In the bible, there’s a verse in the book of James that talks about losing sight of what’s important. My interpretation of this verse has been: if I don’t take action, I’ll forget myself. I’ll not only forget my purpose, but forget what I even look like.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
I need to act, but most importantly act after looking to the word of God. As Jennie Allen said so well in her newest book, “Nothing to Prove”, sometimes we get so distracted by our grand missions for God that we forget the real mission is our relationship. I’m paraphrasing, but she compared this act of taking on too much with pulling a wagon loaded to the brim and then looking over and seeing an ox next to her who was way more capable of carrying what she had insisted on pulling for so long. I do this all the time. I tend to stop listening and seeking and walking with my Lord when I’m not intentional with my time.
Today, after a similar message at church and as I looked through some of the pictures I’ve taken over the past few months, I was struck by something that bothered me about the pictures of myself. I saw a tired, non-joyful version of someone who kind of resembled me. My body language conveyed very little life.
It’s been stressful lately and my inner light is dim, because I’ve been continually snuffing it out with duty. All the supposed-to’s and need-to’s and should’s have taken over my life rather than drinking from the fountain of life. (John 4:14)
Going through the motions and doing everything I’m supposed to do, without pausing and fully steeping in my relationship with the only One who can ever fulfill my soul means I’m running on empty. And I’m not filling anyone up if there’s nothing to pour out.
Now that I see it, I realize it’s been showing in a few areas of my life, but especially my kids behavior. I’ve just been too blind to see it. (Luke 6:42)
Only one of my kids has been acting out in obvious ways, but I can see now how they’re all responding to me and what I’m modeling for them. Their whole world is changing, quickly, and I’m not making those changes feel very fun or exciting.
If I’m not showing my children that there is a greater power who is much more capable of carrying my burdens, what must they be feeling when I’m so clearly failing? If I’m not modeling what true joy looks like, I’m only teaching them to dread life. That’s so far from what I want for them. That’s so far from what any parent wants for his/her children, including the one I believe is the Father of us all.
So many of the people I know and have met, who do not share my beliefs, have gotten the wrong message about Christianity, whether from friends or family or just society as a whole. And I think it’s at least partially because us Christians tend to get the wrong idea about ourselves.
Deep down I know that being a Christian doesn’t mean I’m supposed attain perfection, but I haven’t been thinking that way. I should realize that I’m not even close, I never will be, and I should constantly be seeking wisdom rather than relying on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). We’re all so far from perfection it would be ridiculous to walk in daily condemnation of my imperfection. Claiming Christ as my savior means I’m not supposed to have all the answers or set the perfect example. I’m supposed to be the most aware of my brokenness and the most free because I know the price that was already paid for my mistakes.
You’re supposed to be you. I’m supposed to be me. And we’re all supposed to be beautifully flawed messes. Because I think we all know, regardless of our beliefs, nothing in this world is perfect. So, if we don’t acknowledge how flawed we are in our own power, without the right guidance, we’re a) making God out as a liar who didn’t need to send a savior, b) we’re not going to make any friends, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY c) we’re not leaving any room for a power greater than ourselves to show up in big ways.
One of my favorite songs the past couple of weeks, which I’ve been belting in my car (the only place I can be spotted belting anything), is a song by David Dunn called “I Wanna Go Back”:
When I was a kid
I didn’t care to keep up with the Jones’s
I was just happy that they lived next door
When it was You and it was me
I had everything I needed
Your hands were big enough to hold the world
And then I grew up
And then I got older
Then my life got tough
And we grew apart
I wanna go back
To Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me
For the Bible tells me so
I wanna go back
To this little light
Gonna let it shine
Gonna let it shine
I wanna go back
So today, as I sit in the reality of my very flawed self, I feel the most hopeful and joyful I’ve felt in a long time because I finally figured out what’s happening in our life and how I can fix it. I know how to better parent my children. I’ve known I need to do this for a while, but I really need to stop striving, fall to my knees at the foot of the cross, and stop carrying the things I was never meant to carry. Because He’s got this. He’s got my family. He’s got us all. And that’s worth celebrating!