It’s a hard lesson to learn that you don’t have to be perfect. It’s hard to relax and know that if you do the best you can do that’s all you can do. It’s hard not to strive when for the whole of your life up to this point you’ve been working to live up to the unrealistic and unattainable goal that is perfection. And it seems to me that this affects so many people. Fear of being a disappointment to family, to God or others and the possibility of receiving rejection. Often it comes from a root of wanting to obtain parental affirmation that was withheld.
When I started following Jesus, I didn’t get how following the rules laid down in the Bible was meant to free me. I saw God as a spoil-sport in the sky and ready to drop a ton of bricks on me for stepping out of line or making a mistake Not the most fun way to live. But I had decided to follow Jesus after an incredible experience of Him in church, feeling something I’d not experienced before, an emotional connection, a knowledge that I was loved by Him. This far-surpassed the “Angry God in the sky” thoughts and continues to outweigh any of the other feelings and challenges that I’ve tackled in this journey of life. So I persisted. It was a real challenge but I was determined to find out who God really was rather than my unhealthy perception.
The Bible states “This is to love God, to obey His commands” and it was so close to the “If you love me you’ll do what I want” that came echoing through the hallways as a child that it jarred me. Yet the latter statement borne from a selfish place and I’ve discovered that that’s not God. Instead of demands He gives, and He’s already given His best. The most famous Bible verse shows us this: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that none should perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Why is this great? Well, sin entered the world when the first man, Adam, disobeyed a rule that was put in place to protect him. Disobedience also brought death and separation from God. Before that, man and God walked together in the garden. All of us since then have done or thought wrong stuff, which may or may not have repercussions on the people around us. Now, through accepting that Jesus died to carry the punishment for our sin, we can live free of the past, be unafraid of making mistakes, still have closeness with God and be walking with Him through our lives and onwards after earthly death. Brilliant!
Just like we expect parents to give rules for the safety of their children and to advise on the right way to go, this is what God has given to us in the Bible; a handbook for life. Guidelines on the best way of doing things. As I’ve continued on the journey with Jesus I have discovered the freedom that the rules bring. As a child I didn’t always know why I wasn’t supposed to do something but I trusted my parents and so I didn’t question. Later on I’ve learned the reasons for those rules. I chose and choose to trust that God in the same way and have found that it is best. When I’ve done stupid things that got me hurt and realised I’ve gone about things the wrong way, and turned back the right way, I’ve found that God still loves me, I’ve found myself forgiven, I’ve found comfort, I’ve found healing, and found a way to live again more happily. As I’ve gone on I’ve found that instead of my skin thickening to life, I’ve softened and been able to risk more. I want to obey God’s commands because I know He loves me and trust that they are for my own good.
To live trying desperately not to make a mistake so that you don’t disappoint God or others is unnecessary and tiring. To live knowing that you’re loved is wonderful and energising. When you know you’re loved you want to act in a way that would make that person happy. A completely different scenario to thinking that only your perfect behaviour is good enough to earn you love.
Here’s a cracking verse that I often go back to that reminds me of the truth of His love:
“But I, yes I, am the one who takes care of your sins—that’s what I do. I don’t keep a list of your sins…” (Isaiah 43:25 The Message)
Or another interpretation:
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more…” (New International Version)
I love this because it shows me how He doesn’t hold the stuff I’ve done wrong against me, and that He forgets because it means something to Him. I mean something to Him.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
(Psalm 103: 2-5, NIV)
There’s just so much more in the Bible that speaks of God’s generousity. Love gives. Love doesn’t demand. You don’t have to try so hard. Just remember that you’re loved and live free.