It was one of those feel-good-about-yourself Christian mornings. Rather than hitting the snooze button on my alarm as I so often do, I rustled out of bed and spent an hour reading scripture while the house was still quiet. The extra time even allowed me to make the kids pancakes, fold some neglected laundry, and still get off for Vacation Bible School with time to spare.
As the kids and I drove out of our driveway onto the curvy two-lane road in front of our house, I couldn’t help but be moved by the tranquil setting sprawling out in front of me: the row of pine trees, the quiet vacant street, the crisp blue sky. I rolled down the window and took in a deep breath to let the peace roll over me, to give thanks to God.
Then he appeared.
Cutting in from an adjacent street, a cyclist merged into the road just ahead of me. He looked the part of a professional rider with an expensive bike, spandex, and helmet. But—and this is a huge but—he wasn’t. He moved slowly and swerved back and forth unconfidently across the one lane.
Puttering behind him in no man’s land, I suffered the situation for about a minute before ugliness set in. I won’t go into the details of how I spent the next few miles internally slandering the cyclist’s good name, but let’s just say it was surely an unfair assessment.
As much as I hate to admit it, that moment triggered one of my ongoing flaws: impatience. When someone interferes with my plans, or in this case my tranquility, I tend to overreact.
Yes, I know Christians are called to a higher standard to love our neighbors as ourselves, and 1 Corinthians 13:4 actually confirms “love is patient and is kind,” but for some reason (I blame genetics) I still struggle.
When such impatience acts against the love I long to express, I therefore feel a pang of guilt and begin to question how real my Christianity actually is. Maybe I’m not who I think I am. Maybe I don’t really know Christ. Maybe the atheists are right and Christians like me are nothing more than hypocrites who pretend to be Dr. Jekylls but, when pushed far enough, are really Mr. Hydes.
Before I get too far with this personal battering, though, I remember Saint Paul’s words to the church in Romans 7:20-25:
Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me/ I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good./For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man./ But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members./ O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?/ I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.
Saint Paul’s words explain the simple truth baptized Christians have to confront: that we are truly nothing without Christ. We are by no means perfect and will inevitably encounter triggers in our spiritual journey that highlight the sin still warring within.
For some the sin might be impatience, and for others it might be lust, jealousy, anger, pride, or a combination of all the above. Such encounters do not mean, however, that our love for Christ is any less real. In fact, the very fact that our minds desire what is good in these moments confirms our relationship with Christ and offers us an opportunity to redirect our eyes towards a perfection possible only through His redemptive power.
Perhaps C.S. Lewis expresses this sentiment (and the hope it provides for us less-than-perfect Christians) best in his book Mere Christianity, where he states:
But if you are a poor creature—poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels—saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion—nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends—do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He will fling it on the scarp-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all—not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.)
The point is that real Christians, on our own, do fall short of the Christian name. Fortunately, we need not despair because there is indeed a silver lining between the Mr. Hyde we are and the Dr. Jekyll we long to be.
And that silver lining is the hope that is in Jesus Christ.
Copyright © 2013, Krissie Allen