Me, My Faults and God

9:30 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.

Epic fail.

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.

Sinless Failures

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.

Greater Transgressions

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.
(Psalm 103:8-14)

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?

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14 impressions

  1. Wow Bailey, you sound miserable! (Or you did.) But, nonetheless, congrats on writing such a beautifully long post - I should take lessons from you.

  2. Very inspirational post, Bailey, and one that I needed. When I make mistakes (one of which has included running a red light before), I am inclined to think about them for days, beating myself over the head, so to speak, and wondering how I could have been so stupid. This post was a wonderful reminder of WHO is still on His throne loving us even when we fail. Thank you! :)

  3. What a wonderful reminder to all of us! Thanks for the uplifting made the morning seem much more brighter (even though I am soaked and it is pouring outside).



    P.s. My blogger account is being stubborn right now...

  4. I was miserable, Quizzical, when the Incident happened; but I chose not to stay miserable. Plus, who can argue with something that can be turned into a "beautifully long post"? ((hugs))

    Erin, you basically described my depths of despair. :o) This is something that I'll have to go back to and read every time I mess up...because I just don't seem to get it.

    I don't know if this applies to you, Flop, for you do everything right somewhere around the first time. ;o)

    Love you girls!

  5. Hold it!

    "Before salvation" you said?

    When, exactly, would that be?

  6. Tragedy101, I meant before one's personal salvation, when we were, as Paul said in Romans 5:10, enemies of God. I'm assuming that's an orthodox understanding. ;o)))

    Sorry if that was unclear.

  7. Oh. So there are two salvations in orthodox christianity?

  8. No, sir - just one salvation by grace, through faith. I don't believe I asserted anything else. Though you flatter me with the assumption of me being able to read your mind, I'm afraid I don't get your beef. ;o) I can't clarify what I meant when I don't know what you took it as. Explanation, please?

  9. I am sorry, miss. I intended no offense. While attempting to understand what you believe, I mistook the Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) for your confession of faith.

    If God has decreed from the "beginning" the elect and their number, their salvation is sure from that "time". Unless "personal salvation" is another salvation, it also must be from the "beginning". And if it is from the "beginning" it predates our existance thereby our ability to perform said actions. Therefor, you must believe in two salvations.

    But you only believe in one salvation, thus I mistook something to be your belief that is not. And for this, I apologize.

  10. I thought something controversial was at the bottom of this. ;o)

    To be perfectly honest, I wholeheartedly embrace God's election - without compromising my duty to repent and believe. I don't believe in two separate salvations, however. Election is sort of like Christ's death on the cross - salvation was made available upon His death but it doesn't count for anything until one repents and believes.

    I would agree with the belief that God elected a certain number from the beginning and thus they were, in that sense, sure. But surety and the actual culmination of that surety (i.e., personal salvation) are two different matters. Even if one rejects election, the idea of God's foreknowledge plays the same role: if God knows what happens at the beginning, it will undoubtedly happen but does that negate the person's free will or the fact that it must actually take place?

    So you were correct in my belief regarding election and my embracing of the London Baptist Confession (1689). I don't, however, believe that two salvations comes from that. :o) Sorry for the misunderstanding - no offense was taken and I'm glad you took me seriously enough to question something. As you can see from my adoring fans, they haven't come to the point of criticism yet. ;o)

    God bless!

  11. Dear Miss Bailey,

    Am I to understand that you believe in a "personal salvation" of works based on our merits - our abilities to believe in God or to repent of our sins?

    "[S]alvation was made available upon His death but it doesn't count for anything until one repents and believes."

    Though this may appear an attack on your beliefs, that is not my intention. I am trying to understand what you believe. And also perhaps, learn better how to express what I believe.

  12. Tragedy101, thanks for getting back. I appreciate your Berean spirit.

    I believe a works-based salvation is heretical. I could have worded that quote of mine a bit differently, but basically what I was trying to express is that the Bible does make it clear that individuals must repent and believe (c.f. Acts 16:31). However, our salvation is not found in the believing - it is in the work of Christ alone. There is the mysterious part of salvation involving the Holy Spirit, His election, His effectual calling and His preparing the individual's heart to receive Christ which no one can explain or fully understand - the wisdom of God remains with Him. However, His revealed will clearly states that repentance and belief are prerequisites to salvation. Not salvation itself, but prerequisites.

    As I embrace the Calvinist understanding of salvation, I believe the Holy Spirit enables the individual to repent, believe and accept. That is to say, I do not believe (like Arminian thought) that the individual makes the first move in salvation and accepts Christ, whereupon He enters the heart and saves the soul.

    That is why I can truthfully say my salvation comes from Christ alone - not only did He pay the full penalty for my sins, He also sought me out before I sought Him. Were it not for the Holy Spirit's working in me, I would never have turned my heart to Christ.

    I consider thoughtful questions the highest compliment, so please don't feel afraid to ask...though I doubt I'll be able to answer coherently. ;o)

  13. I'm sorry Bailey, I looked over this post trying to find some healthy critisism to bring up, but I simply could not find anything that was unagreeable, especially since you refer just about everything back to the word. But thank you for letting all of your adoring fans know your request for constructive critsisim, it made me really pay atention to what you were saying which caused me to get get a lot more out of it instead of just "oh, that was such a nice thing Bailey wrote!" Very good job, we could all use a reminder of God's grace, the Holy Spirit working inside us, and the whole reason Jesue died for us. I'll try to find some helpfull constructive comments in future posts. ;)

  14. Thank you, Lindsey! Your comment encouraged me so much. I love our talks on everyday Christian life and look forward to your constructive criticism. Genuinely.


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