I dropped my purse and sweater onto the chair and felt a low, slow sigh rising up. It was the kind that starts from somewhere deep in your gut and finishes with an exhale that is never long enough.
Another set of failures.
My mind moved through the mistakes of the day, a stolid steamroller over the sand of self-esteem.
I’d been involved in the music and had missed a section, making things difficult on vocalists. I had blanked out in the middle of the sermon, my mind going nowhere, the brain-mush a product of an exhausting workweek. I had forgotten to bring a sheaf of papers for someone in leadership. I had unintentionally brushed off a friend who had needed me to listen, too busy rushing to the next “ministry” I was part of. A teacher had looked sideways at me, and I wasn’t sure why.
I slumped to the floor, replaying every botched scene from the day. The weight on my shoulders grew heavier and heavier. If this was the Christian life, then I was failing.
The good news, of course, is that this isn’t the Christian life. But for a long time, I unconsciously equated living a Christian life with a good performance.
The “Christian life” is so often confined to a narrow, neat little box with a sweet, self-made bow on it. This box is made of church, and morality, and service, and punctuality, patriotism, and perfectionism (often termed “excellence”).
I truly doubt that any of us who try to follow Jesus would slap those labels on the package…in our hearts, that’s not what we think we’re striving for. We’re just doing what we’ve been told to do, whether by churches, denominations, authority figures, books, or our own inner critics. We’re aiming for what we’ve been told is the “fruit” of a “good” Christian life.
Without question, many of those things may dwell inside the box (along with making art, sleeping in, wearing better pants, and buying ice cream for your kid on a day he doesn’t deserve it).
But these things are not the box.
The box is Christ himself. And it (he) is way, way bigger than I think any of us can imagine.
The lovely, life-giving truth that we can savor is this:
Our goodness as a Christian is not dependent on our performance. Our goodness is wrapped up in the very person of Jesus Christ himself. And we — we, dear sisters and brothers — are wrapped up in him.
This is why every person who confesses and believes that Jesus Christ is the risen King can be secure — we are not accepted in the eyes of God based on our performance, but upon Jesus’s perfection, and God’s grace.
This is the heart of Christian identity. This is the way, the truth, the life.