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A Good Enough Christian

 

Dear Friends,

          I am sick and tired of being told as a Christian how I don’t measure up, how I don’t do enough, how much work there is to do in the world, how I don’t give enough to the church and other ministries, how I don’t pray often enough, how terrible my devotional life is, how I don’t witness to unbelievers enough, how inconsistent my attendance on Sunday morning worship service is, how I don’t volunteer enough at church in some form of service, and, generally, other things I can’t think of right now (because I know the list is longer) that have told me I am not perfect.

          I have been a Christian for 40 years by now and if I listened, collectively at once, to all of the sermons I’ve heard in church, and on the radio, and on the television, and through seminars, and books, and on retreats at Christian camps, and in the classrooms of the Christian college and the seminary I attended, I would get the idea that I am not a very good person at all.  Most of the messages I have heard have been like a coach during half-time yelling, urging, coercing, inspiring, cajoling, sometimes through guilt manipulation, trying to convince me that it is my duty to perform better, to do more, that “the need is great,” that “the time is short,” and that “the workers are few.”  This has left me tired, hard on myself, hard on others, and rarely able to say to myself, “good job, good and faithful servant.”

          It has been very relieving over the years to get to know a God that is already satisfied with me, that is on my side, who likes me and likes it when I get enough rest, and who also wants me to take care of myself, even if this means saying no to a ministry opportunity.  I’m tired of type A Christianity, I now opt for type B.  I no longer seek to be a perfect Christian because this has led me to burnout, misery, and a compulsive lifestyle that, even I as a Christian, could not recommend to a nonbeliever.  I now seek to be a “Good Enough Christian.”  If I get to heaven and God tells me that I received a “B” in life I would feel successful. 

          The line between perfection and excellence is too blurry for me.  Every time I pursue excellence, I seem to wander off into perfection and compulsive Christianity.  When I remind myself that God accepts me fully just as I am, and that if I don’t do another thing for Him and the kingdom, and that God will still love me just the same if I do this (or don’t do this, whichever way you want to look at it), and that He is powerful enough to make His will happen with or without my help, and in spite of me and through me at the same time, I learn to relax, rest, and slowdown.  I move away from burnout and toward serenity instead. 

          I learned about a new God (the old one was an angry, old curmudgeon) when I became a parent.  The instant I laid my eyes on my son, I knew existentially, for the first time how much God must love me.  I fell in love with my son at that moment and couldn’t take my eyes off of him for a full hour.  I wanted to survey every inch of his face and take in the miracle of his arriving.  This feeling has never left me and has changed me forever.  If I could feel that way toward another human being how much more does God feel toward you and me???!!!  This is why He wants us to call Him daddy, and why He loved us so much to become one of us, to take on the position of a slave, and to die in the worst way possible.  We need to stop underestimating the amount that He loves us.  Just look at your child’s face and you will get a glimpse and a glimmer of God’s wonderful love for you.

          It is out of this unconditional love that all other things make sense.  It is in this unconditional love that I remind myself to rest.  I fall into His outstretched arms and feel secure and safe.  In His arms I am reminded that He is perfect so that I don’t have to be, that He has always loved me, that I am good enough for Him, and that whatever I decide to do ministry-wise, in His name, is inspired from this love.

 

                                               Helping us all to slow down,

 

                                               Paul