This weekend I enjoyed the privilege of attending a wedding of some dear friends of mine. The wedding was beautiful, the bride was radiant, and the evening was a joyous celebration of two lovebirds joining into life-long union.
As I sit here musing over the wedding celebration, this evening brought a question to mind.
During the speeches, praises were lavished upon the newly weds. Some told of the bride’s continual compassion and sweetness to all she met. Others mentioned the affection and devotion the groom displayed to his love. Both were said to continually display kindness, concern, and selfless love.
Listening to the speeches, I couldn’t help but consider, ‘How would others sincerely describe me? Am I constantly seeking to show unconditional love to those in my life? Do I make others my primary concern, or am I more focused on myself? Are my words full of kindness when I speak about others? Can I honestly say that I fully strive to be the woman God requires of me?’
These thoughts are overwhelmingly sobering. I gaze into my heart, and I see one that is so often cold and selfish. How many times have I made myself the first priority in my life? How many times have I spoken or simply thought unkindness, disdain, or even hatred towards others? How many times have I chosen to neglect others because I didn’t feel like reaching out to them?
As I consider what so often is the attitude I fight (and fail) against, I am appalled. The unkind, unloving, proud, self-focused woman that I see – is this who God has asked me to be? Has He not called me to be higher and better than this? Has He not called me to display love to all, even my enemies (Matthew 5:43-44, Luke 6:27-36)? Aren’t I not to esteem others more than myself (Philippians 2:3-4)? Has He not asked me to show the world His love by my actions, through patience, kindness, forgiveness, humility, and thankfulness (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)? I can so easily look at myself and allow regret and failure to sweep over me.
But… I have another option. Instead of dwelling on these frustrations of failure, I can look forward. I can not change the past, but I can use what I am learning from my sin and mistakes to grow in sanctification and to become more like Christ.
Christ changes everything, and this is what I have been seeing prove true in the past six months. I always knew I was selfish and proud, easily jealous and bitter – but I didn’t do much to change. Being all those was just too comfortable, and when it comes to bettering myself, I can so easily be lazy. When you are primarily living for yourself, why would you bother anyway?
But when Christ saved me, He opened my eyes to what my sin truly is. Sin isn’t something to be snuffed at or ignored, or maybe even just feeling bad over. Sin is something that I must continually be fleeing from, and holiness and Christ-likeness what I must constantly be striving towards. Two charges James gives his readers have become especially personal in this regard:
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” ~ James 4:7-8
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” ~ James 1:22-25
I know I will never be perfect, but that doesn’t stop me from striving towards holiness. And praise God, He is changing me – because I could never change myself. It may be slow-going and frustrating, but God is helping me to learn to go to Him, to consider my attitudes, and to love God more than myself.
So what will people say of me in 10 years time? I do not know. But my hope and joy is in this: that, because of Christ, I will be more like Him then, more than I am now.
*Special thanks to Art Pellerin, Rico Pitre, and LauraJane Pitre for reviewing my article and helping me come up with a title.