I am failing at Christianity. At least according to the standards I had a year ago.
I don’t read my bible every day anymore. I don’t pray through a daily prayer list. I listen to “secular” music. I let swear words slip into my vocabulary sometimes. I stopped trying to fix a broken family relationship. I take antidepressants. I purchased my first alcoholic beverage and visited a casino while on vacation recently.
And I’ve stopped feeling guilty about all of this.
It’s not that I’ve stepped back, looked at my faith, and said “Screw this” to it all. The changes that have happened in my life aren’t resulting out of rebellion.
Rather, what’s changed is I am learning that what God wants from me is not my performance. He doesn’t want false holiness rooted in habit. What He wants is my heart. My real, authentic, completely honest heart.
I am fortunate to have a Christian mentor in my life teaching me how to walk into my heart and deal with all the stuff hidden away that I haven’t dealt with yet. My mentor is helping me grasp the fact that God doesn’t want me to keep maintaining a holy performance; all God wants is for me to be human. To be the Sara I am right now, with all the emotions and thoughts going on in me right now.
Thankfully, God knows a lot about being human. I have never found so much comfort in knowing God doesn’t just love me, but He personally understands me and what it’s like to be flawed, finite, and completely broken.
I opened my bible last night to Matthew 5 after randomly deciding to read the Beatitudes. I began reading, a slight fear in the back of my mind that somehow I was about to be condemned by those red letters on the page. But instead, I was flooded with relief after the first sentence:
God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
I let out a breath, exhaling my fear. I knew I was not about to be guilt-tripped by Jesus’s words. In this sentence alone, I knew Jesus was going to speak to me about the value He places on living authentically from the heart.
God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
What does it mean to be blessed by God? I flipped to the back of my study bible and found the Greek word used for “bless” in these verses, makarios, “pertains to a state or condition of joy and happiness. It implies that the blessed person is in favorable, pleasant, and fulfilling circumstances. There is also often an implication that the person is in a right covenant relationship with God.”
Being in a state of joy and happiness. Fulfilling circumstances. Right relationship with God. God makes happy and fulfills those who are poor, humble, hungry for justice, merciful, pure-hearted, peace-making, and persecuted. Those are not the kind of people faking their way through life and hiding behind spiritual pretenses.
My takeaway from reading the Beatitudes last night was simply this—God blesses those who live from the heart. The people who can be honest with God, with others, and with themselves about who and where they are (both the good and the bad) are the ones who will experience joy, fulfillment, and true relationship with God. He blesses those who are so crushed by their circumstances that they are barely able to hang on to their faith. He blesses those who burn inside for justice at the atrocities being reported on the news. He blesses those who sit alone sobbing, crying out in secret that they can’t bear the emotional pain anymore.
God blesses those who are pursuing Him and living from the heart. He rejoices with you when all is well. And when life takes you through hard places and you’re left trying to find your way home, He still holds your hand just as tightly. Even if that way home involves fewer prayers, less time in Scripture, strings of profanities when you finally let the hurt inside come out, and music that affirms it’s okay sometimes to not feel okay.
I am human. I am on a journey of becoming who God made me to be. I have not arrived yet, but I’m learning to live open handed and free in pursuit of my Father in the goodness of His grace.