Because I Can't

2:30 AM


Christ within and Christ before me,
Christ behind me and Christ in me,
Christ beneath me and Christ above me,
Christ to my right and Christ to my left,
Christ when I lie down and Christ when I arise,
Christ in the hearts of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
And Christ in every ear that hears me.
-- Kristyn Getty, Hymns for the Christian Life

The thought struck me in the middle of the piano song. Thoughts often strike me rather smartly during piano practice. Something about banging through five-fingered notes, giving up halfway and turning pages to an easier song encourages reflection and revelation. In any case, I banged hard, offended the atmosphere with a foul note -- and the thought struck me:

I can't do this Christian life thing.

No sympathy, please. Let the defendant speak. Think of everything required of a good Christian nowadays. Tolerant and loving. Equipped with answers. Firm in the faith. Steadfast. Full of wisdom and good word choices. Sharp in theology and gentle in response. God-obsessed. Prayerful. Et cetera.

The pressure's maddening. I'm still learning how to pray. I just snapped at a sibling. I don't rest faithfully or patiently or comfortably in God's will. Who on earth are these Christians who have it all together and still seem perfectly normal? Who defines "good Christian"? Where's the bar and am I remotely near it?

I try. Believe me, I do. I try to listen kindly when someone says something theologically ridiculous which causes my blood to rush and my sarcasm to loosen and then I get up abruptly and say I can't be sweet while this conversation is going on so would you please excuse me while I beat myself up for my temper. I try to put my arm around a crying friend's shoulder and explain the world and God in a way that makes sense in that frame of mind. I try to perfect myself so that my name doesn't confirm Christians' stereotypical hypocrisy. I try to come back with an intelligent, enlightening (and witty) point when someone argues for evolution and then I say something so utterly stupid that immediately turns the discussion from science to Christian idiocy. 

I can't do this Christian life thing. There's no way I can be good enough in my own right to bear Christ's name and Gospel. This is impossible. Can't there be a Christianity for Dummies? A second-class status for us imperfect people?

All this boiled in my mind until the thought struck: Since when was Christianity about performance?

Christ did not redeem us from the double curse of sin and the law only to bring more shame on our heads for failing to repay grace. He did not free us from our old self only to enslave us to an unattainable imperfection. He perfected us through His grace. And He doesn't want us to look good or godly; He doesn't want people to say, "Oh, what a sweet, smart girl"; He doesn't want a world wowed by the piety and perfection of God's chosen people.

He wants them to see Christ. Through us. Through our mistakes. Through our personalities. Through our strengths. The point of Christianity is Christ in us, not struggling imitation. We get the real thing: Christ Himself. 

Pressure has no place in this sort of Christianity. We don't fret about looking Christian enough to a watching world. We don't chew our nails off over a stupid answer, an unkind glance or a horrific thought that never should have come ten miles close to our minds. We strive to downplay our own talents and our own weaknesses so that Christ comes across loud and clear. 

This is why, I think, Christianity isn't a set of rules but a relationship with God and the indwelling of the Spirit. We don't check off things on our Christian to-do list to reach a pinnacle of Christian perfection. There really isn't one, because perfection on this earth isn't the point. (Christ already accomplished our perfection for us on the cross. That's over and done.) Christ is the point. That's why there are Christians in every single area of the world, in every stage of life, at every point of the Christian walk -- so that Christianity doesn't become a spiritual equivalent of Star Wars clones but living, breathing, unique examples of Christ.

Christ in me when I'm weak and Christ in me when I'm strong. Christ in me when I sin and Christ in me when I succeed. Christ in me so that I don't have to do this Christian thing. I simply let Him do His Christ-like thing in me. And He's got being Himself down just fine.

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4 impressions

  1. Okay, this is another post where you say exactly what I've been learning.

    Sometimes I wonder if God teaches people things in bunches... anyway, what a freeing and wonderful bit of truth, isn't it??

    And how often it seems we need to re-learn it... thank you for the reminder. :)

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  2. I can totally relate to having revelations smack me while practicing piano. There have been a lack of ideas smacking me lately. I really must get back into practicing. :)

    Thanks for this post. It really paralleled a lot of what I've been wrestling with, especially with seeing myself fail a whole lot lately, and also seeing other people fail. Just seeing how much variety there is in the sin and error of this world is overwhelming sometimes.

    It's good though... realizing that, I mean. Because it's not me, and it's not the "church" who can get this "Christian thing" right. It's Christ. Just Him - living in me, and in everyone who is in Him. Amazing.

    There's a continuous struggle to rest in that - to test it again and again. To learn how to breathe through him. Interesting picture - like relying on a snorkel in a huge ocean filled with wonders and dangers... why is it so hard to remember to breathe air, not water? :)

    - Nina

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  3. It's so wonderful the Lord put it on your heart to share this. Thank you! I am wondering if you'd be ok with me leaving a link to this post on my blog? I think there are a great many people who would love to read it.
    ~Rene

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  4. Absolutely, Rene! I'd be honored. :)

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