I’ve heard in lots of sermons that the Gospel has to begin with the bad news. I agree with those sermons, but for me, the “bad news” is nearly always in the abstract. Total depravity? Sure, but I was saved early, and preserved from that totality by common grace, and have been a perfectionist longer than I’ve known the word.
Oh yes, no one is perfect. I know that. (Perfect people have to know things, you know.) But I generally find myself able to be sufficiently high in the stack that the degrees between me and perfection, particularly from below, appear negligible. If I can’t do a thing well, I avoid doing it, or make an art of losing. In a rebellious mood in college I once suggested that I wanted to be mean; my friends responded: “You can’t do that! You’re Stacy!”
The Pharisees wouldn’t have questioned Christ if He’d eaten all His meals with people like me during His earthly ministry. But He said that healthy people didn’t need a doctor; sick people did. And while He knew that the Pharisees were as sick as any, a doctor does little good to people who deny their sickness. Mostly, I’m in denial, too.
But some mornings I wake up with a tightening in the pit of my stomach because of all the things I am afraid I will do badly, all the things I didn’t do perfectly. The day after turning in my thesis for committee review, I learn of a number of small errors in what was meant to be a perfect document, and — Oh the irony! — the page numbers for corrections are written on the bottom of a sermon illustration hand-out depicting “God’s Holy Standard” and our inability to reach it.
You’d think that accepting a free gift would be one of the easiest things in the world, but here I find myself failing at it almost daily. Salvation has been given to me: freedom in Christ to stop trying to measure up and let God write Christ’s measurement on my record. But most days, I live on tiptoe, trying to reach the unreachable standard. Though I’d never say it, most of my days testify to the fact that — absurdly — I think I can measure up.
Days like today, when I wake up knowing how far I fall short: they aren’t fun days. But they are gifts. They make me small and sick and weak, so that I will go to Christ, who loves largely, who heals, who gives strength. Oh yes, days that begin with the bad news made concrete: those are good days, because they are days which take me to the Gospel. That is a good place to be.
©2012 by Stacy Nott