His children (Romans 8:28).
- It’s all for His glory—not ours (Romans 16:27).
In light of this understanding, I realized I had no excuse to cry over the best effort my mathematically challenged mind offered. God understood my inability to succeed. God accepted the sincere parts of my service, even though they weren’t outstanding. God was working in and through this situation for my good. Most importantly, perfection wouldn’t have honored Him in this case—He wanted a humble heart. My glory would have been an A+. His would be my dependence on Him.
So much for despair.
Surely, though I had little cause to weep over failed math lessons, breaking a traffic law—or worse, sinning—would require more pentience and a general upset outlook on life?
Penitence, yes. Melodrama, no—for that is what obsessive grief over sin becomes.
Look at the facts:
- Jesus Christ cleansed His chosen of all sin (1 John 1:7).
- God does not remember our sin (Hebrews 8:12).
- Nobody, as long as Christ Jesus holds the floor, can accuse His ransomed of wrongdoing (Hebrews 7:25).
There is something wrong with the Christian who treats sin lightly and refuses to repent. There is something equally wrong with the Christian who, after sincere repentance and restitution, continually focuses on his sin to the point of losing joy. That sort of despair views the mercy of God as nothing, the atonement of Christ as ineffectual and the Lord’s character as vindictive. For what can I, a mere human, accomplish in matters of repentance that Christ Jesus couldn't accomplish on the cross?
Before salvation we could justly tremble and despair to our heart’s content—God was our judge, and the punishment for our sin allowed no room for mercy. After salvation God is our Father, and the chastening of our sin is primarily for the benefit of His children, not their destruction.
The Nature of God
Lucky for us, the character of God is just and faithful. If He promised full pardon of sin to a person, He meant it and will not back out of that just because that person is harder to handle than others. (Raising hand here.) To His children, He is nothing like a vindictive, angry deity hovering about our heads in order to punish us. We never disappoint Him, for He never expected from us what we could not give. Even to His enemies He extends grace, mercy and love undeserved.
The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.
As my mother pointed out to me re: red light, losing joy doesn’t help matters. Yes, I will continue to fail—and that is a lesson for my perfectionistic tendencies. Yes, my failures range from the innocuous to the treacherous. No, it doesn’t change the character of God. In light of my situation, what’s there to cry about?