I recently heard an interesting phrase. I’m quoting somebody who’s quoting somebody else, so I’ll probably butcher it. But it goes something like this:
So many of us live with habitual feelings of disappointing God.
Each Sunday morning, during our prayer of confession in church, here’s some of what often comes to mind:
- God, I’m sorry for not getting into the office sooner this week.
- I’m sorry for playing too many video games.
- I’m sorry for not going to the gym as much as I wanted to.
- I’m sorry that I didn’t call that church member I intended to.
- I’m sorry I didn’t do as much long-range planning like I wanted.
- I’m sorry I didn’t have the guts to confront that staff member when I should have.
- I’m sorry I chose to sleep in too late and let Sara get the kids ready on Friday.
- I’m sorry I didn’t get that particular meeting organized.
- I’m sorry I chose to stay up too late and not get enough sleep.
- I’m sorry that I ate too much junk food this week.
- I’m sorry that our church isn’t growing like it should.
- I’m sorry for fantasizing about a different life than the one I have.
- I’m sorry that there are church members who used to come but don’t now and I haven’t reached out to them enough.
- I’m sorry that I got more excited to play a video game than I was about that new member at church.
- I’m sorry that reading your word feels like a chore.
- I’m sorry that I don’t pray for people enough.
- I’m sorry for not spending enough time with my kids.
- I’m sorry for sitting on the couch after the kids went to sleep instead of washing dishes.
As you can imagine, the fifteen seconds of silence I get in the service never feels like enough! At the risk of over-sharing, I want you to have a clear picture how I feel that I regularly disappoint God.
Before I was married, when I struggled with porn more than I do now (not that marriage eradicated this struggle…), I used to think to myself, “Man! If only I could beat this… I would be so much closer to God. How great it would be to be free of habitual sin, to not feel ashamed of myself.
Now, if a person were to come to me for counseling, and tell me everything I’ve just said, I would respond to them by saying that God’s love is not dependant upon our actions. That while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God doesn’t wait for us to get our act together before he offers his love. Romans 5:8, check it out.
Cognitively, I understand that. But my pride gets in the way. God’s unconditional love is fine for you. But I’m called to a higher standard. God expects more out of me. Granted, I wouldn’t ever say it in those terms, but I think my holding myself to a higher standard is rooted in my own pride. I feel like I can handle more than others. Sure, you need God’s grace. I don’t. God is pleased with me because of how I live my life (on the good days).
To make my pride sound theological, I point out that God’s grace requires a response, certain behaviors. I consider all the portions of Scripture, like Romans 6, right after Romans 5:8, where Paul exhorts the Roman Christians to discontinue their sins in response to God’s grace. After all, when Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery, he famously said, “Go and sin no more.”
This is all a smokescreen. Sure, we are required to respond to God’s grace. But do we honestly believe that the woman Jesus forgave literally never sinned again? When Jesus died for our sins, God already knew all of them. It’s not like God’s got a bowl of popcorn, just watching my life unfold, wincing at every wrong move, saying, “Crap, Austin! Why’d you go to Wendy’s again? At least just drive another half mile to Hy-Vee and get some chicken and vegetables!
We have a bedtime routine with both kids that consists of either Sara or me lying by the kids’ bed, praying, and singing a few songs. We always ask who they want to pray for, and they usually respond with the same list, and then which songs they want to sing. For Lylah it has frequently been Amazing Grace and O Come All Ye Faithful (because they’re long, she says). For Everett, his favorites are Jesus Loves Me, Step by Step, and Be Thou My Butt. I tell him I don’t know that one, and he proceeds to sing it for me.
Lying in the bed next to him, I sing these songs to him, staring up at a dark ceiling. I wonder what he’ll think of these songs when he gets older.
Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so…
Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves, Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.
Everett may not know it, but these songs are just as much for me as they are for him.