Ever had one of those days? You know, one of those days when you super glue your rings together, dent the tailgate of your car, and broke your parents’ garage door — none of it on purpose and all in the same hour? Yesterday, I had one of those days.
I hate making “mistakes.” They make me feel careless and imperfect to control my surroundings and actions. But yesterday happened anyway, and in it, I was reminded that I’m not above my humanity, and I’ll never be perfect. It’s the kind of humble pie that isn’t so easy to swallow.
Often I feel this way about my faith too. I sin and I beat myself up over that sin, treating myself with disappointment and holding my standard for self-forgiveness and grace higher than the one God has set, as if my standards for these gifts are higher than His. The truth is, I don’t like to mess up, make bad choices, or be privy to my imperfect human nature. I want to live the perfect, righteous, Christian life; following God and doing everything His way … but my imperfect, still-being-refined humanity can get in the way.
The heralded “Hall of Fame of Faith” chapter in Hebrews 11 doesn’t help my feeling of inadequacy. At least, not at first. It’s a beautiful account of faithful warriors of the past who trusted God and walked closely with Him. It’s easy for me to forget that despite these accounts of their amazing examples of faith, courage, and hope, these people weren’t perfect in their faith, and yet they’re still recorded here as models for us now. The Bible never shies away from showing us the sins and fallacies of the faithful – and Abraham was no exception. Chosen as the Patriarch of our faith by God Himself, Abraham had some exemplary moments in his faith life – rescuing slaves, fighting battles against powerful kings in the name of the Lord, and interceding through prayer for grave sin; but he also had some pitiful moments – lying about his wife (more than once), fathering an illegitimate child, and refusing to be patient for God’s timing. Abraham’s faith wasn’t perfect – but who are we to point fingers? Neither is ours.
Yet here is the comforting part that offers us great hope: While we’re imperfect in living out our faith and its attributes, God is completely perfect in His faithfulness to us. Despite Abraham’s failures, God never reneged His promises to Abraham (Genesis 22:17-18). These heroes of faith found in Hebrews 11 are less about who they are as virtuous people and more about the hope and righteousness that God continually provides when we trust in Him, despite our fallen humanity.
We don’t have to be – and frankly, we can’t be – perfect Christians. We’ll make poor choices that lead to sin and regret. But for those of us in Christ, we can rest assured that God sees us as righteous, just as He did for the people before us. And this has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Jesus’ righteousness being given to us. This reminder keeps me steady, makes me feel less intimidated about living up to the benchmarks of Hebrews 11, and helps me realize this life isn’t about perfection. It’s about faithfulness.
Johanna Inwood is a South Florida transplant now living in Colorado Springs, Colo. with her husband, Tim. She works in marketing for a Christian book publishing company and has deep affection for strong coffee, palm trees, bright colors, and purse-sized dogs. Learn more at her website, johannainwood.com.