There was a time when I was obsessed with obedience to God. I was neurotic, guilt-ridden, and completely self-centered. In time, that wore me out, and I eventually collapsed into the arms of Jesus and asked Him to save me from my sins – and my wacked-out understanding of salvation.
In no time at all, I was swerving to the other side of the road and developed a carelessness about the need for holiness in the Christian life. Spiritual disciplines? Those were for modern-day Pharisees. Sanctification? That was God’s work, not mine.
And then I got married.
As it turns out, my nonchalant attitude towards holiness had a very direct impact on the woman sharing her life with me. There was no sin of mine that didn’t affect her. Where my sins had always been my problem, now they were our problem. And I had to decide whether to dig in my heels or change.
Kicking and screaming, I slowly began the long, hard process of change. To put it another way, I started loving more and sinning less. I had to, or she was going to be miserable – we were going to be miserable. It helped our marriage, eliminated a lot of spiritual static in my heart, and gave me better things to talk to God about.
The downside: with consistent obedience came toxic pride, the sense that I deserved at least some of the credit for my progress. And the problem with being proud of spiritual progress is that you can’t handle anything that reminds you that, in fact, you haven’t really come that far.
Lately, for example, I’ve been ignoring some of the obvious areas where I’m still very broken. I’d rather pretend I’ve got it together than deal with the reality that God has more work to do. But then the other day, I had a moment of clarity, in which it hit me that since God is omnipotent and all, He’s probably well-apprised of how jacked-up I still am.
So I uttered a quick, plain-English prayer, and just opened up to God about my brokenness, feeling slightly humiliated.
And though God didn’t respond in an audible voice, His Spirit dropped a word of holy common sense into my heart. It sounded something like this: “Why are you so embarrassed? Do you think I don’t know the temptations you face and the sins you still give into? Stop trying to ignore the very weaknesses that make you realize how badly you need Me. Remember: ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'” (Mark 2:17).
What a relief. All over again, I realized that Jesus saved me from my sin, not from my need for Him. And there’s nothing like my brokenness to remind me of that.