Last week, I was with my brothers, their respective wives/fiances/girlfriends, and my parents. Two out of four of us siblings live in different states so it’s not often that we are all together. We went out to dinner to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday. As I looked around the table, I observed with humor and awe that all of us are similar. We act like our parents! Growing up together we learned mannerisms, quirks, silly smiles, facial expressions, how to use our hands and arms while we talk, how to argue. We also have natural tendencies that appear to be genetic– like being messy and forgetful.
At 31 years old, I am aware of my sinful habits. I get anxious when things seem out of control, and when I get anxious, I get angry. I act fretful, feel fearful, start yelling. I don’t clean up everything I spill. I also seem to just get angry at insignificant things. Because of this, I have memorized a lot of scriptures about anger. For example:
- “Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20)
- “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3)
- “Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the bosom of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:9)
- “Be angry, but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26)
(…there are so many more!)
I really want to be more peaceful and less angry. I really do not want to forget to clean up my messes or misplace important things. I don’t want to interrupt when I’m excited or only care about what I have to say instead of listening to what others around me are saying…
So while I was observing my family, I realized that I am not the only one who has these specific sinful tendencies and habits. I know, it’s obvious, right? But I hadn’t considered before that here is my family, my parents, and they are struggling with the same sins that I am. They are a mirror to myself. When I’m irritated with them, I see myself. When we become Christians, it’s not like Jesus just immediately makes us perfect in every way, purifying us completely from our sinful natures. No, we have to “put on the Lord Jesus and make no provisions for the flesh, to satisfy its lusts” (Romans 13:14). We have to cry out to Him for help, for healing, for re-creating ourselves; we have to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2).
I guess what I’m really getting at here is that we are not alone in our sins. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:8). We are surrounded by other people who sin just as we do. I’m not alone in my struggle to not be ticked off by the slightest change in my day. I’m not the only one yelling at her kids to stop fighting because I don’t know what else to do. There are others who are trying to remember that God is holding them in the palm of His hand (John 10:29). I’ve gotten annoyed at myself because I can’t seem to stop sinning in these same areas again and again. But then I look at my family and I see they are like me, and then I see that I am not alone in the world. I am not failing God, like I have unconsciously believed. Now that I consider it, I believed that the Lord would point me out, “Oh look, there goes Jennifer, getting angry again.” Do you believe God’s pointing fingers at you? I did! (Yeah I’m not completely over that yet) but I’m learning to rest in His love. It’s ok that we fail. We are not the only ones struggling. He can uphold you; remember, it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. And now we are saints, only because of His gift of His righteousness that covers us.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
So I will continue to pray that the Lord helps me strive against sin. But I will not beat myself up when change doesn’t come quickly. I do not fully understand the mystery that we are being perfected and will be made completely perfect, but I will trust that Jesus will not let me stay as I am; He will transform me in the twinkling of an eye.
- “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10).
- “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
- “…the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:21)