“Give me chastity and continence, but not yet,” St. Augustine famously prayed. He knew his life was overtaken by sexual desire and he knew he needed to have self-control, but he loved his sin enough that he didn’t want that freedom yet.
The struggle is real, isn’t it?
Our path to sanctification is not always straightforward, or easy, and sometimes sanctification is unwanted. Worse, somehow we often instinctively believe those around us have it all together simply because it appears that way.
I learned this as a girl when a friend’s mom made a comment that I probably wasn’t used to siblings fighting “as your family must be perfect since your dad is a pastor.” I thought my eyes were going to bulge out of my head, I was so shocked. I was probably only eight years old at the time, and I couldn’t imagine where she got this idea because we were far from perfect. We fought all the time! She just had never had a peek inside our home life to see that and assumed we had some sort of miraculous peaceful home.
It’s part of the human condition to look at ourselves and see things as worse than they are, and to look at those around us and assume they have it more together than we do. When coupled with the human tendency to spend more time with those who are like us, we can start believing that Christianity looks a certain way: calm, cool, collected and difficulty-free. The reality is, faith is often an internal struggle, invisible to others. For some of us, when difficult things happen we can be overcome with tough questions that shake our faith. For others, we have life-long battles with sin that will never go away. In certain cases, the world might respond to our challenges and tell us to act a certain way or pick a solution that will make us the happiest.
Sometimes, being a Christian is just plain hard.
It can be confusing, too, because we know we love Jesus (or want to), and we want to make his name known around the world, to live a life that is honouring to him, and grow in relationship with him. But it is extremely difficult to deny ourselves and take up our cross. For some of us, it is extra challenging because we feel like even within our own community, we don’t quite belong.
Growing in spiritual maturity means growing in our ability to accept the mystery of life and how God works, as well as learning to understand that sometimes being a Christian is really complicated despite being very straight forward. The answers of “walk by faith”, “trust God”, and “be obedient to God’s commands” are always correct, but they are rarely easy and often require additional steps that sometimes get ignored in favour of a “pray it away” approach.
So welcome to our new mini-series: (un)Complicated Christianity where we’ll feature stories of those who are living out their faith in ways that are both complicated and uncomplicated. We’ll explore how the beauty of the gospel collides with our messy humanity, and how in the midst of it all there hangs a perfect balance in the person of Jesus.
In our first article of the series: Can a Christian woman be stubborn, willful, opinionated, assertive, argumentative and passionate, while also being “a gentle and quiet spirit?” Look out for this article to be released on Monday, April 16th.