Maybe you’ve made a few mistakes in your time. Maybe your past has moved in like an unwelcome guest. Perhaps there’s condemnation running through your thoughts—a steady stream of fault-finding reminders. Maybe you’re living under critical words spoken to you in your youth, and, whether they were true or not, you still drag the weight of them along on your journey. If you find yourself living on the outskirts of joy, or even faith, here’s some encouragement.
From the few memories of my early childhood in England, I recall we had a hedge framing our front garden. My father meticulously maintained that hedge with handheld trimmers. I recall him being rather dismayed about a hole in the hedge that neighbouring children used to climb through. As long as kids made a habit of playing in this leafless passage, the hole would be perpetually maintained.
What about our lives? Where is the hole in our hedge? An area where we’ve repeatedly let in such things as bitterness, fearfulness, or anger? Maybe that area is so frequented by unchecked thinking that a gaping hole has formed. Anything that becomes a habit treads a well-worn path. In the case of negative or destructive thought patterns, the habitual cycle can be detrimental to both ourselves and others.
Unlike my father’s hedge, we can choose that which we allow passage through the perimeters of our lives. We can cut off fruitless patterns of thinking and deny them entry into our thought life. However, with our jam-packed lives, we’re often distracted. We leave little space for reflective contemplation and instead snatch fleeting fast-food bites on the fly. The quality and quantity of the life-giving morsels we consume are often not enough to fully nourish or protect us.
If we fail to examine those thoughtless meanderings before we let them in, they lead to well-worn openings of fruitless behaviour and thought patterns. If we don’t set aside time to examine our thinking and replace toxic thoughts with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8), we leave our lives wide open to hedge-holes.
Holes in hedges can develop anytime we let in bitterness and refuse to forgive. They take shape when we allow impatience and anger to proliferate. They evolve when we compare and grow dissatisfied opening the door to envy and jealousy. They become firmly formed when we repeatedly choose fear over faith. They grow distinctly larger when we settle into sin.
Ignoring hedge holes won’t make them disappear. Managing them takes a concerted effort and proper maintenance requires taking a firm grip on our thought life and conforming it to God’s. 2 Corinthians 10:5 encourages us to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Make no mistake, we have a choice regarding our thought permeations.
We prevent holes by cutting off the flow of thoughts at the gate, discerning whether they deserve to pass through, and aligning our thinking to God’s. We combat hedge holes by setting aside time, disciplining ourselves to reflect and be renewed in God’s presence. When we spend time soaking in God’s word, he fills the holes, packing them with his peace. His Spirit quickens us and helps us to grow in discernment regarding that which we allow to enter through the perimeter of our lives. Soon, where once there were holes, we see new growth and lush foliage—composed of God’s love—encircling us.
- Where do you notice hedge holes in your life?
- How can you adjust your thinking to align with Christ’s?
In last week’s blog post, I glanced back on my modeling career and, in doing so, recognized how many things have changed. I modeled during the pre-digital, pre-Photoshop era. I recall arriving on location for a particular photo shoot and the make-up artist and photographer were in a dither because I had a broken blood vessel on my cheek.
Of course, they had reason to be ruffled since this made their job exponentially more difficult. To provide the client with the best possible image, glaring imperfections would have to be expertly covered up by the make-up artist, and the photo itself would require retouching by hand.
There wasn’t any fixing an out-of-place strand of hair after the fact, slimming a few extra pounds around the middle, or the addition of a filter for a wow-factor. Whatever was captured on film was what you got. So they took a lot of pictures and selected the best one from printed proof sheets.
Even back in the 80s’, perfection permeated the business. Of course, we models weren’t perfect, but it helped to be as close as possible: no pimples, no scars, no visible cellulite. Young girls looking at magazines back then may have seen slightly retouched photographs but weren’t digesting expertly manipulated images. Perfection is so sought after that, these days, we don’t even know how much of what we’re seeing is real.
But we don’t need photoshop to serve up perfection. We regularly present a perfect facade in multiple forms.
We exhibit Photoshop-like qualities whenever we choose to relate to others by presenting polished, untouchable forms of ourselves seemingly void of cares or troubles. Our Facebook and Instagram posts display the highlight reels of our lives, all imperfections blotted out. We present perfect when we strive to be flawless, Photoshopping away our limitations and imperfections and disregarding our human need to rest and refuel. We deny imperfection by refusing to peer honestly at our weaknesses and extending kindness or forgiveness to ourselves.
We may even deliberately or subconsciously grasp for the retouching tool by expecting perfection from those around us. By placing unspoken or unattainable expectations on others, we withhold grace and forgiveness for others’ pimples and instead substitute distant, unloving shadows of our true selves in such relationships.
What is the antidote for this perfection crisis? A reality tool that enables a reversal allowing us to see what is real and true.
Here are a few truths that can act to reverse our perfection problem:
- You are loved as you are this very moment. (Romans 5:8)
- You are so precious to God that he gave his Son for you. (John 3:16)
- You are imperfect but have been made perfect through Jesus. (Hebrews 10:14)
- You are forgiven. (Ephesians 1:7)
- You are free. (John 8:36)
- You have all you need to live a Godly life. (2 Peter 1:3)
Jesus is our reality tool. In Christ, we can release our notion of perfection and receive his grace and love, extending the same to others. We can exchange our striving—and just surviving —for his gentle leading and perfect peace. We can draw on God’s power and strength to be transformed and to live the Godly life he purchased through his death and resurrection. Using cover-up to mask our imperfections loses its allure as we settle into God’s love.
I’ll leave you with The Message version of Romans 3:21-26 as a truth summary:
“The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.”
- In what ways are you masking your true self in an attempt to present perfect?
- Do you think letting go of the cover-up would enhance your relationships?
Coming Nov 12th, 2019: SOUL FOCUS – Trials
New Release: One More Tomorrow
Print Availability: Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Word Alive Press, and wherever fine Christian books are sold. eBook Availability: Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, and in Adobe PDF format for additional vendors.
Konnor came home for a visit today. Any mom will tell you that when your kids no longer live under your roof, any visit home is a precious event. This was demonstrated in the way Keira bolted down the stairs, threw her arms around her brother and clung to him, starved for his presence. I too adore seeing my son, catching up with him, admiring the man he has become.
The whole thing reminded me of how God must feel when we come to spend time with him, or when we return after a lengthy absence.
Since God’s love for us is even greater than a mother or father’s love for their child—or a little sister’s love for her brother—I can only imagine how happy God is to see us. His welcome is a door-flung-wide, arms-stretched-open sort. He is always thrilled to receive us.
But for some, their image of God is more of a looming, angry, and unyielding figure with arms-crossed in a posture ready instead to point out all the ways he’s been disappointed. For them, God is unapproachable, distant, and cross.
Sometimes our children’s actions or choices upset us or ignite an angry response. Our kids make mistakes—as do we—but because we love them we forgive them and continue to champion them on their journey. God behaves likewise to us, multiplied many times. Take a moment to read below what the Bible has to say about God’s nature:
Psalm 30:5: “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.”
Psalm 116:5: “The LORD is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.”
1 John 1:5: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
Micah 7:18-19: “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
I John 4:9: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”
Like earthly parents, God is capable of being angry at his children. When our behaviour defies his holy standard—and it will—it not only hurts us and potentially others, but also hurts him. But here’s the thing: God is not only slow to get angry, he doesn’t remain angry. And maybe that’s where we get stuck.
In our guilt and shame, we further belittle ourselves believing God has rejected us, that he could never forgive us, that he wants nothing to do with us. But the verses above show that nothing could be further from the truth. He loves us so much that he sent his son as the remedy for all our junk: past, present, and future. The moment we repent, he forgives us and no longer holds those actions against us. Nor does he remind us of our failings. In Christ, every moment is a fresh start.
Just as we celebrate when our children arrive home, excited to get all caught up with them, our God is delighted when we share our lives with him, tell him all of our news, and rest in his presence. He doesn’t force us to come home, but anticipates the moment we do. His love is endless, his forgiveness knows no limits, his compassion is for all. No matter where you’ve been—or for how long—his arms are always open.
- When was the last time you had a visit with God? It’s never too late to start or begin again.
- If you’ve never received the free gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins through God’s son Jesus, it’s only a prayer away.