Friday, May 6, 2016

Perfectly Imperfect

I wrote the following article for my church's weekly e-newsletter, MPC This Week.  I will be following it up with some related posts here on the blog.
Perfectly Imperfect

When I was a teenager, I decided to try going to Youth Group at a local church. 

In my mind, I think that I expected to find a “better sort” of teenager there.  After all, they went to church and loved God, didn’t they?  So, it followed that they wouldn’t have cliques or make people feel excluded.  They wouldn’t cuss or make bad choices.  They would be the kind of kids I wanted to be—perfect kids—and they would help me get there myself.  Right?

As you might imagine, they did not, in fact, turn out to be perfect kids.  They had cliques and made people feel excluded.  They cussed and made bad choices.  They turned out to be actual real teenagers—real people.  So I stopped going to Youth Group.

I was too young and immature to understand the bumper sticker wisdom that states, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” I missed out on all the ways I could have been blessed by those perfectly imperfect young people.  I may have lost faith in that small community of Christians back in high school, but I never lost faith in my relationship with God.  He worked in my heart to help me understand that my hope is not found in perfect and exemplary behavior—not my own, or anyone else’s.  Rather my hope is in the Lord. 

“But now Lord what do I look for?  My hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7

Again and again, in the small groups I belong to, the subject of vulnerability has been raised.  We want to feel free to be vulnerable around our church family members, to reveal our true selves with the veneer of “having it all together” cast aside.  But we aren’t sure that we have found a safe place to reveal ourselves with full honesty, to acknowledge truthfully that we aren’t a “better sort” of person, but rather broken people held together by Christ’s amazing grace.

I turned my back on those teenagers so many years ago because they didn’t meet my unrealistic expectations.  Many of us probably hope that we are too kind, generous, and spiritually mature to make the same kind of mistake I made at age 14.  We like to think that others can be vulnerable around us—honest and open with their true selves—but are we sure we can provide that safe place?  Satan well knows how quickly we fall prey to tendencies to judge, gossip, and condemn.  Can we handle the vulnerabilities of our brothers and sisters in Christ? Our Elders? Our pastors? The worshiper in the pew ahead of us?

“I abuse prescription drugs.”

“I was unfaithful to my wife, and she has filed for divorce.”

“My children are totally out of control, and I don’t know what to do.”

“I am sick, and so very afraid to die.”

“I am an alcoholic.”

“My daughter doesn’t trust me around the new baby.”

“Sometimes I don’t believe there is a God.”

“I’m so lonely.”

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners: to save me and to save you (1 Timothy 1:15). His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  In all of our imperfection, God adopted us into His family as His children (Ephesians 1:5). 

Christ is our example of loving, of serving, of providing a safe place for sinners, just as we ourselves as sinners desire a safe place.  We are called to accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted us (Romans 15:7). 

This week I am going to invite the Holy Spirit to continue His work in my heart so I can  recognize that my hope is in the Lord, that my brothers and sisters in Christ deserve better than my unrealistic expectations, and that I can lead the way in creating the safe place that we “perfectly imperfect” followers of Christ are craving.   Will you join me?

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