I always thought I’d have to be perfect for God, or perhaps more accurately–that I would have to be perfect to know Him. That’s what it seemed like, anyway. The Christian people I knew growing up certainly seemed that way. The guy that led the youth group I went to for a while as a teenager was like that. Not that he said he was perfect–he was just this tower of faith, and love, and patience for the handful of obnoxious teenagers in his charge. That was someone I could never even imagine being.
Then there were the “others.” The people that I met through the church my brother went to for a while.
You know who I mean.
These were men and women who did all they could to draw attention to the wonderful Christian lives they were leading. To make sure everyone could see how they obeyed the “rules” set forth by God. That is, when they weren’t picketing places and telling people everything they did that was wrong, which would be sending them to hell, eventually.
Observe my faith, and be awed. See how much I care about the virtue of my children, and how willing I am to protect it, at any cost.
It was all about THEM. They spent so much time being uber-Christians, that I knew I could never meet that sort of standard. I would never be able to serve a God who demanded such things.
I would never be perfect. And if I tried to be, the person I was now would always, always undermine any potential I might have for the future.
That person was far from perfect.
That person was flawed, and broken, and wounded.
That person–that man, was a liar.
That man lusted, and drank to complete excess, and blasphemed.
That man stole, and coveted, and was full of self-pity and entitlement.
That man indulged in relationships empty of all but sin.
That man did not honor his mother and father, even when they were alive.
That man felt he was such a bad friend that he helped drive someone to a bullet.
That man did anything and everything he could to willfully run from God.
That man resisted salvation with every fiber of his being.
That man thought that since God made his life difficult, then he would damn well stay away from Him. It was not that he doubted God’s existence. He didn’t–not anymore. He had seen things that convinced him God was real, and cared, but only for those people who led perfect and flawless lives. As servants.
There was no way that man was going to give up his own will for the will of another, even God.
He just didn’t want anything to do with Him, or what he had to offer, which was subjugation. Conformity. No sense of self.
That man had no concept of anything but self.
That man did not care about anything, or anyone, because it seemed that no one cared about him.
Why would God want anything at all to do with that man? And since that was the man I was, what would be the point of approaching God with any sort of entreaty? He would tell me to pee up a rope.
But then something happened.
I met a series of people that either told me about Jesus, or showed me his love in a very practical way. Nothing was demanded of me, and a picture was painted of a very different sort of Jesus than I was accustomed to.
This Jesus just loved.
The Jesus I heard about was less concerned with a litany of rules, and more concerned with gathering lost sheep.
This Jesus cared about that man, just as he was. Right then.
Not as he should be.
This God was in the business of healing, not condemnation.
This Jesus was a physician, and a Father.
I began to develop a different sort of awareness, and sought more and more knowledge.
I sought knowledge of God. I began to hunger and thirst for righteousness. I began to heal.
And I began to realize in my heart that perfection was not required. A strict set of rules did not have to be observed to know God, and to be his child. The Jesus that I learned about loved me in my state of disgrace, long, long before I ever sought him. He loved me enough to endure the whip, and the crown of thorns, and the cross. Enough to walk a steep path with a heavy piece of wood balanced on his bloody shoulders.
Sometimes now I think about Pilate bringing Jesus before the crowd after his flogging and telling them “behold the man…”
I see myself in that crowd. Looking up at a bloody, battered, and silent man.
I see myself calling for his death.
And he looks at me then. He is far away, but he sees me there.
And he goes to the cross for me, even then.
When I accepted him as Lord, it was not simply just an “aha” moment, where all things suddenly wiped off my slate (though it was that, too). When I accepted His life, I also accepted his death, and entered into it.
I had to–it was for me.
And when I did that, the man I had been began to change. A little at first, but then more and more.
With the awareness of God’s love and acceptance, rather than judgment and condemnation, I began to grow, and I began to heal, and I began to care.
This man could treat people the way he wanted to be treated.
This man had genuine friendships.
This man could love, and be loved.
This man saw beyond himself.
This man longed to conform to his Father’s will for his life.
This man learned about life beyond short-term gratification,
This man saw the only cure possible for what ailed him.
This man began to put away childish things.
And with the knowledge I’ve gleaned over the past few years, I have learned that only when I sought God’s vision for my life could I even begin to be anything approaching the person I had been designed to be, even before I was born. What I had been doing for most of my life was trying to navigate the world without any real sense of direction. It was really something wonderful the first time I wondered which way I should go, and heard my Father say, “This way…”
I remember the man I used to be. But I am no longer him, though he is still a part of me.
I am a new creation, a new man. I am not perfect, and I never will be. I still struggle, and I still sin, and I still need to be forgiven. But I am on a different path now. I am walking toward God instead of away from him. I’m a husband, and a father of two boys who are just amazing examples of the wonder of God.
I am a new man. Not always the easiest thing to remember, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
A new man.