This morning, sitting in pre-dawn chill with my cup of milky tea and my books spread helter-skelter over the glossy wood of our farmhouse-style table, I felt the Lord press onto my open heart new words for an old struggle.
“Do you see the ways you are still focusing on external perfection, instead of internal holiness?” the Spirit nudged my heart.
My heart beat faster as that clear phrase clicked in my muddied early morning thoughts. The puzzle pieces snapped together.
Yes. That is what I do. It is what I have done since I was a small girl, and it is what I still do, today.
I have been the cup – the one scrubbed spotless on the outside and yet ringed with oily filth on the inside.
I have spotless kitchen counters. And I have jumbled, disorderly dresser drawers.
I was the girl who cared more about the report card “A” than about having knowledge and wisdom stored in my head and heart.
And I am still the one who struggles with wanting my kiddos to be “good” so that others will think I am a good parent.
I beg God – daily – to remake my heart, to purify my motives, and make me care only about His glory – not my own.
But old habits die hard, and I still want to be perfect.
It’s funny… the things God uses to refine our hearts. I knew that I would wrestle with putting my kids in school for the first time. I have been their only teacher, and anything they don’t know, any areas they are behind in, point to my deficiencies. If they are not perfect, it means that I am not either.
Believe me, I know I am not. And I know they are not. But it’s easy to want to be a cup, scrubbed clean.
The writing project that has kept me for so long away from blogging is about shedding the fear of man by growing a right fear of the Lord. I have studied, researched, read, and prayed my way through this topic in the last nine months. But I haven’t conquered it. I still chase after “looking good,” when I should be pursuing inner holiness.
It doesn’t matter if my sweet girls score a perfect grade on a math test. It doesn’t matter if toys mutate and reproduce on my stained carpet before I have a chance to clean them up. God doesn’t demand worldly perfection from us. He doesn’t ask us to be the best at everything. He doesn’t require that we vacuum our floors after every meal or that we never flub a phonics quiz.
He wants our hearts. He wants them to be pure, set-apart for His use. He wants us to confess our sins, receive His forgiveness, and rest in His grace. He wants us to pursue holiness, honesty, humility, and love. The untidy heap of shoes in my entryway is not a sin. My attitude about it might be.
Life is not always going to come easy – for me, or my kids. There are things we are going to struggle with – whether it is math, or reading, or athletics, or crocheting (I can’t seem to learn). We aren’t perfect.
And we aren’t called to be. We are called to be holy.
There is a difference.