Like many followers of Christ, I am often overwhelmed at the sin in my life and how little of Christ is actually formed in me. I’ll actually have moments, say of anger or envy, when my mind is suddenly awash with a single thought:
“Jim, you have so little of Jesus in you.”
I know the theology of such moments; not just the theology behind the reality of sin, but of sanctification and the dynamics of spiritual formation and transformation.
I also understand the emotional dynamics of spiritual discouragement.
But sometimes what seems to be missing is the vision of it all.
Yes, I know, Jesus is the vision. But that is a bit daunting, don’t you agree? Yes, it’s the ultimate target on the wall, but sometimes we need some “baby” steps.
Something a little short of perfection.
So here’s what I do.
I think about what I am like when I am at my best.
When I am at my best, I remind myself that people who are difficult for me are just as much God’s son or daughter as I am, and He is as foolish over them as I dream He is of me.
When I am at my best, I realize that other drivers are not objects of wrath, and that getting where I am going on time is trivial in relation to my character and the practice of patience.
When I am at my best, I realize that other local churches are not the competition, but my co-laborers in the field God placed me. Competition would not only be counter-productive, but ridiculous.
When I am at my best, I pray when I don’t feel like praying.
When I am at my best, I count blessings, not deprivations or challenges.
When I am at my best, I serve my wife; I don’t seek to be served.
When I am at my best, I realize that I have never locked eyes with anyone who doesn’t carry deep personal pain that should be understood and sympathized with.
When I am at my best, I understand I own nothing; I simply manage it for the One who does.
When I am at my best, I work at making sure I worship.
When I am at my best, I see the failings of others and whisper, “Well, that’s just their sin.” And then remind myself of my own.
I like who I am when I am at my best. And since I’ve glimpsed it, and occasionally experienced it, it’s a helpful goal.
It doesn’t replace striving to be like Jesus.
It just helps me take baby steps to Him.
James Emery White
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.