27 March, 2017
I sat down the other night to watch a documentary about the paleo diet and lifestyle, armed with cookies, dairy and a glass of wine. It made me laugh at myself and reminded me of how weird we are as human beings, how inconsistent we are with ourselves.
A lot of the time it just makes me laugh to myself, as I watch people, myself included, delude ourselves out of doing what we think to be right. My vegan family are very happy to eat Oreos, because they don’t contain any milk solids. But if you come at me with m&ms, back off, buddy.
We are just so silly, and I think it’s good to laugh at ourselves sometimes. Jesus said of the Pharisees, the strict religious leaders of his day, that they “strain a gnat but swallow a camel”. They were so serious about such small details of their religious purity, while ignoring the things that really mattered. In other words, they were hypocrites.
We all have values, things that we hold to be important; faith, family, friends, a certain lifestyle that we see to be valuable, a certain social issue worth campaigning. And yet we fall so far short of living consistently with what we claim is really important.
Hip Hop artist Sho Baraka said it really well, in his song, Kanye Rant:
“My white friends think I’m all about black power, my black friends live in they ebony tower, my artist friends have terrible work habits, my Christian friends got the truth but live passive. I reproduce they habits, I can’t even hate. I guess we all brothers but I still can’t relate. If we say God is real why we act so fake?”
He jokes, half-seriously, that many of the people around him are hypocrites, as he is himself; and above all, the “church folk”. We know that God is real, but we live “passive”, as though it doesn’t really matter, as though it isn’t a fact that should change absolutely everything.
I’ve been through many a church service that has moved me, has challenged and encouraged me, has helped me press on to grow to be more like Jesus. And then when the service is over, we are back to the dirty jokes, discussing the latest Netflix shows (I’m really enjoying Iron Fist), and how much we hate our jobs.
I’m just as bad. I get up here on my blog and preach to people about mental health, about faith, and joy, and then I go back to resentment and feeling depressed when I have a bad day. I overeat, and complain to myself about my weight gain and acne. I never phone my friends, and complain that no-one wants to hang out with me. I stay up late on social media, and complain about poor sleep.
In so much of my life, I’m a fraud. I’m a walking contradiction. And Mr relentless self-criticism never fails to remind me on a daily basis.
The Apostle Paul says about his struggle with sin, “I don’t do what I want to do… I do the very thing I hate.”
I think everyone knows this struggle very well. Our culture tells us to do whatever we feel, yet this leaves us broken and empty. At some point in our lives, we all need to come to the realisation that we want what we shouldn’t, and we don’t want what we should. That our bodies and our minds lie to us sometimes, and promise us things that won’t make us happy.
We Are But Men
Jesus said, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” For many of us, we want to trust in God and follow his will, but we are at war within ourselves to do the right thing.
Even our culture understands this to a degree – to be human is to be weak. If we say we are “only human”, we mean that we make mistakes, we fall short of our standards, and we don’t always do the right thing, just like everybody else.
It is infuriating, and also relieving at the same time. We cannot reach our own standard, let alone God’s – absolute perfection. And yet God knows this struggle. As the beautiful Christmas song puts it, “He knows our needs, to our weakness is no stranger.”
Almost every religion and worldview says the same thing – If this set of rules isn’t working, “Try harder”, because you just aren’t doing it right. And yet through the Bible, God says something quite different. He says, “Trust me instead.” Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am loved, forgiven, and always accepted, now and forever. Through trusting him, I’m made right with God, and all of my failure, past, present, and future, is dealt with.
Another hip hop artist, Swoope, said it perfectly. He wrote a whole album called Sinema about struggling with lust, guilt, and shame, and at the end of the album, on a song called Fix My Heart, he says, “Jesus – I’m leaning on no other name. Stay grinding, even though I suffer pain. I’mma win some, I’mma lose some, but I’mma live to fight another day.”
I put that quote on my wall. When I get angry at myself, I remember that God always accepts me. When I get angry at others for being hypocrites, I don’t forget that I am too, and I’m given the strength to be better, and help others be better too.
Grace for Failures is the blog of Carlin Doyle to encourage and inspire people who have gotten life wrong for a long time, and want to try and do things a little differently. Click here for more info and here for more posts.