“Are you saying you want to be perfect more than wanting to be redeemed?”
A simple enough question, posed to me by a friend.
Yet, it took my breath away (not in the good sense). I felt as if I had been kicked in the stomach. How could I, in light of who Jesus is and what he’s done for me, want anything more than him and the mercy and grace he lavishes upon me?
I’ll tell you how. Pride.
Pride tells me to act strong, secure, and confident even when I am not. Pride tells me to fix my mistakes and flaws, and, if I can’t do that, at least hide them. Pride tells me I am right, though I know I am wrong. Pride tells me that I must do it on my own, even when I cannot. Pride tells me to fix myself up and clean myself off before approaching the throne of grace. I may want to do the right things, but, as Paul says in his letter to the Romans, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Every time I fail, Pride tells me failure is shameful, and to hide it quickly before anyone sees. Pride tells me that because I cannot actually be the strong, confident, always-put-together Christian college girl, others should at least think I am. Pride speaks, and, for some foolish reason, I obey.
Pride commands in a clear voice. It is never hard for me to hear. I do not have to sit in silence and meditate, or read a book and discern. Pride doesn’t make me ponder or wrestle with myself. Pride does not cause me to sacrifice things I want. Pride is easy. Jesus is not.
Jesus seldom commands me.
He doesn’t often raise his voice. He sits and waits for me to come to him, to dwell upon him. He waits for me to open the words he gave to me. He waits for me to discover more of him through hours spent in prayer and meditation. He opens my eyes to areas of my life in which I cause harm to myself and others. Instead of encouraging me to shamefully hide it, he asks me to set in on the table for us to work through together. Jesus expects from me the opposite of what my flesh desires. He watches me wrestle with myself and gently reminds me through doubt, pain, and sacrifice, that he is worth it.
Jesus isn’t easy. He wants everything. In fact, it is one of his rare demands. He says he wants every last bit of me, or none of me. He doesn’t want my performance, my mask, or my pretending. He wants Jess. For exactly who she is, no strings attached. He wants to heal me and guide me into a better life and hope than my mind could ever comprehend. To a life of forgiveness and redemption. Where restoration replaces deterioration. Where a beautifully fragile thing called freedom replaces the bondage of so-called perfection. A life where an empty grave is a reality, instead of a nice story.
So, do I want perfection more than I want redemption?
Sometimes. But in those times, I listen. At first all I hear is Pride, ordering me about, inducing feelings of shamefulness, causing me to become downcast. But if I listen a little harder, a little more intently, I hear another voice. A voice whose words do not cause shame, but hope. A voice who gently asks if I will let him help me. As I slowly lift eyes to his, Pride’s voice begins to peter out. As I reach out my hand to accept the healing and forgiveness offered, Pride is silenced.