• Karen Pennington

God Anoints Messes

Recently while attending a laser tag party I was made aware of one of my many irrational phobias: I am scared of laser tag. Realizing that it is literally a no contact sport, I do not exaggerate in saying that the idea of getting "fake shot" not only makes my heart beat a little faster; it makes me scream a little on the inside. So did I face my fears at the party? Oh, heavens no. I did the "honorable thing." I offered to watch the small children of other parents, so they could play the game (and I wouldn't have to). Yet this tag-a-phobia is one in a long list of perfectly ridiculous fears, one that includes but is not limited to: traffic, chickens, pigeons, turkeys; free-range farm eggs (getting over that one), traditional lighters, cows, chopping wood (the action, not the wood) and the Bronx. I know this makes no sense, especially given that I see and interact with many of these things on a regular basis. And for Heaven's sake, who has ever been killed by a chicken? None of this keeps me from doing the things I need to do or living a healthy life. I try not to let fear keep me from doing the right thing or leaning into the fullness of God's blessings for my life. But remembering my fearful tendencies sure breads a healthy, often necessary dose of humility into my heart. Because there is only one reason to explain these absolutely nonsensical anxieties: I'm a mess. And I'm not just talking about my fears. I cannot ever remember feeling either the pressure or the illusion of flawlessness. My dress is far from fashionable, and my hair is rarely in place. I often forget my "filter" when talking to others (while I shy away from profanity, I sometimes cannot believe what other things come out of my mouth). I am a mediocre cook at best, and I seem to have developed an allergic reaction to vacuuming. (Well, not really, but that's my excuse.) And let's not even begin to get into my athletic ability, or lack thereof. I made a real effort to play volleyball exactly twice in college… and I broke exactly two pairs of glasses.

Here's the miracle in all of this: I LOVE who I am, and I FEEL loved for who I am. All of these idiosyncrasies I just mentioned may seem like a list of self-loathing put-downs. But I cherish my crazy little traits like these. And here's why. Somewhere along the line I discovered that I do not need to be flawless to be truly perfect. This is a completely biblical truth. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus charges believers to "be perfect as [our] heavenly father is perfect." This command is simply impossible to do if we apply our modern understanding of perfection as the absence of any mistake, weakness or flaw. The word used for perfect in the original biblical Greek manuscript for this passage comes from the root τελέω (te-LAY-owe). It actually means finished or complete, which has more to do with the work that God does in us than anything we can accomplish on our own. This is the same word that the Lord Jesus Christ used from the cross with his dying breath when he said "It is finished (τελέω)." You see, it is Christ who perfects us; Christ's blood that finishes what we could not even start. That's why I sometimes find it freeing to consider my flaws and weaknesses in light of Christ's work on the cross. It reminds me that I should not even try to be the Savior of the world or the ruler of the universe. Someone far more qualified than I am already has that job. Through the apostle Paul God reminds us that "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect (τελέω) in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9a)." Sometimes the trials and weaknesses that make us feel so weak, ashamed and even less than human are really the conduits for some of God's best work. This is not only true of how the Lord works in us. It is also how God works through us to help others. Some of the most powerful illustrations of God's love come in the form of testimonies of how God worked through difficult times to change people's hearts. Anointing refers to a touch given by God to those people and things whom God will use in service of the Kingdom of Heaven. It has nothing to do with our worthiness and everything to do with God's grace. God anoints messes, because we are all a mess in some form. And yet we can become worthy, because God makes us worthy, and we can become useful, because God is our strength. "Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)."

I'm so very blessed to be God's anointed mess.


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