Growing up is hard – especially when you have to learn to do hard things like tie your shoes! Learning how to properly hold those laces, wrap them around each other, and then pull tight without undoing everything you just did can be frustrating. And the fact that you’re usually doing it in a hurry because it’s “Time to go!” doesn’t make it any easier!
Thankfully, for us modern parents, there are now several time- and sanity-saving ‘shoelace alternatives’. One in particular that we’ve made good use of in our family are ‘elastic laces’ – these bungee-like cords thread through shoes like regular laces, but are easily loosened and tightened with the squeeze of a button.
This summer, after buying a new pair of sneakers for one of our girls, I sat down to replace the laces. When I did this for the first time a few years ago, I found the process to be intimidating – things need to be measured and cut, the plastic pieces are complicated, and it all involves a very specific order of operations! But, having successfully installed several sets over the years, I thought, “I’m glad I’m so good at this now!”
A few minutes later, though, I realized my confidence was unfounded. After incorrectly measuring the first lace, I made the cut too short and once that cut was made – there was no going back. I had to throw it away and start all over again – what a waste! But I think it was my pride that was cut the shortest.
As a “church kid” I grew up with a solid understanding of “right” and “wrong” and I seemed to have been born with an inclination to follow the rules. Behavioral standards seemed like common sense to me and I can count on one hand the number of times I was spoken to for even coming close to breaking a rule during my elementary school years!
Religiously, I also considered myself “good”. I believed in God, knew all the Bible stories, had perfect attendance at Sunday School, and was nice to people (although my sisters may beg to differ on that one!). If you had asked me if I had a relationship with God or if I thought I was going to Heaven to be with Him someday, my answer would have been, “Of course! I’m really good at this!”
It wasn’t until I was in my late teens that my eyes were opened to the truth. It was during those years that God so graciously allowed me to see how good I wasn’t. I may have been a “nice” person in my actions, but in my thoughts I was judgmental and mean. I may have been a “rule follower” when the world was watching, but behind closed doors I was allowing selfish desires to rule my choices.
By the spring of my junior year of high school I finally understood the truth of Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” It turned out that in all those years of believing I was “good,” I was doing exactly what the prophet warned God’s people about when he said, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.” (17:5) With all of my confidence in myself and my “good”ness I was actually turning my heart away from the Lord.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” (Jeremiah 17:7)
This truth has always been at the core of our faith, but in our human nature we tend to get things a little twisted up. Those of us who have an easier time obeying certain outward commands tend to think, “I’m good! I’ve got this!”. And even those of us who are on some level aware of our shortcomings still tend to think: “At least I’m trying, right? Isn’t that good enough?”
But if the message you’ve gotten about Christianity is that “good enough” is “good enough,” then you’ve been sold a bill of goods! “Good” isn’t the standard – holiness is – and that’s not something we can ever achieve on our own.
When Jesus came to earth, He didn’t do it to model a “good” life and hope we would try to follow His example. He didn’t do it so He could humbly see what it was like and then return to Heaven to put in a good word for us. He was holy and He gave His holy life as a sacrifice so “that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
To “trust in the Lord” by “believ[ing] in Him” is the only way to meet God’s standard. And it’s not just a prayer you prayed the day you first accepted Christ – it’s a present tense, constant, every day and every moment choice!
Sometimes we look at the Christian life like learning to tie our shoes. We think we’ll just try a few times, figure it out, and then we’ll be “good”, securing our position on God’s good side. But when we put our trust in our our own flesh, we’re actually headed in the other direction altogether.
If someone was to ask you today why you believe you’re spending eternity with God, what would your answer be? That you hope so because you’ve been “good” or that you know so because you’re trusting in Jesus? It’s not too good to be true – it is the truth – and it’s never too late to put your confidence in Him!