In a lot of situations I am an all-or-nothing person:
– hitting the gym for 2 hours a day, every day, or not at all
– starting a huge sewing project and needing to finish it in one day instead of breaking it up to work on it over time
– no junk food at all, or else all the junk food we have
– i’m too tired to think of any more
Anyway, it’s no surprise to me that when it comes to being like Jesus, I am extremely disappointed in myself when I fail. I’ve heard that the point of Christianity is not to be perfect. I’ve heard that when you decide to be baptized, it doesn’t mean that you’ve arrived at a destination, but rather you are beginning a journey. I know these things and I believe them, deep in my heart, I believe them. Yet I still have this desire for perfection, and if perfection isn’t achieved, I find myself wanting to just give up completely.
A huge struggle for me lately is patience. I’ve been blaming pregnancy, but 9 months is a long time to try to write off a bad attitude. I am totally aware of my lack of patience and when I lose my temper, especially with my sweet Eva. At night I lay in bed and I am completely beside myself, I feel absolutely terrible. I am so angry with myself. I feel like curling up under a rock or running away, just giving up on this life that I said I wanted to have. It’s too hard to be like Jesus. I just can’t do it and I hate myself for constantly sucking at it. It literally breaks me, and instead of wanting to be fixed, I just want to lay there broken, a waste.
A few weeks ago at Breakforth, I had the unique experience of listening to Frank Peretti speak. What a guy. Wow. He was quite erratic, but most of what he said was pretty encouraging. He talked about “going through the middle”. We are a people who want everything quick and painless. We want everything now and we don’t want to work for it. I know that I, for one, am like this. Peretti says that real life just isn’t like that; he says that we have to go through the middle at times. We struggle. We can’t just jump from the beginning of something to the end, we have to endure the work of getting there. Kind of like “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction“, if you’ve read that book. He said it’s especially like this as we work towards reflecting God’s qualities in our own lives.
Have I really been expecting as I have prayed to be like God, to have the fruit of his Spirit in my life, to have his patience, that I would just wake up one morning and have all of his qualities? Doesn’t it make sense that if I am to learn to be truly patient that I would be put in situations in which to exercise patience? Isn’t that how we learn? Isn’t that how our character is formed? How can I keep forgetting this?
Donald Miller touches on this in his new book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years“. He goes on this hiking trip in Peru and he and his friends take the most painful and challenging route through the mountains to the city of Machu Picchu. The guide that they are with lets them know that they could drive there, they could take an easier route, but that this way, this challenging way, though more painful and dangerous, is much a more beautiful way and truly the only way to get to the city. Miller says, “…the people who took the bus didn’t experience the city as we experienced the city. The pain made the city more beautiful. The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed up at the ending an easier way.”
So I am trying to allow myself to make mistakes. I am trying to be humble, to admit when I am wrong, to accept God’s forgiveness and continue on the path, instead of laying there broken. It is not wrong of me to be broken about my sin, in fact, I should be broken about it. I should be repulsed by it. But I can’t let it keep me down. I can’t have an all-or-nothing attitude. I am not going to be perfect. I can’t just take a bus to where I’m going. I have to keep going through the middle, to push through to the end, because even though it is more challenging, it really is the only way to get there.
(If you want to hear Peretti’s talk, I found this playlist on youtube. I haven’t listened to all of it because it’s too late, but the 30 seconds that I did listen to sounded very similar to what I heard at Breakforth.)