I used to think I wasn’t a real Christian because I didn’t feel any different. God forgave my sins, and that was all well and good, but it didn’t make me magically care about him. I went through a long stage in life where I asked God to save me from my sins so many times, but it never really felt real to me. It was nice for that day, and then I went back to not caring. I started to hate myself so much because I thought if God had really forgiven my sins, I would be different. I would actually love him and want to follow him and read my bible and pray and do all that Christiany stuff. But I still hated it. Reading my bible was a chore, praying felt like nothing, and conversations about God were just awkward.
I’m still there sometimes, but I think I’m starting to realize that grace is a process, and Jesus does change things. A while ago at church they talked about the gospel and how a lot of times when we talk about it, we end it too early. Because God doesn’t just forgive us. He transforms us.
If God only forgave us, we’d still be broken. Off the hook but just as miserable. My brother is going through a divorce right now. It’s not all his fault but some of it is, and his heart is broken. But he is seeking God in this hard time, and God is changing him. If God only forgave his sin, my brother would be left in an empty home. Free from God’s wrath but just as shattered.
It would be like coming back from a murder trial where you were the guilty one, the murderer. Someone intervened on your behalf, and then what? You went home free. But still knowing that you killed someone, and perhaps your hands were wiped clean but your heart is still battered and guilty. God doesn’t want to stop there. He wants so much more for us. To transform us into the majestic creatures we were made to be, in his image.
The other thing about this is that God transforms us. We don’t transform ourselves, and it’s not something that happens in a moment. There are still moments of brokenness, moments of rebellion. I get so frustrated with myself all the time, because I don’t feel like I am changing at all. I feel like I am just the same as I have always been, and if I was a real Christian, I would be different by now.
I am crying a lot right now which feels stupid to me, but this is a lie that has taken hold of my heart so many times and it is so hard to shake off. I believe that I am not good enough for God, and that I have not changed enough for him.
But the truth is that he is changing me, on his own time line, and it’s not always a straight up path. Maybe it should be, but I am human and I wander. In my Children’s Literature class, we read something about how growing up is not like climbing a mountain straight up. We wander through valleys and plateaus, and I think that is perhaps also what it is like to be changed by Jesus. It’s not all at once. It’s a process of accepting grace every day.
A while ago, I was talking to my friend Clare who lives in New Zealand about what it means to be a Christian, and the truth is, I don’t really know a lot of the time. It was odd, though, because we discussed it at a time when I felt weak and lacking in faith, full of frustrations with the idea of Christianity, but reading over it now… I don’t know. I still don’t have all the answers, but I felt that my attitudes were a lot different. I don’t always know what God wants from me. But I know that God is good, and he wants to spend time with me, and he wants me to know him the way he knows me.
And I am trying to accept him, day by day.