Why "71º & Sunny?"

I consider 71º to be the perfect temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. I also love perfect sunny days. The vast majority of days are not 71º & Sunny and yet, all days were created by God's hand and they are still gifts, even if they don't fit my ridiculous definition of perfection. My struggle with OCD has at times imprisoned me in an impossible attempt to achieve perfection. I'm now learning to love all kinds of days that don't even come close to 71º & Sunny.

Please leave me a comment below. I really want to know what you are thinking!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Depending On God's Grace

The Bible: God's Love Letter To Us
What is the difference between scrupulosity and a real, genuine relationship with God? Sometimes, I just don't know, and it can be very painful and frustrating. I really want to follow God, and more importantly, I want to please Him. I get confused though, especially when I read Bible verses, such as Matthew 5:48:
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." NIV
Now, I need to be very clear. No one would ever confuse me for a Bible scholar or a theologian. I don't read my Bible nearly as often as I should, so that may be the cause of my confusion. Maybe I'm just misinterpreting the Bible.

In any case, I struggle with verses like this. Perfection has been my enemy. At times, the pursuit of perfection has made me so very ill that I almost could not function at all. I truly do not know how to respond to Matthew 5:48. I want to do the right things in all circumstances. I also know it is impossible. I'm human, and I sin (behavior that offends and separates us from God).

I decided to look this verse up in the Matthew Henry Commentary. Henry explains this verse by stating:
"Which may be understood, 1. In general including all those things wherein we must be followers of God as dear children. Note, it is the duty of Christians to desire, and aim at, and press toward a perfection in grace and holiness, Phil. 3:12-14. And therein we must study to conform ourselves to the example of our heavenly Father, 1 Pt. 1:15, 16. Or, 2. In this particular before mentioned, of doing good to our enemies; see Lu. 6:36. It is God's perfection to forgive injuries and to entertain strangers, and to do good to the evil and unthankful, and it will be ours to be like him. We that owe so much, that owe our all, to the divine bounty, ought to copy it out as well we can." Pg. 1635
The problem is that when I aim at and press toward a perfection, I don't know how to do it in a healthy, non-OCD way. Whenever I miss the mark, and I do all the time, I tend to be really cruel towards myself. Somehow, I get the feeling though, that is not the response God is looking for. I've written previously about my struggles with guilt. A bit of initial guilt, when I've done something wrong, is useful, but beyond that, it's just a hindrance to living the type of life I want to live for Him.

Because I just don't know what else to do, I've decided to focus on God's grace and forgiveness. I don't use this as a license to do whatever I want, but when I make mistakes, I've decided to believe that God does indeed forgive me, if I ask Him. Even at this moment, I wonder if I'm making a mistake writing this. I have a terrible fear of misleading people when it comes to a relationship with God. Maybe I'm saying the wrong things about the Bible right now. Nevertheless, I'm trusting that God's grace is sufficient to cover anything I might mess up.

You know, I wonder if that's why Matthew 5:48 is in the Bible. God knows we can never be perfect. Maybe He's just trying to remind us of that, and of the fact that His grace can overcome that too.

18 comments:

  1. Sunny, I think you did a fine job in discussing a very difficult verse that I have trouble with too. I do exactly the same thing--I don't know where to draw the line when it comes to striving for perfection. I try to believe that God's grace is the answer.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Tina. I wish I had more definitive answers for myself with this, but I guess it's also a part of living with the uncertainty in life. Uncertainty is such a hard thing to get used to!

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  2. I could go on for hours about this subject. Because it's been something that I have struggled with, as well. Ever since I was a little girl, I have felt compelled to be perfect.

    And there are a few seemingly contradictory things in the Bible that I have wondered about. For instance, God commands us not to kill - but he also commanded Abraham to kill his only son. At the time, Abraham had no idea that God would intervene and not ask him to complete the sacrifice - but he was obedient anyway. And that one example gives us a powerful allegory and type of the sacrifice of the Son of God. In his wisdom, God knew the end from the beginning - and the commands may have seemed contradictory or impossible - but in the end, it benefited many of his children.

    I've found that often when I don't understand seeming contradictions, it's because I don't see things as God does. And if I give it time, and ask to understand, eventually I do. And the understanding often surpasses any confusion I had. It's the taking time that's hard to wait out sometimes. :)

    In the case of perfection - I have beat myself up over the guilt that comes with not being perfect for a long time.
    But here is where I am at now with regards to Matthew 5:48. God does command us to be perfect. Yet that will not be possible in this lifetime. We are fallen beings. And as such, we sin. We mess up. To expect perfection seems like an impossibility.

    But - you can look at it this way. The only way we can become perfect is through Christ. His sacrifice, if we accept it, erases our sins and mistakes. And through him, we can become perfect.

    So, this verse could be seen as a commandment to turn unto Christ, do our best, repent when we mess up, and accept that his sacrifice makes us perfect in the eyes of God. It could be seen as an entreaty to trust in the Grace of God and let things go, just as you have tried to do.

    There's a book that I love that clarifies this whole conundrum for me - it's called "The Continuous Atonement" by Brad Wilcox. It is written by a Mormon author, but it is the most powerful book on understanding Christ's sacrifice that I have ever read.

    Thank you for this post. It parallels a lot of what I have been pondering lately.

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    1. Shana, you are so right, Christ is the only way to achieve perfection in God's eyes in the next life. It's just so scary for me, because I read those words and I wonder, "Is that what God is trying to say to me? Or am I being too easy on myself and maybe I need to try even harder to be 'better'?" Oh I agree with you wholeheartedly - I believe when I don't understand things in the Bible it is because I see things from my own little perspective and not from God's. It is so comforting to me that others struggle the same way with this issue. (Not that I'm glad you're struggling, but I think you know what I mean!) Interesting, I had never heard of that book before.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Funny how we were both thinking about the same stuff lately. And yes, I could probably talk about this for hours too. : )

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  3. Like Shana, I could discuss this for hours as well. I have also had a life long struggle with this.

    I often question whether or not I've ever had a true relationship with God or if it was all religious scrupulosity and compulsive prayers and quests for perfection and beating myself up when I sin.

    My relationship with God is something I really need to work on but lately it seems any religious text that I read sets off my OCD.

    I know it will get better but I so long for a true and real close relationship with God.

    Great post!

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    1. Elizabeth, I'm so sorry that this is a difficult subject for you. I don't really know what to say, other than that God KNOWS how you long to have a relationship with Him. I don't really pray to God in a typical praying fashion, so much as I talk to Him like I'm talking to someone standing next to me. I mean, obviously, I'm more respectful when speaking to Him, but I just try to be myself. Maybe you could try just talking to Him and not doing specific "prayers?" Anyway, just a thought. Hugs.

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    2. I agree, Sunny. I talk to him more like someone standing next to me, as well. The whole formulated prayers thing SO doesn't work for me. :) And I don't think he really cares how we choose to pray - as long as we're respectful and seeking him out. :) But that's another one of my subjects I could go on forever about. ;) Thank you for being so open about your faith through your struggles. I really appreciate being able to talk about things with others who share my beliefs and struggles.

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  4. Yes, thanks for addressing this. I, too, have wondered if I'm going off the deep end when I've chosen to focus on God's love for me and grace and not on biblical to-do lists and commands. But I also read, I think it was in Charles Swindoll's book "Grace Awakening" that I read something about that if grace is properly taught, we WILL run the risk of people abusing it and using it as license to keep sinning. Anyway, my theory is that we would do better teaching people about God and His love and that as Christians get to know him better, that we will automatically become more like him. Maybe that isn't a full picture; I know lots of people that find it important to teach people what to do, and there are lots of verses to at least somewhat support that. But I know that for me, for where I am right now, I need to focus on God's love for me and his grace. The hard part for me is finding a church that will do that without spending too much time the how-tos of obedience.

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    1. Hi Abigail. I've pretty much come to the same conclusion - don't know if I'm right or not - but yes, I'd rather fall on the grace side than the rule side of things. Though I do try to walk a fine line of incorporating them both. But I get the feeling God wants me to love Him and to WANT to follow Him. Not just follow a bunch of rules. When I feel oppressed by those things, it is hard to just love Him because I want to be in a relationship, not because I feel like I'm going to get in trouble. I am very thankful to be part of a wonderful church. Of course, we talk about the importance of obedience to God, but we also talk about how crazy in love God is with us, and how really knowing, understanding, and believing that makes it so much easier to have a genuine relationship with Him.

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  5. Hi Sunny,

    Great post! I think you've got the right idea erring on the side of grace. I always took that verse to mean that, while there's no way we can be perfect (Romans 3:10 "There is no one righteous, not even one"), we are still expected to try. I try to think of it as being like any other task - I'm not perfect, but I keep working at it and so I improve over time (I hope!). Being as self-aware as you are puts you miles ahead of many!

    Hugs,
    Jean

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    1. Thanks for the hugs, Jean, I'll take them!

      Unfortunately, it's the trying to be perfect that gets me in lots of trouble - because I get so upset with myself when I don't even come near it, which is, of course, all the time!!! I like what you say about it being like any other task - you keep working on it to improve. I think I have to try to look at it like that more. Good idea. Thanks.

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  6. Hi Sunny...I love the theme of Grace running throughout your post and the comments. I grew up in a home where I felt I was supposed to be perfect and combine that with confusing striving for perfection for obtaining perfection, was a real struggle for me. I guess I feel like if I could be a perfect person and not sin, why would God sacrifice his son for my sins? I think the cross is a good reminder for me that Jesus died for my sins, I cannot be perfect and am forgiven when I am not. I am not saved by my actions but by faith. But I still have to be responsible for my actions, as a believer I am compelled to follow Christ and live a life trying love God and my neighbor as myself. When I fail, I am forgiven. I think OCD still tells me to be perfect and that's one of my fights with OCD. Thanks for making me ponder all this.

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    1. Krystal Lynn, beautifully stated. You are right - what's the point of Jesus if we're already perfect?

      Yep - my OCD sure tells me to be perfect too. Or it's my perfectionist nature that fuels my OCD. Hmmm . . . that could be a "chicken or the egg" type of quandary. Not sure which came first, but in either case it stinks! I guess we just have to keep working through it as best we can, one moment at a time.

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  7. How nice to meet you! I'm a Christian too, and I struggle with mental health as well.

    I agree with you in the means that this is God's standard for us -to be perfect as He is perfect. His standard for His creation never changed after the Fall. And His love for us never changed either, therefore, like you say, He made a way for us through the perfection of His Son, our Savior. What would we ever do without His grace?

    I don't know if it is my Depression that keeps my eye so pressed on God's promise of Heaven, a place with no more suffering and no more tears... a place where I will no make mistakes and error. But one day, one day, we too shall live in perfection with our Savior Jesus! It's a joyful hope that keeps me alive on this earthly journey!!

    I hope to revisit you here at your blog. Maybe when you the time, you can visit at my blog.
    Blessings!

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    1. Welcome, Deanna. Nice to meet you too! What an excellent point, "His standard for creation never changed after the Fall." So, of course I struggle with this! I just never really thought of it specifically in those terms before. Thank you for that.

      Yes, I too look forward to our time in Heaven with the Lord - no more faulty brains or faulty bodies!

      I'm so glad you stopped by. I will absolutely visit your blog as well.

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    2. Deanna, I tried to visit your blog, but your profile is blocked from public view. You may want to change your settings. Or, if you prefer, just leave your blog address here in the comments section. Either way, looking forward to visiting your site!

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  8. thank you for bringing that to my attention :)
    I changed the setting for my profile, so that others can link to me.
    this is my blogsite
    http://forthelordismylife.blogspot.com

    Thanks!!

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