God, sometimes I feel
like I’m not a good Christian in Your eyes,
like You’re a Father disappointed in me,
frustrated, wishing I would do more, be more,
and I wonder are You proud of me?
Am I a good Christian?
Do I make You smile?
I don’t want to fail.
I don’t want to disappoint You.
and sometimes I feel like I’m
not as spiritual as I used to be.
I’m afraid that I’ll slip away from You,
slowly fade and become lost.
I don’t want this.
Can I stop trying to earn Your love?
Can I stop trying to be a good Christian?
– from my journal, 2008
For years I tried.
I read through my Bible in a year more times than I can remember. (Once, I spent a New Year’s Eve party reading the entire book of Revelation, beating the deadline by thirty minutes.)
I memorized several books of the New Testament. I was an All-Star Bible Quizzer.
I attended Teen Camp, and went forward at nearly every invitation. Not to get saved (I had prayed that prayer when I was nine years old), but to rededicate my life to God, to repent of all my unconfessed sins, to dedicate my life to full-time Christian ministry.
I carried tracts with me and tried to get strangers saved – at parades, at picnics, at gas stations.
I spent three years in discipleship and ministry after high school. Reading the Bible. Searching for new insights. Memorizing verses. Claiming God’s promises. Trying to be on fire for the Lord.
I attempted to stifle the desires in my heart that competed with God for my affections. My aching for friends, for beaches and mountains, for music, for a girl by my side – I stuffed them inside, repented, tried to find my delight only in God.
I raised my hand when the preacher asked, “Who will commit to pray for an hour a day, every day for the rest of their life?” I raised my hand every time a preacher asked us to make a commitment, really. If there was a way to be a better Christian, I would do it. No matter the cost.
I wanted so desperately to please God.
It was summer, and we were on the tail end of a weekend camping trip. We chose Hardee’s, because where else can you get a 2/3-pound burger? I sat across the little table from my future father-in-law just a few months before the wedding. Over burgers and curly fries I told him all the worries and fears I carried in my heart.
“I feel like I’m not a very good Christian anymore”, I confessed.
I was in Bible College now, but constantly felt like I was disappointing God. It had been years since the last time I’d raised my hand and made a commitment to be a better Christian. I wasn’t on fire anymore, and it worried me.
“I’m not as spiritual as I used to be. I don’t read my Bible. I don’t pray as much as I should. I’m more worldly,” I told him.
He looked at me and shook his head.
“You’re right, you have changed. You’re less judgmental now. More loving. Right now, you’re more like Jesus than you’ve ever been.”
I didn’t believe him.
There is no fear in love, but fear had wrapped itself around me like a chain. Whenever I paused to hear the voice of the Father, only condemnation echoed in my heart.
Am I good enough for You yet?
The question tormented me. When I knelt to pray, what came out of my mouth was stammered apologies for my inconsistency. I nearly gave up on reading my Bible; all I could think about was all the days I hadn’t. All the days I had disappointed God.
I always thought it was the big moments that defined my faith – the altar calls, the church retreats, the commitments. The kind of thing you write in the back of your Bible to remember later on.
But it didn’t happen that way.
I couldn’t tell you the day I made that decision, when I gave up on being a “good Christian”.
The best way I can tell it to you is that I was drowning, desperately thrashing against the water and slowly falling limp.
I drifted lifeless. Then He saved me all over again, as if for the first time.
I don’t want to be a “good Christian” anymore.
The constant wondering if I’m good enough, the nagging fear that I’m not. The guilt. Those were miserable years.
But this, this is life!
I’ve given up on trying to please God, on being good enough for Him.
I’ve given up on earning His love, but it fills my heart anyway.
This is freedom.
Now I’m falling, over and over again, into love that will not let me go.
I can feel the Father’s smile, and I’m smiling too.
[ Image: go2grace.org ]