The Image

Dear Lord,

So far today, God, I’ve done alright. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or over-indulgent. I’m really glad about that. But in a few minutes, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on I’m probably going to need a lot more help.

Amen.
There is this image that I constantly wrestle with. One I feel thrust upon me whether I want it or not. It is this image of having to be squeaky-clean, confident in God and self, knows the Word of God inside out, enthusiastic, has inner peace, fun-loving, bubbling over with joy, and full of wisdom. It really has little to do with me being a minister. It has all to do with me being a Christian. Someone somewhere along the way in history this sort of image has been thrust upon us. This is what a “successful” Christian is supposed to look like. I’m not quite sure how or when this standard was established but it is there. I k now you know that too. You’ve had it thrust upon you. You try to live up to it but know that you don’t. You try to prop up that image for others to see so they don’t see what is really going on with you. We’ve learned that we need to present this image at all times, particularly to the non-believing crowds so they desire what I’m displaying.

But what if they knew of the times I’m angry with God? What if they knew that I don’t understand the simple Gospel of Luke? There was a time I re-read Luke three times in less than six months and did not understand it. What if they knew that my faith in God’s faithfulness is only as much as I start to feel pain? What if they saw this cross I have to carry?

Sure, I do talk about my struggles. The struggles I’ve had. I present to them a finished product having dealt with sins and struggles in my past or at least those which have been freshly conquered. Again a shining example of the work of God in my life. A good reason for them to allow God into their lives.

But when have I ever had a day that I’ve conquered all my sins and struggles? When have I been a finished product?

Do you notice how a line has been drawn. It is “us” and “them.” Them are all those dirty rotten sinners in need of God. But isn’t that me too? I am in need of God. I have questions. I have struggles. I have sinned (but not today I say in my regular image denial).

Truth is there is no line. There is this long path with some places wide and some places narrow. We (us and them) are all at some point along that path. There is a line on the path drawn by the blood of Jesus. While crossing that line brings about many good things in a person’s life and a chance for a new start, the path narrows and there is a cross waiting for us to pick up. I personally may be further along that path which means I have more responsibility and more expected out of me but there is no line along that path that I have crossed and have “made it.” I have created that line to preserve this image I want of myself. It’s an image that I care about more sometimes than I do for lost and loved souls.

Could it possibly be that God can work through my failures? Could it be that God can do even more through my confession than through my cover-up? Could it be that God’s power can be perfected in my weakness? “But He replied, ‘My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.’ So if Christ keeps giving me His power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. This image thrust upon me doesn’t allow me to brag nor does it allow me to talk about how weak I am. Yet it is Christ’s kindness that I need to help with my struggles and I receive that when I am weak. Could it be God’s grace working in my life daily that draws “them” rather than the finished product? I am not a finished product. I know deep down I am really foolishness, hiding behind my own wisdom. “But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame.” 1 Corinthians 1:27a. My so-called image is really a sham.

I think God can draw “them” unto Him by His attributes, not mine. It’s not through my life they are saved but through His. It’s time my life displays that.

Can I humble myself and admit that I don’t understand Luke? What will people think? After all, I am a minister of the gospel, the writer of words, twenty-plus years along this path.

They will see that they are not the only ones with questions and struggles. They will see that I, too, am dependent on God as my source. Me, a minister of the gospel, the writer of words, twenty-plus years along this path, am in constant need of God. You better believe it!