I read a blog post this morning that really resonated within me. The main idea I took away from the post is that telling our children they need to “be an example” for Christ is a well-intentioned statement that falls empty in the execution. In fact, I want to take it a step further and say that setting our own goal as simply being an example for Christ is short-sighted. Now before anyone goes all crazy on me and thinks I’m giving Christians a license to just do what feels good, I’m not. We live within scriptural boundaries and within our own Holy Spirit convictions because we love Christ and that’s a good thing, but it’s dishonest to only show the world what we do perfectly. And Jesus seems pretty clear about where He stands on being honest.
Early in my adult life, as a young Christian, I felt like I had to portray a certain “holiness” to the people in my life who didn’t claim Jesus as their savior. I kept to myself a lot at work, trying to show that I was separated in my way of living. I looked appropriately offended when anyone used profanity or talked about sex outside of marriage. . .or told a dirty joke. In my heart, I wasn’t feeling self-righteous. In my immaturity, I genuinely felt it was my responsibility to portray a certain way of doing things. That somehow me showing the world only the “good” part of me was my calling. You know what that made me to them? Unapproachable. Unlikable. Hypocritical.
As maturity began to happen, I had some realizations. I’m a sinner (I know, duh, right?). The only difference between me and the prostitute on the street corner at the core is that I’ve accepted a free gift that has transformed my very being. I did nothing to earn it. I don’t deserve it. And it didn’t turn me into a perfect person. It turned me into a grateful person, saved from a fate worse than death through no power of my own. It made me want to live in a way that makes my Jesus smile. But it didn’t give me superpowers of neverdoinganythingwrongever or overcomingallthethingswithoutastruggle. It didn’t even change my base nature. So why on earth would trying to portray unattainable perfection that really doesn’t exist attract anyone at all to my faith?
You know what is attractive to people? Imperfection. Real people who don’t give up. Kindness. Loving the unlovable. Encouragement. Hope. And that, my friends, is what made me decide to “get real.” Even this very blog is born of my desire to share the raw emotion of a follower of Christ learning to parent through the brokenness of pain, depression, anxiety and just being human. I am so far from the perfection every human soul craves some days that I wonder why God keeps holding on to me. There are days when I feel like I’m the worst “example” ever and that watching me live my life must make those who don’t know Jesus want to run as fast as they can in the other direction for fear of being like me. But then there’s truth.
Matthew 5:14 says that I am the light of the world. It doesn’t say I can be the light of the world if I’m perfect or if I’m trying hard enough every single day. It doesn’t even say that I’m the light of the world when I’m living exactly as a Christian “should.” It simply says that I am the light of the world. I am the light of the world because Jesus says I am. The end. My responsibility is to live my life. To allow others to see my brokenness. To see me struggle and fall. And to see me get back up and keep going. To see me change over time as I learn from my mistakes and make a better choice tomorrow. To know that I care about them when they’re hurting because I’ve been hurt, too. That is my light. My light is raw. My light shines through a scarred lampshade that paints a mosaic of brokenness, healing, failures, forgiveness, mistakes, hope and a love so big it’s impossible for any human mind to fully understand. And changing my perception of that marred and imperfect lampshade from something ugly and shameful to something unique and beautiful frees me to really. be. me. And learning that the real “me” is beautiful is the first step in learning to see the beauty all around me, and in allowing the people in my life who have not yet met my Jesus to see His beauty inside of me.
So no, I’m not a good example of Christ. But I am an excellent example of the transformative power of His love, and the hope He gives that gives me the strength to get back up on my worst day and keep going. And I hope I can carry that forward into the lives of these imperfect little people that He has given me the privilege of discipling for Him. Because if teaching them to be perfect is the goal, I’m going to fail. But if it’s teaching them to own their imperfections and keep moving forward, I got this.