Monday, June 7, 2010

Room for Improvement.

One of the qualities I love about my husband is his ability to see the potential in people. Everyday, through his eyes, he sees the potential of what could be and what steps need to be taken to achieve this potential. If you want to really discourage him then simply ignore potential and maintain the status quo. I will confess to you that it is sometimes tiring to live with someone like this because you easily recognize his discontent with the mediocre, and you are pushed to a level of trying very hard to constantly work toward improvement. To some people of a laissez faire nature this may sound like a nightmare, but it is not. I would rather be with someone who sees the best in me, sees where we both can improve, and who wants to make things better instead of becoming complacent in our relationship. We are blessed with an amazing marriage. After fourteen years I am barely at the cusp of understanding this man, but this one part of his personality I get. I truly love him for it.

It is especially difficult to look at oneself and ask the question…”what can I improve?” This means that you must recognize what is not working or what is not going so well. Those questions hurt. Those moments hurt when you see that there is a lot of room for improvement in your life. Myself, being of a somewhat obstinate nature, I love to justify my behaviors. I have even been known to place blame on others for choices I make. My biggest struggle and temptation is to blame the past for the present. Sadly, if I had to guess, I would say I am not the only person who struggles with the blame game.

When I consider my spiritual life and what I can improve I see a long ladder to climb to get where I want to be. Thankfully, my God allows grace to his people requiring no specific ladder rung level of accomplishment.

Lately, however, I have noticed a tendency for spiritual complacency using God’s overwhelming gift of grace as an excuse. I fear that we neglect our first love of Christ for a couple of reasons. I can share the one that impacts and reflects me the most.

Legalism of the past has created a tremendous bitterness toward any commitment of worship attendance or habitual spiritual behavior. Some of us grew up in congregations that would eternally damn you if you missed a Sunday service, neglected to wear a tie during communion, and/or read from any translation of the bible other than the King James. There are still congregations out there who tout this mantra, and sadly the media has a tendency to paint Christians as illiterate uneducated warmongering haters. Unfortunately, this ill-treatment and utter ignorance of spirituality leaves a bitter taste in our mouths still, and any hint of legalism causes the hair on the back of our necks to stand up as we shudder in a cumulative and often audible shriek of defiance. Some of us vow to never ever raise our children in an environment remotely close to that of the legalists.

Let me suggest that this sense of defiance, whether justifiable or not, sometimes leads us to a place of neglect of our Savior. Out of fear of repeating the past or appearing like a caricature, we require nothing of ourselves and nothing of our children in regards to spiritual growth. Out of fear of our children’s rebellion, similar to our own maybe, we neglect to even share our faith with them and allow them to make their own spiritual decisions at an tender young age where they are instead filled with a worldview in schools and through media that demolishes faith and morality rather than encourage it.

Loving Christ means that we do not fear commitment to Him. In the same way we commit to our spouses and our closest friends, we should not fear a life of an active choice to attend worship, an active choice to learn His word or require our children to learn his word. We do not make this choice, this decision to love, out of fear of damnation. We do this because we believe in the one who sacrificed for us. We love Him so much, that we want to improve. We try to demonstrate to the world our integrity of our faith choice in this way. Otherwise, it is not what it seems at all. Otherwise, we are merely habitual social club attendees, not Christians.

Here’s the deal: I don’t want to be a fair-weather friend. I want to treat Jesus like he is the most important thing in my life. I don’t want the savior of myself, my children, and my spouse to be my last priority. I don’t want to fear the past, present, or future so much that I neglect what is truly important. The past won't embarrass me because it does not define me. The present won't discourage me because it does not forbid me to act in love for the sake of my Savior.

I truly believe He lives, and if that is true then I will commit; I will want to worship; I will want to share His truths with my children. If I truly believe, then my top priority will be to share this gift with others because I love Him and I love them.

In an age where commitment to marriage is laughable I guess I am not surprised to see the same response toward the Savior. Both relationships are born out of love, or should be. Both relationships require commitment even when it is hard, even when mistakes are obvious. I am not the first person to liken marriage to a relationship with Christ. At least in our relationship with Christ one of us won't be guilty of walking away. He will always be there.

I am just not willing to walk away and pretend Jesus never existed for my own comfort. Everyday I hope I am one step closer to understanding Him. Everyday I hope I please Him more, rather than less. I fully understand my failures. I get that. So does He.

I do not want His abundant grace to become my excuse to commit less.

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