Confessions of a (Sinful) Overachiever
Someone once told me that in another life and time I could have been a good monk. (The thought had crossed my mind too—albeit, I saw myself as a nun instead.) The truth is, I enjoy the disciplined Christian life. I embrace prayer, study, and fasting as ordinary means of grace. I’m discouraged by passivity and compelled to practice the spiritual disciplines with intentionality and purpose.
It’s been this way since my sophomore year in college, when my conversion brought a sudden and abiding appetite for God’s Word. I’d finish my homework just to have free time for the Bible. As I studied, I spent days fasting and hours in prayer. These early habits have persisted with the years, despite the natural changes that marriage, motherhood, work and schedules bring.
My practice of faith, like most things in my life, is sustained by a propensity for difficult work. I’m a hard driver, often choosing the coarse road. As a mother, I give birth without epidural, nurse for fourteen-months, make my own baby food, homeschool my little ones—all the while working part-time and teaching small groups. It’s admirable—if not for the pesky tendency to pride myself by the praise of these efforts.
No doubt, sin easily besets even our most righteous inclinations. A sincere desire for holiness and good works can slip and fall into messy sin: pride, judgmentalism, moralism, legalism, and the like. I’m capable of all these and desperately in need of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the only antidote for my sin-prone monkery.
But depending on your Christian subculture, monks like me will either be hailed as the cream of the crop or judged as “holier than thou.” I’ve heard both.
As a child, I belonged to a congregation that saw God’s favor accompanying certain spiritual performances. There were dos-and-don’ts, praises and shaming, and ready comparisons of one person to another. This kind of environment fueled a desire for godly conduct, but left many of us feeling exhausted and defeated once our willpower waned.
As an adult, I visited churches that viewed “Bible-toting and Scripture-quoting Christians” as slightly pretentious. The message descended from the pulpit and was cheered by the pews: these environments tend to condemn the “condescending Christian” without seeing its own harsh judgmentalism. The experience left me squirming in my seat—conscious of my Bible-toting and Scripture-quoting ways.
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