By Jenny Fulton
He knew something was wrong, for his children were in none of the regular places. In his heart, he knew they were hurting. He longed to scoop them up in his arms and comfort them, but they were nowhere to be found.
“Children!” he cried, “Where are you?”
With eyes full of shame and anguish, Adam and Eve poked their heads out of their hiding place.
“We heard you coming,” Adam said, “and were afraid because we’d done something wrong, so we hid.”
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In Genesis 3, after eating the only thing God told them not to eat, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of God. Although God surely knew where they were and what they’d done, He sought them out and gave them the choice and opportunity to respond to His call.
Have you ever thought about how very much like a standard day of parenting that scenario is?
Our children behave in a way that’s less than perfect – they break something because they threw the ball inside after we’d told them not to; one child hurts the other; they’re happily playing with something they know they shouldn’t be playing with …
They hear us coming and what’s the first thing they do?
They run and hide.
Is it because they’re afraid of our anger and of what the consequences might be for their sin?
Are they afraid we won’t love them anymore because of what they did?
But how do we feel about them in that moment?
While we very well may have reason to be angry, do we stop loving them? Do we suddenly decide that because of their misbehavior we now want absolutely nothing to do with them anymore?
Or do we long to embrace them and make things right?
I’ve recently been struck by the fact that in Geneses 3, Adam and Eve were the ones who separated themselves from God after they sinned. They were afraid, so they did what we see our children do when they’ve misbehaved: they tried to get away and hide.
And God, like any good parent, sought them out to work through and rectify the situation.
Granted, there were consequences, but the consequences were put in place for a reason; they weren’t there merely to punish and inflict pain without purpose.
Now, every comparison breaks down at some point, and this point on the purpose of pain and suffering is where I’m stopping with mine.
What I do want to emphasize is this: God doesn’t separate Himself or distance Himself from us in our sins and other imperfections. We’re the ones who do that.
And we don’t stop with those things that are obviously sins. Instead, many of us tend to think that anything less than perfection is a hindrance in our relationship with God and with each other.
Did we inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings, wake up feeling grumpy, fail to make the deadline, forget about that thing we committed to…? Is our house messier than we’d like it to be? Are we discontent with areas of our life? Do we occasionally give in to unhealthy habits?
The list of ways in which we can feel like we’re failing is endless. We’re not measuring up to our own expectations, and we’re definitely not meeting God’s expectations of us either, right? In those moments it’s easy to withdraw from others and from God.
But the truth is, God doesn’t expect or demand perfection from us.
Its OK if we’re not perfect, great, or even good at everything (or anything).
As strange as it may seem, we can be imperfect, make mistakes, and still be loved by God.
In 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Paul tells the church in Corinth, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (NASB).
Paul, one of the great pillars of the faith, was not shy about acknowledging his weaknesses. According to him, those areas in which he struggled actually brought him closer to God because he could trust God to be his strength.
God knows we will sin. In Ecclesiastes 7:20, God says, “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (NASB).
Did you catch that? According to God, being righteous doesn’t mean we never sin. Instead, we see throughout scripture that God is more concerned with the state of our heart and with our growth than He is with the fact that we will mess up.
Do we desire to know God and have a relationship with Him?
If the answer to that is yes, then God can and will work with us and in us to strengthen us in our weaknesses and help us grow more and more into the likeness of His character.
Paul describes the process of his growth in Philippians 3:12-14. “Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NASB).
So, here it is. We are going to mess up. We may mess up royally in our personal life, our relationships, and our work. We will struggle in various areas. The important questions are, do we desire to follow God, to love Him and others, and are we willing to put in the time and tears to grow and allow God to shape us and do His good work in us—to perfect His strength in our weaknesses and help us grow ever more into His character and love.
With this knowledge that God loves us in our mistakes and weaknesses, may we have the courage to draw closer to Him rather than withdraw when we sin and fail, believing His words in Hebrews 4:15-16: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (NASB).
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