Monday, April 9, 2012

There's No Winning

People say all the time that there's "joy in the journey" of life, that it's not about the destination - it's about the process.

I highly doubt that those people were perfectionists.

If you've ever been on a road trip, you know that road trips are bogged with bad decisions. Traffic is bad in one lane so you move to another only to get trapped in bumper-to-bumper. You try to take the "short cut" and it ends up being 100 miles & 3 hours longer than it would have originally taken. The kids need to stop every 2 hours for a half-hour each time and a 4 hour trip turns into an 8 hour trip. The Taco Bell that you thought would be a good choice....well, that's a mistake you knew going into to it.

People say that our walk with Jesus is a journey, is a progress, that the road we walk with Him is as important as the destination. And I get the analogy. It works. It makes sense. We are on this earth, learning to walk in faith, learning to lean on Him in the good times and in the bad times, that He is growing us and sanctifying us, etc etc etc.

I wish I could say that I liked this. I wish I could say that I am joyful in the journey of growing in Christ and that I can feel the sanctification happening and I'm becoming more like Jesus in my interactions and that I love better, I live better, that there is more Jesus coming out in me then there is Sarah.

But that would be a lie.

I am a perfectionist. Or at least an attempting perfectionist. And for those of us with this (even minute) personality trait, failure is do something well/perfectly is devastating. The inclination is to not to anything at all if it can't be done perfectly. Couple that with the personality trait of extroversion, where relationships are the most important thing in the world and to harm a relationship is the worst thing imaginable....when a failure occurs in a relationship, it is life threatening. It is joy threatening.

And it happens All. The. Time.

I have little joy in the "journey" of growing in Christ, take little solace in knowing that I'm being sanctified because if I can't do it right then I don't want to do it at all. And if I can't have a perfect relationship with Jesus, with my family, with my friends and my co-workers, then why do it at all? Isn't being a bad example of Christ's work in me worse than not being one at all?

That's my assumption. That's my "out." And Scripture knew that would be the question. It's like God's all-knowing or He knew us enough to answer our question before it was asked... Which is both really cool and really terrifying about God's character.

A pastor recently said in a sermon that one of the reasons that Jesus is the most awesome, radical, life-changing forces in the world is because He loves failures. He desires that those who don't measure up come to Him. He invites and welcomes people who suck. He has a purpose for people who aren't capable of... anything.

To put up with a failure is one thing. To tolerate a failure is one thing.

To LOVE a failure, to WANT a failure is wholly another.

I am a failure. There are days I barely tolerate myself because of how much I fail myself, fail others, fail God.

But that doesn't matter to Jesus. It doesn't matter to Jesus that I can't measure up, that I can't love my way out of a paper bag, that I can't do what I know is right, that I always do the wrong thing, that my best intentions never work out.

Granted, He wants to change that in me. He wants the best for me. He wants everything for me. And everything is Him. The best is Him. The change in Him.

The fine-print with Jesus doesn't read "Failures need not apply." I love that. I need that. I crave that kind of acceptance.
But I always reject it. Because I do not believe that it's true. Because I can't see past my own failures, my faults, my short-comings and see His plan; I can't see from His perspective.

But His Truth is still true, nevertheless.

The journey to being more Christlike is taking me a lot longer than I think it should. The progress is not moving nearly as quickly as it ought (in my opinion). And when I fail, the temptation is to bail. It seems like a good out. But it's a cowardly out because it's the easy thing to do.

Those people who say that there's "joy in the journey" also tend to be the one's who say "Life's not supposed to be easy." Sometimes I just want to high-five those people in the face.

"Yes. I'm full of myself—after all, I've spent a long time in sin's prison. What I don't understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can't be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God's command is necessary.

But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different."
(Romans 7.17-25, The Message)