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I have a collarbone problem; an asymmetrical irregularity.  I honestly don’t know if it is a congenital condition or the result of a childhood accident or injury that never healed properly.  If symmetrically arranged, my collarbones would more or less mirror each other, roughly pointing to 9:15 if they were hands on the face of clock.  However, my clavicle clock is stuck somewhere between 9:10 and 9:12.  This odd skeletal arrangement results in a left shoulder that appears shorter and higher than my right shoulder, with a similar distortion in the appearance of my trapezoids.  A shirt suffices to disguise this oddity from most people, but I see it in the mirror every single morning when I shave.

My left thumb doesn’t match my right one.  The end of “lefty” got mangled and nearly severed in a nasty car door accident when I was in kindergarten.  My left calf is noticeably smaller than my right one.  It has been that way ever since my junior year in high school when I spent an extended period of time in a leg cast following a football injury.  I have a “missing” knuckle where my ring finger joins my left hand, the result of a fracture while playing flag football in college; the knuckle still exists, but is hidden because of misalignment.

Just call me Nemo!  (For those of you who have never seen Finding Nemo, you really should take in this extremely entertaining and endearing animated film!)

Asymmetry is a tough pill to swallow for recovering perfectionists like me.  I once paused during a sermon several years ago and moved an artificial plant on the podium so that it would precisely mirror the position of the one on the other side of the pulpit.  Once order had been restored to the universe, I was able to proceed with the message.

I’ve come to learn that owning and embracing my physical asymmetry is a part of humbly acknowledging and accepting my humanness and my imperfection.

The same thing goes for my spiritual asymmetry.

I can now comfortably accept that God expects my faithfulness, not my flawlessness.  The latter is simply not within the realm of possibility for me.  I can rest in the confidence that He desires persistence and perseverance in my faith, not perfection.  I no longer have to live with the false guilt that I don’t measure up or unnecessarily inflict spiritual and emotional damage upon myself by trying to project and protect an image that neither I nor anyone else can live up to.

The apostle Paul describes his own spiritual asymmetry as follows:

“I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it.  Instead, I do what I hate…  I want to do what is good, but I don’t.  I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway…   Oh, what a miserable person I am!  Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” (Romans 7:15, 19, 24 – NLT).

Like Paul, I wrestle with spiritual incongruencies and inconsistencies.  There are days when most things seem to make reasonable sense, the dots connect, and my language and behavior generally conform to the image of Christ into which I am seeking to be transformed.  There are other days when I question just about everything, things don’t seem to align properly, and I am embarrassed by my spiritual immaturity and pettiness.

And so it will be for the rest of the journey: victories and defeats, strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, progress and lost ground.  My sanctification will not be made complete until Jesus returns and I see Him just as He is and am made like Him (I John 3:2).

Until then, I will do my best to walk in the Light so that I may have continual cleansing in His blood.  I will humbly and readily confess my transgressions, trusting in His faithfulness and righteousness to forgive my iniquities.  I will continue to entrust the salvation of my soul to my Advocate and His atoning sacrifice for my sins  (I John 1:7-2:2).

His strength for my weakness.  His righteousness for my sinfulness.  His perfection for my asymmetry.

In the previous post, we examined the question, “If God has testified that His children can know that they have received eternal life in Jesus Christ (I John 5:11-13), why do so many Christians still have doubts about their salvation?”  If, at the time our sins were washed away by the blood of the Lamb, we believed that we had been saved and were headed to heaven, at what point between then and now did we lose that confidence?  When did we stop “knowing” that we were saved and start “thinking so” or “hoping so?”

For me, it took less than 24 hours to move from confidence to doubt. 

I confessed my faith in Jesus and was united with Him through baptism in His name on a cold, January night in 1973.  My faith was very simple at that point: I believed that I was a sinner and that Jesus was my only hope of salvation.  That was faith enough.  My family and I were staying with my grandparents on their farm in Middle Tennessee at the time as we awaited our visas to move to Monrovia, Liberia.  During those few months, I attended the rural, K-12 school from which my father had graduated years before. 

On the bus ride to school the next morning, I made a comment that drew a quick response from a friend.  I have absolutely no recollection of what I said, whether it was grossly inappropriate or just mildly off-color.  But, I can never forget the reply of this young lady who was aware of my baptism the night before.  She said, “Well, it’s obvious that last night didn’t do you a bit of good!” 

Her comment stung me and stunned me; and nearly 40 years later I can still remember the tone of her voice and the expression on her face.  It was contemptuous. 

Was she right?  Was I really any different?  Had anything changed?  Had my sins really been washed away?  Was I really a Christian?  Was God mad at me?  Was I still going to heaven?  I didn’t know.  And just that quickly, doubt and anxiety replaced the joy and excitement that I had felt only 12 hours earlier.

My problem was that I had not yet worked out the difference between faithfulness and flawlessness.

The God who saved us through Jesus Christ expects, even demands, faithfulness and obedience as a demonstration of our faith and love for Him (I John 2:3; 5:1-3; John 14:15; et al.).  John Stott writes that throughout the letter of I John, the author repeatedly identifies three marks (or tests) of the new birth: belief, love, and obedience.

However, we know that the obedience demanded by I John 2:3 cannot mean sinlessness or perfection because of what precedes it in 1:6 – 2:2, an affirmation of our ongoing struggle with sin. 

Revelation 2:10 instructs us to be faithful until death; faithful, not flawless!

My imperfection is an inherent and understood part of my faithfulness, not a denial of it.

For 23 years I have been a faithful husband to Kim.  A perfect husband?  Are you kidding?  I’ll gladly let you call me a “work in progress” as a husband, but I will get in your face (metaphorically and rhetorically, of course) if you accuse me of unfaithfulness in my marriage.

I can know if I’m faithful.  I can know if I’m not.  Does that make sense?

This is getting long.  Part Three to follow…      

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January 2023