I'm always amazed by phenomenal artists who vulnerably and creatively draw my eyes to Christ. Yesterday, Miriam Wiedeback shared this Call to Worship she wrote for the service, where we were exploring 1 Peter 1:13-21 on the theme of "How to Live for Jesus in Fallen Bodies and a Fallen World." I was grateful for the way she shared from her own journey with mental illness, challenging some preconceptions about what holiness really means, and inviting us all to draw vulnerably with all that we are before Christ. She was gracious enough to let me share it here.
Sometimes I wonder if I am a good Christian. A holy Christian.
Christians are called to be holy. I’ve known that since I could walk. But everyone has a different idea of what that means.
As a young person, I chuckled at people who believed holiness was defined by things like covering your head in church and not owning a TV. And then I went to camp where they told us to throw away our secular music, to not make too many non-Christian friends lest they lead us astray, and that R-rated movies were okay if they had gore and violence but not if they had nudity or swearing.
As I got older, people told me holiness was not a list of rules at all. They said holiness is an inside thing. It’s love and joy and peace and self-control, and not worrying about tomorrow. It’s having a pure heart and a pure mind and being more like Christ. Which sounds great.
You see, two years ago I was diagnosed with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. Not the quirky, hand washing, neat freak version you see in movies. My OCD is the kind that manifests in violent thoughts and compulsive behavior. My brain is a drive-in that plays horror movies and it is always double feature night. Fear and worry are physical things to me, like bees under my skin. My interior life is far from the textbook definition of purity.
And it’s not just me. The world is awash in broken bodies and broken minds and broken hearts. I know people with clinical depression whose world has gone gray, people who literally can’t feel joy or peace, or anything but tired. What does holiness look like for them? For me?
The more I think about it, the more questions I have.
What does holiness mean for the abused and the traumatized, and the grieving and the angry? What does holiness mean for those of us whose prayers are short and broken, who have a hard time engaging with the Bible in a daily reading, who cannot point to a list of successful Christian disciplines as proof of our heavenly citizenship?
And perhaps most of all, what does it mean to be holy in a world that’s having its own blood and bees moment? How active should we be? And in what direction? We are surrounded by injustice and hate and fear. To fight one is often to run in the direction of another. How can we know which way to go?
I don’t have answers.
But maybe holiness was always meant to be something of a mystery. Maybe it’s not as simple as following a list of rules, or trying to squeeze our brains into a preapproved attitude. Maybe if we run in the direction of Christ, the Christ who touched lepers and spoke to outcasts and forgave both his enemies and his friends, maybe we will find holiness there waiting for us.
Or maybe it has to do with surrender, with bringing everything I am to God, my intrusive thoughts and my helpless frustration and my tears and my fury and my questions. It’s hard to be sure.
But today Imago Dei, I’m asking you to do just that. To bring your questions and your anger and your sorrows and your secret unholiness to God. It doesn’t have to be graceful. “Ugh, YOU deal with this.” usually works for me. But it does have to be everything. Give Him all the busted up, apathetic, awkward bits of you. There is no part of you that He will reject, no part of you that is too broken for Him to use, if you will only surrender it. Stay close, even if you can’t hear Him and the world is dark. Don’t give up.
Maybe we don’t have to make ourselves holy. Maybe we just have to keep reaching for the one who is.
Let us worship him.