Black & White

My mother prayed for her children nearly every day that we would “grow up to be lovers of the Truth.” For my part, I believe the Lord answered her request. But I believe her prayer also lent itself to my rather black-and-white personality, and therein lies my difficulty. I do love the Word, but sometimes I wonder if what I actually love more is being right. Perhaps my “passion for the truth” is more accurately a super-spiritual way of saying I like things to have clear, boxed-up, formulaic answers. This is not all bad, but it can have several negative implications to my way of life.

It translates into the way I keep my home. Tidy, mostly organized, meals planned and schedule attended. But beneath the surface, a more critical eye would see that the toilets have a grimy ring, the baseboards are dusty and the closets, attic and basement storage hide all manner of clutter in the abyss. It’s time to admit that when it comes to my home (and, if I’m being honest, my heart), I often care more about gaining the good opinion of others through outward appearances than that of cultivating inward purity. “Behold, You desire truth in the inmost places…” (Psalm 51:6) I’m not necessarily convicted that the Lord is calling me to have either a cleaner or messier house, but the parallel is interesting to note. Do I really love the truth in the dark, hidden places? Do I truly long for the Spirit to expose the secret sin swept under the carpet in shame?

It impacts the way I cultivate my friendships and share Christ with unbelievers. I have said that I like to have answers for things, boxed up in a neat little package. But getting even more real, perhaps I should substitute for “answers”, the word “opinions.” Personal opinions are all-too-often misconstrued for godly convictions, and I am all-too-willing to share those sentiments with friends that may not need or want to hear it. And how helpful is it to share the gospel primarily on the basis of argument? No one likes to look stupid or feel inferior in a debate, and striving to prove another wrong rarely wins souls. “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” (vv. 12-13) Is not mercy more attractive than condemnation to a friend? Is not joy more contagious than judgment to a sinner?

It effects the way I raise my children. Too often, I discipline outward behavior rather than shepherding the inner motives of their hearts. I have reacted in anger over accidental spills and rushed through a discipline session without taking the time to fully reconcile the relationship more times than I’d care to admit. “You do not desire sacrifice…You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite heart – these, O God, You do not despise.” (vv. 16-17) Do I teach my children to go through the religious motions and attain to a socio-cultural standard of behavior, or do I raise them to understand that none of that stuff matters, if they have not the love of Jesus in their hearts? Do I show love them because they behave well, or do I love them simply because they are mine – as Father God loves me?

Similarly, it influences the way I relate to my husband. We’ve worked some of these issues out, but especially when I was first married, I spent a lot of energy expecting Matthew to be more driven to achieve and make a name for himself based on that performance. I wanted him to build a resumé, do all the “right” things to gain the respect and praise of man. I am now extremely proud of my husband’s occupational and ministerial choices, but I have had to do serious business with the Lord concerning some deep expectations and hopes I had going into the marriage. I had to ask, do I love my husband for what he does, or do I love and support him on the basis of who he is? Do I encourage him to succeed before the eyes of man, or am I firstly committed to the standing of his heart before God, which is never judged on the basis of worldly success?

Which brings me to the final way this black-and-white, self-righteous attitude affects my life: It reflects on my relationship with Jesus. If I’ve held my family to a certain standard of success in my heart, then I’ve held my own person to an impossible one. Again and again, I’ve found myself once again relating to God on the basis on my own merit and come to the startling reminder that everything good I’ve ever done is worthless, and every sin of my heart is paid for, covered by the blood of Jesus. As Paul says,But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9). Is Jesus truly my everything? Have I counted all as loss for the sake of gaining Him?

I’m not trying to be self-deprecating to my personality here. To love the truth and stand for it does not necessitate being a self-conscious neat-freak, judgmental of others, raising perfectionist kids and anxious for the reputation and performance of my husband, or of striving to gain God’s favor by my own merit. I know I’ve tended toward some of those behaviors in the past, but I believe there is a redemptive way to carry godly passion for Truth in true righteousness – not self righteousness. I’m still not sure what that looks like, but I’m on the journey and I finally think I’m asking the Lord the right questions, rather than spouting all the “right” answers.

In blog entries past, I’ve shared the “finished” product. Lessons already learned, written and posted in a clean-cut, polished package. But this is just messy. This is me figuring out who I am created to be in the present, and putting it out there without any clear answers. And so, perhaps it is more authentic. I invite you to share the journey with me and come to the Cross again, asking Jesus to renew our minds and show us the way forward that leads to fullness of life!

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