8 From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy of praise. 9 Practice these things: whatever you learned, received, heard, or saw in us. The God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9, CEB
Focusing on what is pure, lovely, and worthy of praise is difficult. Practicing the type of self-sacrificial love in imitation of God, as Paul encourages in Philippians, requires a lot of hard work. For one thing, that idea requires a lot of unpacking to even know what it means. I’m not sure we can ever understand it, much less apply it.
We’re going to get it wrong. We’re going to fall short. We’re not always going to be properly focused and we’re not always going to live lives of self-sacrificial love. But our lives are not primarily about getting it right, or, at least, they’re not about getting it right the first time. A life of faith is about a commitment to non-stop growth. Getting it wrong is part of getting it right. When we are unfocused and when we fall short of God’s loving example, ideally we have people in our lives who 1. know that we’ve done it and 2. have the wisdom, experience, and courage to show us a better path forward the next time. Our failures to live in love are only failures if we don’t see them as opportunities to grow. There’s hope in knowing that every “failure” is really an opportunity for redemption.
Faith isn’t about doing everything absolutely perfectly- because we can’t. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other as we let other people into our lives enough to help us continue to grow as, dare I say, disciples.
When you fall short, do you give people the entire God’s honest truth of how you fell short? Do you dress up the story a bit? Do you try to get a little sympathy from it?
Sometimes I do. But that’s not love, that’s not community, and that’s not hope.