“Am I more than just the average of every high and every low?” More than a ridiculously long blog title, or an offshoot →(for copyright reasons) of a catchy rhyme from Lauren Daigle’s song You Say, this is something I think most – if not all – of us struggle with on a daily basis. It’s something that’s plagued me for awhile, if I’m being honest, and I’ve never been able to put words to it until this morning while making coffee. I didn’t have a great epiphany, there was no image of the savior appearing in my morning toast – no, nothing like that. I just happened to wake up with the song playing in my head, and this particular verse stuck with me as I made my coffee. I got to thinking about it, and I believe that the first stanza of this song is spot on for what goes through most of our heads (and plays out in our lives), and if it doesn’t then perhaps we haven’t had to deal with trials in life yet, but take heed – the Bible says they’ll come.
Trials of Life
James 1:2 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when* you meet trials of various kinds”. Jesus tells us in John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will* have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Again, in 1 Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (*emphasis added).
What is this telling us? When we have trials, we will have tribulation, when it comes??? So it’s not an if but a when, it seems. The bible tells us that we will face trials, temptations, difficulties and hardships. Some verses accentuate the fact that as Christians, this will ring especially true. So, what can we do, but be ready? As a soldier prepares for physical battle – field battle, so we prepare for battle – Spiritual Warfare.
Victories and Losses
But, what happens when our past is riddled with battles we didn’t feel so victorious in? What if we didn’t stand firm through some of our trials? What about the things in our past that we don’t have peace about? How do we carry ourselves day to day, pondering these things and realizing that maybe we didn’t give it our best? Yes, God pulled us out before the fire got too hot to destroy us completely, but what if we came out smelling of smoke? What if we are emotionally burned from a former sorrow and we carry around the invisible scars of regret? What if we are basing our worth upon the sum of our past deeds – both the triumphs and the failures? Are we keeping tally without even realizing it? How does this shape how we view ourselves, present ourselves and value ourselves in our day to day lives?
We all go through different seasons in life, some more memorable than others, but one thing holds true no matter the season – it will come to an end. In hindsight, we look back on the seasons of our lives and realize how truly quickly they pass, regardless of how long they seem to be when we’re in them. The hours fade into days, days into weeks and weeks into months. Before we realize it, another year has passed. The children have grown rapidly – as attested to in our Facebook Timehop reminders, another grey hair has appeared in a less than ideal location and of course we have memories left to remind us of what transpired.
Memories are reflections of the past, often of fond remembrances that will be forever cherished in our hearts. Sometimes though, they can be haunting reminders of failures and defeat. What do we do when we feel that there’s an unbalance? As I can attest to, I believe that most of us tend to weigh out these tallies and respond accordingly to where we see ourselves. Does the good outweigh the bad? If we’re not careful this kind of stinkin’ thinkin’ can give us a big head, a judgmental demeanor and in general a Pharisee complex. What about the contrary? When the bad seems to outweigh the good, in our eyes? Understandably so, we tend to live in defeat. Slumping our shoulders (both physically and spiritually), feeling depressed, hopeless and unsure. Both of these mindsets are setting us up for failure, and this state of unbalance is not where the Christian is supposed to be living.
Let’s break this down a little more and see where these falsehoods originate, why we resort to them and how to escape from this system of tallies and scales.
“I’m a generally good person”
First, what does the bible say about this mindset?
- “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
- “No one is righteous— not even one” Romans 3:10
- “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
- “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1: 8-10
God has made it clear that none of us are good enough on our own. We are all sinners. We all fall short. We need God, every moment of every day.
When we fluff ourselves up, thinking that we are better than others because of our status, our deeds or anything that gives us a sense of pride and arrogance, we are doing a disservice to not only ourselves but the body of Christ, and the Lord himself. The bible tells us “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) To someone who struggled with a Pharisee complex before, this Proverb is eerily prophetic, maybe you can relate?
There was a time in my life where I had a hypocritical self-righteousness about me that I obviously could not see at the time. In a sense, we compare ourselves to others and it builds up our self-esteem – in a negative way. We become arrogant, ostentatious and boastful. We ignore the plank in our own eye while pointing out everyone else’s specks. We whitewash ourselves so as to give an outward appearance of perfection, even to our own perception – while underneath we are “full of dead man’s bones and everything unclean”.
This is not to say that we should live on the opposite spectrum either – which we’ll discuss next – but when our personal tally brings our perceived goodness up above our perceived failures this can be breeding ground for the deadliness of pride.
“I really messed up, beyond repair”
So what about when the scales lean in the other direction? When we crossed the line, did the unthinkable, and drifted so far from where we know we were meant to be? What if the crushing reminders of our failures haunt our dreams and disrupt our everyday lives to the point where we can get no rest – no semblance of peace? What if we are living in what if? “If only I hadn’t…” or “If only I had…” Sins of commission, sins of omission, things we said or didn’t say, who we became or how far we fell?
When we live in a state of ruin over what happened in the past we are unable to live in the present, incapable to see a future. We’re marinating on our faults and failures so much that it’s as if they were a death sentence – and in a sense they can be. Letting the enemy remind us of our failures, all the while keeping our own tally sheet, will bring us down to a state of depression and hopelessness that is also a breeding ground for deadliness – the deadliness of unforgiveness.
We know what the scriptures say about forgiveness. It’s a requirement not a suggestion or a social nicety. The scriptures tell us in Matthew 6:15 that if we do not forgive others our Father in heaven will not forgive us. We’re also told that God does not deal with us according to our sins, or repay us according to our iniquities (Psalms 103:10). We must repent and turn to God, and we will be forgiven.
If the God of the heavens and earth has forgiven us, why do we continue to live in this defeated state – dragging our feet, hanging our head and living out our days trying to “make up for” the wrongs we’ve done?
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”(emphasis added) – Psalm 130:10-14
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:1
God is not keeping tally, neither should we.
He knows the depths of our hearts and loves us the same.
We can’t move forward if we’re living in the past.
We can’t fully experience God’s forgiveness until we fully forgive ourselves.
Tallying our past mistakes will only cause us to walk on eggshells and live out an unhealthy mentality that tells us that being truly loved and accepted by others – and ourselves – is conditional upon our deeds. We’ll constantly be trying to make up for the negatives, exerting ourselves beyond our means and keeping a track-record to make sure we measure up – Exhausting (and impossible)!
Moving past a system of tallies
Both extremes – whether it’s the pride of our self-perceived goodness or the defeat of living in the decay of our past mistakes – are unhealthy, detrimental and a cause for us to examine ourselves spiritually and reassess our identity in Christ. As children of God we are forgiven – not condemned, more than victors – not victims of failure, and we find our identity in Christ – not in our past mistakes or by a pompous self-worth. It’s time to live like we’re loved, walk like we’re free and know that our past – whatever that entails – does not define us. It’s time to accept that we are who God says we are!