She was talking about someone we barely knew, the mother of a little girl in our class. Two-year-old Molly was adorable, hilarious, sweet—and highly opinionated and emotional. We admired her parents for calmly working with her through every meltdown without giving in to her fits. But after babysitting Molly and her brother, my fellow toddler teacher was telling us that Molly’s mother had confided in her that she felt like she wasn’t patient enough with her own children, that she wasn’t being as good of a mom as she should be.
“Are you kidding me?” another teacher asked. “She is so patient. Have her spend some time with me and I’ll show her ‘not patient.’”
“I know,” my friend agreed. “She’s a great mom.”
“It’s like no matter how good of a job she’s doing, there’s this one thing they aren’t as good at and they focus on it,” our third teacher friend continued about another mom who also doubted her own parenting skills. Her eyes widened as if she was talking to one of the moms right then. “You are more than that one thing!”
Hidden but Real
If there was anyone who could who could build their reputation from their own accomplishments, it was Paul—the apostle, the author of many New Testament books, the pioneer church planter, the eventual martyr.
“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death” (2 Corinthians 11:22-23).
But there was more going on inside him. Paul had his problems. He had his failures and shortcomings that weren’t as obvious as his achievements, but they were just as real.
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing… 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (from Romans 7:15-24).
Paul—the evangelist, the writer, the preacher, the sufferer—had his own inner struggles. His own failures. His own defeats. Every day. How did this giant of the faith reconcile his daily reality with what he knew to be true? How did he live with the knowledge that he wasn’t good enough?
Free in Every Way
The following paragraph opens Romans 8 with these life-giving words: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1).
No condemnation. No condemnation.
If we are in Christ, no one can condemn us. Not even us. Not for any failure, shortcoming, or mishap that has happened in our lives—or this morning.
Don’t miss this: Paul grounded his worth in accomplishment, yes, and he definitely based his identity on complete perfection. Just not his own.
“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:2-4).
We have been set free in every way. In the deepest ways. That freedom bought by Jesus’ perfect sacrifice fills every nook and cranny of our lives, overflowing in a steadfast hope that, no matter how we fail or how often we fall, we will come out victorious. We already are.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?…Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us… [W]e are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (from Romans 8:31-39).
Even though we all have areas to work on, they do not define us. We’ll never be “enough” and not one of us will ever have a perfect day. And that’s okay, because He is enough. Enough to fill in the gaps. Enough to bring strength from weakness. Enough to redeem our biggest failures—and even those thousand little ones that just won’t go away.
When our accomplishments are drowned out by the loud reminders of all we’ve left undone, we can tell our weary souls that it is finished. Not by us, but by Him who knows our steps, our thoughts, our failure—and loves us anyway. Nothing can change that. Not even that one thing.