Growing Up Christian
Growing up “Christian,” I’ve been exposed to a variety of theological leanings. I’ve been challenged in multiple Sunday services to “get right with God.” I’ve knelt at altars and cried sincere tears of repentance. I’ve wrestled with the glaring reality of my own human depravity. I’ve berated myself for my lack of spiritual discipline and passionate evangelism. I’ve wanted to live a holy life… but only to a certain point. I have to admit that too often my penchant for personal comfort wins out over God. Then I find my daily existence clouded by a sense of guilt and spiritual inadequacy. I feel like the naughty child, never quite able to look her Daddy in the eye, because she knows she just played with her dolls, when she was supposed to be weeding the flower bed.
At other times, I’ve been reassured by outstanding Christian orators (seems they’re often on TV!) that God’s grace covers all… that Christ died for our sins, past, present and future, so when God looks at me, He sees me as quite okay. My sins aren’t really sins at all… just short-comings, immaturity, personality quirks. I admit I’ve tended to prefer this slant on things, because it allows me to indulge in creature comforts, convinced that I’m pleasing God, because I am pleased. It has allowed me to play with my dolls, unconcerned about my Father’s garden.
My husband and I have been reading a daily devotional together… “The One Year Christian History.” As we’ve read about many saints of the past, it’s apparent that we North American Christians have life pretty easy. What we consider commitment to Christ, really doesn’t amount to much sacrifice at all. Perhaps we’ve allowed ourselves to slide too far down the “grace” hill, only to find ourselves pretty muddied by our culture. Any differences between us and non-Christians are indistinguishable. On the other hand, many Christians (and I’ve been one myself at times) have made Christ-like living little more than a chore-list. If Jesus showed up at their church, He probably wouldn’t make it past the front door because He would come with way too many needy sinners in tow.
Ahhh… law and grace… a dilemma to theologians. But certainly not a dilemma to God. He is a perfect combination of justice and mercy. He is not just one moment and merciful another. No, He is always mercifully just, and justly merciful. Unlike me, He maintains a perfect balance. The same God who tells me to, “fight the good fight,” tells me to, “make it my ambition to live a quiet, peaceable life.” He tells me, “do not love the world, or anything in the world,” but He also tells me that, “He has given me all things richly to enjoy.” He tells me I am perfect, but tells me to name my sins one by one.
Mmmm … so what does this all mean on Monday morning, when I face the demands of a new week? Well… I think it boils down to what kind of child I really want to be. By God’s grace I was adopted into His family. I don’t understand why He paid such a huge price for me… the death of His perfect Son. I didn’t deserve such love… but what an awesome gift He gave me when He offered me the opportunity to be His daughter. Such amazing grace! But now that I’m in His family, what kind of child will I be? A stubborn, lazy, butt-out-of-my-life kind of kid, or one who loves her Father enough to do what He wants, even when she doesn’t feel like it? I recognize that He is much (very much!) older and wiser than I am and that His instructions are always aimed to bring fulfillment not frustration.
I guess it means that on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and every day, I endeavor to find out what pleases God and then do it… cheerfully, because I love my Father. It means I eat and sleep and work and play, aware that He’s doing those things with me. It means I put His wants ahead of my own, His agenda before mine. But then when I fail, or stubbornly resist (as I most certainly will do as long as I live on this planet), I look my Father in the eye and humbly say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Will You help me do better tomorrow?” And every time He graciously does.
And that’s what growing up “Christian” is really all about.