On days when I feel I’m getting everything wrong. Days when I continually mess up. When I know the right thing to do and yet somehow I keep choosing the wrong thing. When I snap at the people I love the most. When I hold opportunity in my hands and keep dropping it on the floor. When I am reminded keenly of my weaknesses, my failures, my flaws. Days when I understand exactly what Paul says in Romans 7: 18-25
For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
“Wretched man that I am!” – I can almost hear Paul crying it out. I have cried out my own version of it.
But, what can I do? How do I keep from messing up? I am not Jesus. I’m not even Paul (though it is comforting knowing that even he experienced the struggle I feel within my own heart!).
Remember that God knows all our flaws and loves us anyway
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust. ~ Psalm 103:13-14
“He remembers that we are dust” – he is the very one who lovingly, intimately formed us from that dust! We cannot hide our ugliest, broken parts from him and yet, he shows us not just tolerance but compassion. And his compassion is not like ours. He is able to do what humans cannot – take away the sting and guilt and debt of our sins:
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us. ~ Psalm 103:11-12
Remember that God can use my brokenness for His glory
Sometimes we forget that God didn’t call us because we were so wonderful or numerous or strong (Deuteronomy 7). He didn’t “need” us – we needed Him – and His salvation desperately. I could not accomplish or do any good, except through His power, His mercy, His grace. As someone else has said, “God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” Our brokenness lived in faith points to his goodness, His glory, His power.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.
~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Remember that confession cleanses the heart and God can recreate what is broken
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
~ Psalm 51:7-12
When we realize that we have messed up, when we realize the far-reaching consequences of our sin and brokenness, that should drive us to the only one who can fix it! And he doesn’t just bandage the wound and leave it to scab over. He heals us completely to a joy and beauty beyond what we could have imagined.
Remember this feeling the next time we see someone else mess up
Remember how it felt to be broken? To feel like nothing you did was working? To know that you kept messing up? Well, that imperfection is not something unique to you or to me. We are all in need of grace. We are all in need of a savior. And in Paul’s words: Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:25). When we see someone else mess up, remember and share the grace of Christ, as it has been so richly shared with us.