I Think I'm Better1
Why do they always do things that way?! I certainly wouldn’t ever do it like that.
There are aspects of life that we, either by nature or by nurture, are simply better at than some other people. Take languages, for example. I really enjoy learning new languages—the new sounds, the different grammar, and meaning of words. But that’s not to say I’m the world’s leading expert on learning languages. I just happen to be better at it than some other people.There are some aspects of life that don’t really have “experts” I suppose. Let’s take cleaning up messes around the house. One day, my wife and children eat lunch at home without me, and an hour after lunch, I happen to come home and see the table 80% clean. My initial thought is not, “Oh, let me help clean up the rest of the table for my wife,” but rather, “Why does there always seem to be a bit of a mess after lunch? I wouldn’t leave a mess like that if I were feeding the kids.” And I walk on by to continue my work.
The day came a few months ago when I was home with my kids for several days in a row without my wife. It was lunch time on the first day, and as soon as lunch was almost finished, a diaper needed to be changed, another child had an assignment due, and a myriad of other things started the process of everyone getting up from the table, mess still intact. The table quickly got 70% cleaned, and we moved on. I told myself, “Well, if the diaper didn’t need to be changed, the table would have gotten cleaned up.” Do you see what I did? I gave myself a pass, an external reason for why I didn’t live up to the standard that I held my wife to. The next day, guess what? Same thing. Lunch, mess, stuff came up, table didn’t get cleaned, external excuse to make myself feel good, and we moved on. Three days in a row this happened.
Over the past few months, God has begun to show me that I think I’m better than others. I have a standard that I hold others to, and when they don’t meet that standard, I complain in my heart against them and make myself feel good by comparing myself with them, thinking I would never be that way. I project on them character issues when they fail to meet my expectations; but for myself, every time I give myself an external excuse, a reason why something outside of me prevents me from living up to my own standard.
When my wife came home, I confessed to her that I’ve complained in my heart against her when she doesn’t meet my expectations. She’s my wife. She already knew. The difference for me that day wasn’t “a new perspective” on how “stuff just comes up” so that I would give my wife a pass when the table is only 80% clean after lunch. No, the lesson was much deeper. I didn’t see myself as a tremendously awful sinner who fails every day to live up to God’s standard. I saw myself as ‘okay,’ better than par, better than others. I didn’t give myself grace when I didn’t meet my own standard because I didn’t think the issue was me—the issue was outside of me. But the standard that I’m actually held to is not one of my own making, but God’s standard. You see, I didn’t and couldn’t extend grace to my wife when she didn’t meet my expectations because I hadn’t experienced grace at a depth beyond the kiddie pool. I was unwilling to see myself as an awful sinner, because I always gave myself external excuses for not meeting my own expectations. I was comparing myself to the wrong standard.
God’s grace is great, immeasurable, and free. Those are great truths. Today, first, spend time meditating on how great of a sinner you truly are—how you hold others to a different standard than you hold yourself to, how you complain when people don’t reach your standard, how you project character issues on others who don’t meet your expectations, how you give external excuses when you don’t measure up to your own standard. Meditate on the depth of your sin from just one day’s worth of time, and let your sin overwhelm you. Then receive God’s grace; He gives it freely. Meditate on His grace for a lifetime worth of sin, and then through that, be the conduit of God’s grace toward others when they don’t meet your expectations or when they sin against you.
Praise God for lunchtime messes. They might just lead you to somewhere new in your relationship with God.