Popeye. That guy with the massive arms, sailor suit, and pipe hanging out of his mouth. He was a hero in the animation world, comically defeating his foes and rescuing his love Olive Oyl. He was anything but a genius, and his personality far from pleasant. Yet he had one thing right, and that was his confidence. In the middle of all his idiosyncrasies, he could confidently say, “I yam what I yam!”
Unfortunately, I haven’t always had that self-assurance. Years ago, my pastor was inspired by the Holy Spirit to tell me, “Christa, you are not what you do. You have to find your value in who you are.” I remember thinking, “Well, of course. I know that!”
In reality, I really didn’t know. At the time, my world revolved around always behaving myself and never getting into trouble. I was a perfectionist. Anything that wasn’t “perfect” – including me – just wasn’t good enough. I would spend days berating myself for the tiniest thing that most people wouldn’t remember ten minutes later. If I got a 98% on a test instead of a 100%, I cried. If I was sent to my bedroom for a spanking, I thought my world was going to end. The pressures of being a preacher’s kid didn’t help, either. Before long, I was quiet, reserved, and not at all how God intended for me to be. My concern was so much on my performance that I couldn’t just be the Christa God had originally created. We should always be striving to live in God’s will and to do things with excellence. But if being perfect is our sole focus in life, we’ll never succeed at being who God has created us to be. In fact, we’ll miss out on the many joys in life because we don’t think we’re good enough – maybe even on something that God has assigned us to do for His Kingdom. Instead, our focus needs to be on who we are in Christ.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him . . . (2 Corinthians 5:21)
There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus . . . (Ephesians 1:6)
“Righteousness” is an incredible word. It means to have “right-standing” with God. That means that no matter our behavior as a Christian, we’ve been accepted by God. That “inside person” is perfect in God’s eyes because of the blood of Jesus. Nothing – not even a temporary booboo – can separate us from His love (Romans 8). Not even the devil can say we’re rejected or not good enough. When we accept this, we understand that our value isn’t based on our perfect behavior; it’s based on our position as the “righteousness of God in Christ.” Just like God forgives us, we can forgive ourselves and let it go.
Proverbs 24:16 says, For a righteous man [or woman!] may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.
The wicked don’t get back up when they make a mistake. They don’t have the strength inside to rise above the error and move on “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We as Christians, on the other hand, have a wealth of God’s nature dwelling on the inside of us. Yet, in the heat of perfectionism, we may forget. We make a mistake, ask for forgiveness, and make the situation right. Yet a cloud hangs over our heads as we attempt to never do it again. No matter how hard we try, we can’t change ourselves. The attempt ends with frustration and discontent – no closer to our goal than we were before. All the while, God is standing on the side lines wishing we’d just step back and let His grace do the work.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
When we let God’s grace assist us in our walk with Him, perfectionism falls away. He is our guide from the inside out, providing every ounce of grace we need to live holy. It stops being our “works of righteousness” (Titus 3:5) that make us right before Him. Our value is no longer in what we do but in who God is in us. The pressure falls away, and all that’s left is His righteousness.
There is a confidence greater than Popeye’s. It is a confidence in God’s righteousness within us. It doesn’t need a good deed of the flesh to make it legitimate. It doesn’t require a life of perfectionism. It only requires belief in this: “I yam what I yam and that’s all what I yam . . .” and we might add “. . . in Christ.”