“I’m not perfect, I don’t have to be, and I am wholly loved by a God who is.”
In reminding myself of this truth God gave me as I often do, I realized it beautifully sums up my journey with Him so far.
I’m not perfect.
For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight... –Psalm 51:3-4a
I remember this becoming blatantly clear as I sat on the ground with my best friend and our student pastor one autumn evening. I had come face to face with the reality that what I had professed to believe nearly all my life—namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ—was not matching up with my words, thoughts, and actions. I started to understand that Jesus meant it when He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would safe his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). This picture Jesus painted was not a picture of me. In fact, I preferred to paint my own.
With a fear of disapproval and a longing to succeed, I was constantly anxious about excelling in everything and being accepted by whomever I was around, no matter what words or actions it may have taken to do so. When the Lord thankfully brought this to light, I was faced with questions to ask and a decision to make.
Who was I following? The answer was probably “others.” Was I denying myself for the sake of the gospel? No. At times it more so seemed I was denying the gospel for the sake of myself. And had I laid down my rights to my life, my reputation, and my success at the foot of the cross? No. I believed it was all up to me.
In light of those answers, I made the decision to fully commit to following and imitating Christ. I chose to obey Him as I had not previously and followed in baptism shortly after. That September of my freshman year in high school, God showed me clearly that, no matter how hard I tried, I was not and am not perfect.
I don’t have to be.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. –Colossians 3:3
In the couple of years after that, I grew. I tried to be more diligent about my prayer and scripture reading, I tried to avoid temptation, and I tried to imitate Christ. The next problem, though, turned out to be that word, “try.”
This didn’t become clear until the summer after my sophomore year, when I heard my Bible study leader at a Christian summer camp describe her daily quiet times with the Lord. She talked about having coffee with Him and writing Him letters. This idea of such an intimacy was foreign to me. I wanted what she had—to be free of my try-hard anxiety and to know that intimacy. So I decided to give it a shot.
When I returned home, I began to sit down with God and do just what that sweet sister had mentioned. And wow. This opened doors to a great love for journaling and a new desire for the Word as I dug into it to learn more about the beautiful character of God. Through this process, He captivated my heart. I fell in love with Him, and my primary purpose became no longer working to make myself good enough to be His, but instead diving deeper into how good He was and seeing how different He wanted to make me.
I saw my heart radically transformed. My words became gentler, my thoughts purer, my actions wiser, and my motives more eternally focused. I no longer wanted to succeed in all things to make much of myself, but became terrified of succeeding in things that were of no significance to my God. He showed me that this life He’d given me was not about me at all, but about delighting in Him and serving Him and introducing the world to Him. He gave me a passion for spreading His love to my peers and especially to girls younger than me who I had so many opportunities to lead in sports and from other platforms in high school. He showed me that being a Christ-follower did not mean behaving perfectly on my own, but meant getting to know Him, the only one who is perfect.
Which brings me to the last point, and the one I am growing in every day:
I am wholly loved by a God who is.
By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. -1 John 3:16
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. –Galatians 5:1
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing. –Galatians 2:21
All of Isaiah 40.
As I consider my current chapter of life and how God brought my lonely and again perfection-seeking college freshman self to here at my desk in the Delta Delta Delta sorority house, I am overwhelmed. My freshman year, I learned what it meant to be identified in Christ alone and not in the elusive perfect community I sought or the seemingly prestigious degree program I thought I liked. Then, when He allowed me to work at the Christian summer camp that had so drastically changed my life, I learned what humility looked like, how desperately I still needed to learn to accept grace and give myself grace, and how precious the things God valued—like family, loving others, living honorably, and faithfulness—truly were.
With the blessings of amazing opportunities to form bonds with my sorority sisters, make a positive campus, world, and community impact alongside them, and serve as a leader in my campus ministry, it can be easy these days to get caught up in all I believe I have to do. It’s not easy to give grace to myself or to understand the grace God gives when I think I have failed or even when I begin to struggle with the same temptations and anxieties I grew through in the past. But so faithfully, the Lord silences the lies of old, reminding me that my life and these opportunities are not about me in the first place: that I’m not perfect, I don’t have to be, and I’m loved by a God—a loving, unimaginably gracious, and merciful Father—who is.