doing things well had nothing to do with doing them correctly?
“Look into the eyes of your children and see God smile,” said my mom on a day I was tired of being tired. Their inky irises shone eager and hungry like always though this time I didn’t see needy beggars. Somewhere deep inside those windows were hearts swollen with joy.
Our kids and pets and God don’t smile at us because we are perfect; they smile because we delight them. Our kids and pets and God….and us. We are together eager and hungry for love. Wait, God? You bet:
“The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion.” [Isaiah 30:18]
Love feeds joy. Hearts full, kids and pets leap and wag with the kind of euphoria we shake our heads over and smirk, “if only we could bottle that!” God is no different; our devotion rises to him as a pleasing aroma that inspires his lasting covenant promises.
To be loved is to be known – seen and heard and accepted and desired. We come into this world groping and screaming. Some of us, the lucky ones, feel the warmth of skin against ours and quiet immediately, blind but known in the very first moments of life. Love grounds and sustains and binds us.
It is impossible to love without having first received it from God. We can covet and admire and respect and judge on our own, but we cannot love without first having been found by God.
It’s a simple formula, but something isn’t adding up. God sees and hears and accepts and wants us; he pours his love into us and rejoices when we see and hear and accept and desire him; but we aren’t delighted.
We’re tired. And afraid. Exasperated, fed up, numb. Dying, some of us.
Here’s the thing: we get caught up in trying to perfect ourselves. We ignore the cross. We have been perfectly righteous – perfectly acceptable – for 2,016 years and, really, since the beginning of time because the Word – our salvation – witnessed God’s immaculate conception of the world. Our perfection has always existed and lives in God’s declaration.
Our perfection lies in Jesus. He is the author and complete-er of the faith that is our righteousness because righteousness is faith in God and Jesus reveals the salvation in which we believe, confess and hope.
All the broken shards of sin and failure and dysfunction can be swept aside to reveal an ancient mosaic of solid rock on which we stand – not to flail, cry, beg or starve. Our righteousness is not uncertain, it is not coming at some later time. Why seek what has already been established?
The Accuser whispers this one joy-stealer: to know as God does is desirable not deadly. But in desiring this sovereignty, we do inherit death. So we manage this mortal insecurity with perfection, a competitive measure of flawlessness.
Satan whispers our condemnation and we comply:
Our creativity shrinks; diverse expressions of faith become extinct.
Our perspective narrows; truth becomes a platform to be right rather than free – forgiven and lovely and kind.
Our vulnerability retreats; the most powerful weapon – boldfaced tenderness – is silenced.
We starve for perfection and of course this looks like anorexia but we are made up of much more than skin and bones. Our souls and hearts are small, wrinkly things too – famished for our habits of performing for one another.
We give our best to man and offer the scraps – our tired groans – to God. We don’t love people; we tolerate and control and use and ignore them. If we do love, it carries none of the joy we crave. We try and try and try so hard to do things correctly because we have forgotten – or never known – Jesus.
Have you confessed Jesus? Then say it: I am righteous. Don’t let Satan or pride or the gray of time steal this truth from you: perfect isn’t without flaw, it is without the impurity of doubt, not that we do things perfectly but that we believe fiercely and relentlessly in the Perfect One.
Did you know there is not one right way to love someone? Nor is there one right way to earn a living nor encourage someone nor teach a child. There is not one right way to sing, dance, write, garden or cook. There is not one right way to manage a schedule or keep a house or hang toilet paper. There is no one correct way to eat or exercise or lead or rest. Neither is there a right way to worship or pray or hear or confess or obey God.
Honestly, I don’t always stay here – I move between this world’s perfection (read: self-loathing) and the righteousness established for me. The desire of my heart can change, and my soul can become deceived. In these moments of intense fear (read: depression), I pray sadly, remind me. He does every time.
To do something well is to do it in love. That’s it. If we allow love full access, it will stun people. It’s not well-executed programs and systems (though these can be useful); it is the brilliance of our Creator bearing in us a beauty greater than dawn birthing its sun.
What is this perfect beauty? It is a boldfaced, tender, vibrant, diverse, reconciled body, and it is freedom for those still starving.
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. if I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing…Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” [1 Corinthians 13:1-3,12]
“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” [Isaiah 66:2]