Fifteen years ago I had it all figured out. My theology was perfect. My passions were flamed by the progressively growing belief that I was going to make a difference—a big difference. If someone was in need, I could fix it . . . or at least direct them to the right way to fix it. I had all the answers. I was sanctified and I was being sanctified . . . fast (like, Ferrari-fast).
Fast forward fifteen years…
Things are much different now. I don’t have quite as much figured out. Passions are secure, but have been nuanced by the scars of my soul. Things I was so confident about before now make my spirit blush with frustration, salted with a bit of shame and bitterness. Fixing things is not as easy as it seemed back then. Complications have arisen. People are complicated. I am complicated.
Not long ago, as I discussed spiritual growth with a discouraged Christian gal, I began to see my own plight in hers. She could not understand why she is not a “good” person. “I have been a Christian for thirty years and I feel as if I am less sanctified now than ever. I don’t understand. Maybe I am not even saved.”
As I reflected on this throughout the day, I realized that she and I are the same. Wait… Let me attempt to give you my previous definition of sanctification:
Sanctification n. The state of experiencing growth that is measured by becoming more Christ-like. Interpretation: You are getting better and better. You are not as mean as you were before. You don’t complain as much. You have a better outlook on life. You are never depressed. Your problems are dealt with in a more mature manner; you know, the way Christ dealt with them. Oh, and you also have more figured out than you did before.
Fifteen years after first subscribing to the above definition, I reflect on my own condition and find myself filled with frustration. Sure, I am not controlled by many of the sins that controlled me before, but I will have to call a strike on all the signs of sanctification listed above. New sins have arisen. Personality flaws. Grumpiness. Complaining. The inability to react to situations with a calm trust. Quick-temperedness. And you know what? There are some people I just don’t like and cannot be nice to. Sheesh, just over twenty years ago I was voted the nicest person at John Marshall High School. Don’t believe me? Check the yearbook. Finally (and you’re not going to believe this), I am progressively finding it harder and harder to not make up excuses about going to church on Sunday mornings, unless I am teaching or preaching—then I am gung-ho!
Why aren’t I getting “better”? I don’t know. I could blame it on so many things, but blame would just be another sign of my sorry state. (Don’t unsanctified people blame a lot? Adam?).
However, this has caused me to reassess myself and my view of sanctification. What does it mean to be made “holy” (the word from which we get “sanctification”)?
New life stages present you with new ways to show off your fallen nature. Kids. Four kids. Four kids under thirteen. Marriage. Death. Sadness. Time allows for more disappointment in others and yourself. You simply have more baggage to deal with than before. Oh, and then there are those times when you get depressed. Wait! Christians are not supposed to be able to get depressed. Especially those who teach theology. Goodness, what use is all that I do if I am now, fifteen years later, experiencing depression? I used to be able to straighten depressed people out with a wave of my magic wand of proper biblical interpretation! Guess that does not work quite as well as I thought.
Fifteen years later, either I am not being sanctified (which is possible) or I need to rethink sanctification.
My hopes and thoughts are here:
Sanctification n. The process of Christian development that has more to do with how dependent you have become on the Lord, not necessarily with simply being “good.” Sanctification has more to do with how often you are broken before him, not your stoic ability to deal with pain. Sanctification has more to do with a recognition of your weaknesses than of your strengths. Sanctification has more to do with repentance than with the things that don’t require repentance. In the end, sanctification amounts to the progressive movements you make toward the side of God because you have no where else to go.
But then there are the fruits of the spirit. Oh yeah, those. Doesn’t joy cancel out depression? Doesn’t peace defeat irritability? Doesn’t faith do away with being scared that something bad is going to happen to my kids? No perfect little red bow on this post.
I am trying to rethink sanctification because I have to.