There are few stories, if any, in the Bible that are not raw, messy, and uncomfortably real. There’s this constant thread throughout the whole Bible in which God chooses screwed up, messed up, broken, real people to serve Him and be His. The most prominent example of this is Abraham. Here’s a guy who essentially gives his wife to Pharaoh in order to save his own skin, lacks faith in God’s promise to give him children, sleeps with his servant Hagar, and then all but banishes Hagar and their son, Ishmael. Pretty messed up, right? I mean, really… what a great dad. This trend doesn’t stop at Abraham. Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, comes out of the womb a manipulative, self-entitled jerk with quite the Napoleonic complex. In short, Jacob is so insecure that he disguises himself as his older brother, takes advantage of his father’s blindness, and steals Esau’s inheritance. So far, we’ve got great examples to follow, right? But this is the way God chooses to unfold his plan…through screw-ups. Later on we’ve got Moses, the guy with a speech impediment and, not to mention, is a murderer. Then, there’s King David, who sleeps with his friend’s wife and later has his friend killed. And you can’t forget, Samson who has a tragic weakness for beautiful, Philistine women. Later on we have all of Jesus’ disciples who, I mean, come on, included revolutionaries, stereotypical sailors, prostitutes, and corrupt tax collectors. And then there was the Apostle Paul who murdered Christians…so yeah. The Bible is full of screw-ups. I only list all of these examples to show that your sin and brokenness don’t disqualify you. I mean literally, all of the people God chose to carry out his will were complete, and utter sinners.
These were real people with real problems and real struggles. They weren’t people who had their crap together or even pretended to. On the contrary, they had nothing together. These guys even screwed up after they had received God’s promise and will. In fact, Abraham received God’s promise of a great nation of God’s chosen people before he ever gave up his wife to Pharaoh, or before he slept with his servant, or he banished his own son. God chose Abraham long before he ever screwed up. Abraham is actually the guy Paul says we are to model our faith after. In Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he says Abraham’s righteousness had nothing to do with anything Abraham ever did. It wasn’t based on “works.” It was based on faith. “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13). God’s faithfulness didn’t run out when Abraham’s faithfulness did. Even when Abraham lost faith in God and he slept with Hagar, God was still faithful to Abraham. See, it’s not your actions that define you…it’s God’s promise. He still upheld his part of the covenant and if he didn’t scrap the whole thing with Abraham, he’s not going to let go of you. The Psalmist says God knows our “frame”, or in other words, he knows we can’t reach his standard. He knows what we’re made of…and it’s not much. We fail…and we fail a lot…and He loves us.
In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.” God doesn’t want someone who thinks they have it together or that they’re even a good person. He wants someone who knows his or her real state. He wants the real you. He wants you with all your sin, all your mess, and all your brokenness. He doesn’t want “some ideal person” because there are none. No one is ideal. Even those people (wwho act like they’re not broken or hurt or caught up in sin, totally are all of those things. Our sin is so pervasive and unfathomable. We all probably sin against God a billion times a day, what with our deep, subconscious desires, hidden motives, and wicked suppressed thoughts. There’s no way around it. We’re sinners, and we’re great sinners. And we’re still going to sin, even after we encounter Jesus. But if the bad news is that bad, imagine how good the good news must be. Often times, well more like everyday, I’ll fall into despair over my own sin, whether it’s the wicked, selfish thoughts that run through my head, or my actualized failures, and tell myself that that’s what defines me. That I am my sin. But Jesus tells me something totally different. He tells me I’m His… I am Abba’s child. It’s not your actions that define you. In the words of Anne Lamott, “If you are what you do, and you fail, what then?” The point is we’re going to fail, so we better not put hope in what we do or fail to do. The great thing is God doesn’t see our failures. Instead, he looks at us and sees Jesus. According to the Psalmist, “even the darkness is not dark” to God. He’s not surprised by your screw-ups and he still loves you and wants to use you just like Abraham. We often get caught up in thinking God is just like us. He’s not. For one thing, he is outside of time. Therefore, he sees the future, perfected you, not the past or present you. There is nothing you have done and nothing you will do that will ever disqualify you from God’s grace in Jesus Christ. We aren’t defined by our actions (good or bad), we’re defined by Jesus. Rejoice in that truth and rest in Him who defines you. Go to the Lord as you are, with all our your sin, screw-ups, selfish motives, dark desires, and hateful thoughts and be real with Him. His response every time will be the same…”my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). His power was made perfect in the weakness and brokenness of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samson, David, Peter, and Paul, and his power and love will be perfected in you and your weakness, too.