Feb. 22nd, 2008

jbwordsmith: (contemplative)
As humans, we like to categorize. Compartmentalize. As Christians, we like to talk about “learning a lesson” and imagine filing it away in our cabinet of spiritual accomplishments. We say, “God taught me a lesson about patience.” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could check off that box, sign the paper, and file it away – finished forever? “Yep, I’ve learned that one. I’ll never be impatient again.”

It gives me a sense of control to think of my walk with Jesus as a college course with a syllabus. God lectures me and I complete the assignments. Once I turn them in, they’re done. Never to be revisited. I might get a good grade or a lousy one, but either way I’m moving forward and can lazily forget what I’ve just learned. I only learned it so I could do well on that test or paper, right?

The Christian life is too complicated – too mysterious – to comprehend in this way. It’s not a series of papers to be completed, or a hallway full of magical doorways to walk through. I have no tangible way of measuring my progress.

There’s a paradox here that I don’t understand. On the one hand, God tells us that we have everything we need for life and godliness. He tells us to be perfect as He is perfect. In some sense, every believer already possesses perfection of character. God chooses to see us through the lens of Christ, omitting our flaws because He paid for them on the cross. On the other hand, we’re living in an imperfect world surrounded by imperfect people. We mess up. We fall down. We get up. We say we’ve learned our lesson, but we often make the same mistake again. This is the frustration of life on earth.

So I can’t say how I’m doing or how far I’ve come. I dare to suggest that those questions don’t matter. I can’t improve my character. God has to do it. I am “improving” only as much as I am surrendering to His work in me.

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jbwordsmith

November 2009

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