The question in my pastor’s study syllabus read: “Have you had times in your Christian life where you have regressed spiritually? If so, what happened? What caused things to change, so that you started growing in Christ again?”

Been there. Done that.

Regression #1: Being cool. 

In high school in 1974-77, I quit reading my Bible, stopped seeking intimate fellowship with other believers, and tried to be “cool,” an unsuccessful attempt. Result: I conceived my first child as a teenager and lost my full-ride college scholarship.

I couldn’t navigate teen motherhood, early marriage, and loss of my education. I was a mess, but Jesus gently and patiently worked in my life.

All the hurts of falling away from Christ left nasty bruises and scars. I was a puny Christian and kept failing miserably, one blunder after another. The constant need for humility and reliance upon Jesus eluded me, because I’m arrogant and self-reliant.

Regression #2: Keeping the rules.

From 1984-1998, a long stretch, I tried to achieve my own godliness through my own strength. Surely, I reasoned, I could bullet-point myself to success. If I dressed and looked a certain way, I would be godly. It didn’t work for the Pharisees, and it certainly didn’t work for me!

Rather than broken young parents, we became well-dressed know-it-alls with lots of stupid rules. I shudder when I think of it. My poor kids!

Because God loves us and our children, he put an end to that ridiculousness by bringing us to our breaking points. God got our attention through trial.

Finally, I repented.

CLICK HERE for the whole story.

I can’t do anything to earn God’s favor. I can’t even perfect myself. God loves me so dearly that he has done everything to save me and to refine me.

For a former legalist, stripping away the pharisaical facade involved minimizing, denial, and justifying. I didn’t want to believe I’d done that much damage with all my rigid rules, but there it was, right before my eyes.

So messy! Relationships with my older children needed repairing. Relationships with parents and parents-in-law needed mending.

Awareness of my need for Christ every moment is still an area of growth. God uses my current health struggle to refine me, even as my condition improves. Without Christ, I am self-centered, martyr-like, easily offended, and arrogant. It is not pretty.

I plead with those of you who are like me. If you’re trying to be really good so God will love you more, or if you think you’ve got this Christian thing down and are no longer in need of growth, STOP!

Jesus died for us while we were still in our sins. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He can’t love us more than he currently does.

He has done all the work to save us and to refine us. All of us need his help to grow. None of us can do this on our own, and we don’t have to. We need Christ constantly.

Rest in him and let him help you. He picks us up and dusts us off repeatedly, if necessary. No matter what we do, he loves and accepts us.

The way to real growth is through transparency with one another and learning the humility necessary to see our need for Jesus. That’s it.

So let’s stop pretending. No facades. No judgment of one another’s failings. Let’s live this together.

Meditation on Hebrews 5:11-14