Jennie was not really sure how or when she began to fall away from her relationship with Christ, all she knew was that over time her desire to know Christ was replaced by a desire for perfection. Jennie can very clearly remember sitting in the living room with her mom in their house in Spokane Valley when she was 3 years old and asking how someone becomes a Christian. After being told that all she had to do was ask Jesus into her heart, she prayed for this with her mom. Jennie’s relationship with Christ, though she was young, was very real. She doesn’t think she’s ever had such a pure desire to know and obey her Savior as she did in the first few years of her relationship with Christ (nor has she ever been so good at sharing the gospel – every grocery clerk she met was well aware that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins). However, sometimes people who come to know Christ as
young children need to be reintroduced to Jesus as adults.
I have to be perfect to be a Christian...
As a youth, Jennie truly believed that knowing Christ and being perfect were one in the same; that “being moral” was being a Christian. So she tried desperately to be perfect in everything – without seeking help from Christ. Sure she was also reading her Bible and going to church – but she was doing so to mark it off her checklist not in order to be in closer relationship with Christ. Beginning at a young age, Jennie would make a list every night of things to accomplish the next day. She would break up her lists according to the time period in which things needed to be accomplished (i.e. 6:00am wake up, 6:05am brush teeth and take a shower, 6:15am get dressed, 6:20am read Bible, etc.) and each night she would assess her progress. Jennie would beat herself up over things that she had written on her list and not accomplished.
This compulsive behavior continued to intensify throughout her childhood and into college. In high school, Jennie’s self-accusations turned into self-mutilation, something she continued into college. She became obsessed not only with staying orderly and keeping a schedule, but also with her grades. Anything less than 100% was not good enough. She literally set an impossible standard for herself. During this period, Jennie also tried to live in two worlds. She led her sorority Bible study and attended church but she also had a sexual relationship with her college boyfriend and felt like she was constantly on the edge of a nervous breakdown. She had absolutely no idea what it meant to “live by the grace of God” and truly believed that being a Christian meant never making mistakes. Jennie held herself and others to the impossible standard of perfect and was often a walking time-bomb about to angrily explode at anything that did not go her way.
An Unlikely Source of the Gospel
Enter an unlikely source to share the gospel with her. Jennie met her husband, Jon, her junior year of college. Jon was not walking with Christ at the time of their meeting and the very last person she thought Christ would have for her as a husband. Jennie’s to-be husband was a partier and all that encapsulated a “typical Wazzu frat guy”, but God was pursing his heart and in February of his senior year of college, God gripped his heart. Jon and Jennie had just started dating when he met Christ and over the course of their dating and engagement she would become frustrated by how easily he accepted the Grace given to him. She wanted him to feel and experience the same guilt she did, to which he would respond, “I can’t do anything about my past, Jennie, that old man is dead anyhow”.
Love Came as a Post-It Note
This tension of her trying to hold her husband hostage to his past, and his desire to live in God’s grace continued into their marriage. Jennie’s heart was hard and she continued to hold her husband and herself to the impossible standard of “perfect”. Fortunately, God was on the move and it all started in a whisper in the way of a post-it note. One morning, in the first week of their marriage, Jennie woke to a post-it note on the side of a homemade latte from her husband. On the note were words saying that she was very loved. The next morning there was another post-it note conveying the same loving sentiment. Soon there was a week’s worth of post-it notes, then a month’s worth, then a year’s worth. It didn’t matter if they had had a fight the night before or if she had said hurtful things to Jon. Every morning, there was a latte and a love note. And her hard heart slowly started to soften.
A U-Turn in Life
Jennie began to want the freedom that her husband had. Jon seemed to live in Grace that she could barely grasp. He didn’t have angry outburst like Jennie did, he didn’t hold grudges, and was so patient with other’s shortcomings. It was through living day in and day out with her husband that she began to remember something long forgotten: that as a three year old she loved Jesus not because that is what “perfect people” do, but because she knew of his love for her. So at the age of 25, Jennie took a U-turn in her life and started on her way back to the arms of Jesus.
Let It Go, Choose Me
Today, Jennie still deals with perfectionism, she still doesn’t want to have people over unless her house is impeccably clean, at night you can still find her sometimes nagging her husband over stupid things, and the mornings at times find her wishing that she had a “grander” agenda than making snacks for a toddler, doing the dishes, and menu planning. But now something is different! She doesn’t stay in those places of perfectionism. When she starts to get irritated over tiny handprints all over the TV that she just cleaned an hour ago, she hears a voice, “let it go, choose Me, rest in Me”. When she begins to worry that she is not a good enough mom or stress over the fact that her two year old definitely knows how to work the hand-held devices that the experts all warn adamantly against, she hears a voice, “let it go, choose Me, rest in Me”.
A Perfect God Instead of a Perfect Life
Jennie now finds herself marveling at the way Christ is changing her. This year, in particular, she has truly felt called to a higher place. She now feels she understands God’s mission for her life; God has called her to the “every day”. Jennie is being called to serve her husband and son, to show God’s grace to the store clerk, and to show up to church on Sunday and Bible Study on Wednesday. This may seem simple to some, but to her, it is a true calling because she doesn’t see herself as a servant by nature. Jennie is loving Christ by choosing Him over anger, over self-pity, over discontentment and perfectionism. Every time she starts to feel frustrated she now says, “I cannot do this, I am tired and angry, fill me up with your Spirit, help me glorify you, I am too weak to do this on my own”. Just the same way a young child experiences relationship with their parent when they ask for help or healing when they run to their parent with a hurt knee after a fall, Christ also buries Jennie in His arms after her hurts and disappointments and brings her to a new place of maturity in Him. Today, Jennie’s life is not perfect, but now she knows God’s grace is.