Why is it that almost the second you decide to try to do better, temptation comes to show you just how weak you really are? I think that probably applies to most things that tempt us, chocolate cake when you are on a diet, a new pair of shoes when you are watching your spending. How are we supposed to win?!
Today for my bible study I was reading Ecclesiastes and James. Both chapters specifically addressed my biggest failing as a Christian…my tongue. James 3 is even appropriately titled Taming the Tongue.
“…but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8.
“With our tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who have been made in God’s likeness.” James 3:9
“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.” James 3:10
Guilty, guilty, guilty. I have often wondered why, when we were created by God to praise and love him, it is so darn hard to live up to his standards? I think it must be a big reason why so many people have fallen away from “religion”. Once you get past the whole feel good “Jesus comes to save the world and forgive our sins part” there’s an expectation, a call to live a better life, to set a higher standard for your behaviour. And just like you felt guilt when you did something wrong as a child, you feel badly, guilty about not living up to being the person you know God is calling you to be. It’s easier to just walk away, especially in those early days.
Last night as I was driving Isaac back from his riding lesson I heard a song on the radio (see below), and it really drove home something that I think we all need to remember. It’s good to be alive. God gave us life to enjoy it. A relationship with God is about feeling better, not worse. Feeling not good enough, living with guilt… that is a lie told by the enemy, and one I’ve fallen victim too far too often. When we feel as if we aren’t living up to God’s standards we should be turning toward him, not away.
I’ve been pretty honest here about how my own faith has ebbed and flowed over the years. It’s even possible that I might stray away again, like a lost sheep. But I feel grateful that, for right now, I am so tied to my Lord. The more I have thrown myself at him whole-heartedly, the more I have felt his presence in my life on a daily basis. And that’s why it is so darn frustrating to recognize at times that I am just as awful a sinner as I ever was, and that ole tongue is the major source of my failing. But I also take comfort from the words of Ecclesiastes 7, verse 20 that I read this morning…”There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” and verse 18 “the man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”
I am a sinner. I will always be a sinner. Just like my own children, as a child of God I will continue to make mistakes, to fall down. And just as I would pick up my own children, wipe their tears and forgive them for any of their failings or mistakes, so too does God forgive me. All I have to do is ask. And truth be told, we are probably never fair to ourselves. I believe that the Spirit lives in me, and is changing me into the person God calls me to be. Some days he just chips off smaller pieces of this piece of clay than others. God knows all things. He knows when I’m having a bad day, when I’m stressed out, when I’m feeling out of control. He also knows the days when I’ve got it all together. I think he expects more from us in those times that we are more capable (just as we would with our own children). Maybe some days, instead of chipping of pieces of this piece of clay, he just holds me in his hands and pours his love out onto me.
I pray for all those people who are struggling with their faith and with those feelings of not being good enough. God sent his only son into the world so that, while we might feel those things, we wouldn’t have to live with the burden of guilt for our failures. I pray that instead of turning away from God in those times, we instead turn ourselves more fully toward him.