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Thursday, February 18, 2010

True Growth

There are days when I look back upon the fervent, passionate spirituality of my youth and I wonder what has changed me so much since then. I don't remember feeling like such a sinner every day, all the time. I honestly wonder if I sinned less back then.

Could that be possible?

I tried so hard to follow God and I read my Bible regularly, as a matter of fact, more regularly than I do now. I memorized verses like crazy and I spent every spare moment in prayer meetings or Bible studies or at the very least hanging out with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I was pretty serious about this whole Christianity thing and I was sincere, but when I look back with longing, wondering if I'm moving forward or backward in my walk of faith, Jesus opens my eyes to see things a different way.

God, I wish I didn't struggle so much with sin.

Why do I keep screwing up?

I used to be a more spiritual person than I am now - I did everything You asked of me. I followed Your ways and I put Your first in my life. What happened? Am I growing in You, or just stagnating, or actually moving backwards? It just seems like instead of becoming more Christ-like, I'm becoming more of a sinner.

As a teenager, I was motivated to do what was right out of fear. I was afraid of getting caught and afraid of the disapproval of the adults in my life. I did whatever I could to avoid that feeling in my stomach that came whenever my behavior was less that acceptable. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was constantly seeking approval and everything I did was performance based.

I remember being pretty judgmental of those around me who didn't share my fear of authority as I lived out my version of perfect - at least on the outside. I knew that it was a sin to judge others, but I didn't count it as bad as some of the more visible, outward sins like drunkenness, promiscuity and the like.

My perfectionism has waned as I've grown up and realized that it's impossible to be perfect, so maybe it is true that I've allowed sins to slip into my life that weren't there before, but I think there's a bigger story here. I don't think it's my sinfulness that has increased over the years (OK, maybe I'll let God be the judge of that one though). I think it's my vision that has increased.

I'm looking for spiritual growth and I think it ought to look like me sinning less and me being more perfect. But what if that isn't what God is really looking for? Remember when Jesus told the crowds about who was really blessed in God's kingdom? I'll give you a hint: He didn't say "Blessed are the more perfect and the less sinful." He didn't applaud the pharisee whose prayer reminded everyone of how great he was. *

No, Jesus made it very clear that His kingdom is full of people who know they are broken, sinful and screwed up.

Well, maybe that's what true growth is, then. It's growing to see myself through His eyes and to know that I'm still messed up and I still need a savior. Growth is realizing how very broken I am and letting that knowledge draw me nearer to Christ.

*Of course God wants us to sin less, but I now realize how much I was trying to keep sin under control by my own strength instead of letting HIM be strong in my weakness. Now, I'm embracing this feeling of being a sinner who is incapable of self-improvement and leaning hard on HIM to change me. That's what it means to be a broken follower of Christ.

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