My constant battle to represent Christ yet failing to do so
“Yesterday saw me in tears as I was reflecting on life. I’m not saying I’m a horrible person, but I guess we know the best of ourselves and the sides that we don’t show to everyone, and I know that I can be ugly sometimes. And ‘sometimes’ feels too often: moments when I withheld love and forgiveness from people, or when I chose to stay in my own comfort zone instead of helping others. And I am upset because so much of me wants to be better, so much of me wishes to radiate His love more and more, but I’m not.”
As I read these words on my friend’s Instagram post, my heart began to break as I resonated with how she was feeling. My cheeks burned with falling tears as my heart echoed her desperate desire to be a bigger and better person. The cry to love like Jesus did, to serve others selflessly, and consider other people’s needs before mine; the plea that this little life may be able to embody the vastness of God more accurately. As the white heart popped up on the screen when I double-tapped it, as if offering some empathy to her hurting soul, I thought to myself: “So much of me wants to be a better person too — I am so far away from how I should be living.”
I remember once having such a tenacious spirit in my pursuit of Christ; I was telling everyone about the love of God and how He has changed my life. My words were oiled with grace and gentleness, and my actions and motives were done in love. I was deeply inspired to inspire the generations, and I was so unashamed about Jesus Christ!
However, as I got lost in the busyness and distraction of university and my full-time job, this blazing flame for God fizzled into tiny sparks, leaving only a timid flicker. Time for God stretched thin, and I found myself incessantly complacent and tired, unwilling to go the extra mile for someone else. I became critical of others and myself, and was even ashamed of my faith in God.
The girl who was so passionate about Christ has now sunk into defeat in her pursuit of Christ, slowly conforming to the patterns of this world. I started disliking who I’ve become, disappointed that I’ve allowed myself to grow apathetic and comfortable with a passive Christian life.
So I strived to climb back up the mountain to be a better Christian. I resorted to various ways in reminding myself that I need to be gentle in my speech, to love selflessly, and to be all that a “good Christian” should be. I stuck bible verses and quotes on my bathroom mirror and office cubicle to constantly centre myself on Him.
Yet, all this seemed futile. I still made judgmental comments and my insecurity about my looks and friendships stuck to me like tar. I grew to dislike myself with a quickening intensity — I simply could not love the girl in my reflection anymore. I felt unworthy of being loved, and I felt like an utter failure before my perfect God.
This self-loathing went on until God broke through the darkness and quietness of my spiritual valley during a church service. He poured over me His ceaseless reminder of His heart for me: “I love you, I love you, I love you…” Wave upon wave, I felt His love flood into my heart, smashing the walls of shame and guilt that I had relentlessly built with every heartbeat.
Previously, I could not reconcile how my lack of devotion to God did not alter the extent of His love for me. I’ve read Ephesians 3:18 — about “how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is” — but nothing changed within me. However, this time around, as I read the verse for the umpteenth time, God’s love coursed in like a fierce river, rehydrating this dry valley. I was engulfed in oceans of grace, and my soul found such rest in His embrace. For the first time in a long while, I laid down the chains of unworthiness and personal expectations and disappointments. I allowed God back into my heart, to receive His love without reservation.
The journey through the valleys of inadequacy, of not feeling belonged, of striving for approval, truly brought me to a greater discovery of what the grace of God feels like. It is one thing to know it intellectually, but another to understand the power of His grace in our being. In Hebrews 4:16, it says “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” The profundity of His grace may be something I may never fully come to grips with, but I’ve come to understand how personal it is.
The Instagram post ended like this:
“But then today I am reminded of how far I’ve come and how much He has changed me over the years, and I celebrate His faithfulness. I celebrate that apart from God I can do nothing, that on my own, I am weak and will never ever be a saint, so that any change in me for the better will be a testimony of God’s power and work in my life. So that I can never boast about how good I am because really, on my own I know how un-Christlike I can be. I may never understand why You would choose broken vessels as Your channel to reveal Your love and glory to the world, why You would ascend and leave your mission to your ridiculously imperfect disciples. But I am so glad You did because then, imperfect people can be a part of Your plan. And I’m so thankful that You did because then anyone can be Your disciple, coming just as we are, and watching You transform us bit by bit as long as we let You. God, You will see to completion of this good work You’ve started in us, and I pray that everyone else and I will never stop believing and will never give up.”
You might be walking through your personal valley today, where you’re panting and yearning for that elusive mountaintop experience once again. My prayer for you is that you’ll go easy on yourself for once and accept the truth that you are worthy of God’s love and that your destiny is irrevocable. Life has its highs and lows, but may we always be deeply reminded that the God of our mountaintops is also the God of our valleys. You may be going through a different (maybe even more difficult) struggle, but may you gain clarity for the reason why God has put you through such a tumultuous and trying season. May you find warm comfort in the knowledge that even when you walk through the darkest of valleys, you have nothing to fear, for He is close to you, like an olive balm to your wound (Psalm 23:4).