“Today you have accepted the Lord’s agreement: he will be your God, and you will walk in his ways, observe his statutes, commandments, and ordinances, and obey his voice. And today the Lord has accepted your agreement, you will be a people specially his own, as he promised you, you will keep all his commandments,”
“So be perfect just as your heavenly father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
When I first became a Christian, I began an uncontrollable online evangelization that was visible to all who I was “friends” with on Facebook. I had experienced a St. Paul conversion and could not stop myself from preaching the gospel and inviting others to experience the love of God. Being Jewish, this did not go over so well with many of my Jewish friends. I received many angry and confused messages from former friends, even one telling me to stop posting. This was to be expected.
It happened to St.Paul, and many other Jews who preached the gospel after their conversion. Remember, all of Jesus’s disciples were Jewish, including his parents, Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. These were all Jews, including our Lord himself, who were rejected by their own community.
Since these messages I received were expected they hurt, but did not move me too much. I had prepared for them. But one email I did not prepare for was a long, hateful email penned by a former friend who said something that I was not expecting.
She began to list out things I had done wrong, or that she felt I had done wrong. She had equated being a Christian with her ideas of secular perfectionism, and she certainly did not believe that God could forgive me and that I was a new creature. She also was not willing to accept my forgiveness for any role I may have played in the demise of our friendship.
That email came only several months into my decision to accept Christ, but its deep and painful effects lasted years. It also exposed what I knew my Jewish friends believed, that not only had I gone completely insane, but that I was an impostor. They had no care to hear about how God had transformed me or about the trauma of sexual abuse that had happened in my life, which I had not shared with anyone, and the ways in which it affected me.
There was nothing I had done to anyone that was particularly horrifying or egregious. What I was guilty of though was living a life where I had failed to be honest with others, including my closest friends, about the pain that ailed me. And this led to complacency and a long period of years where my voice was completely lost. I did this because I did not want to contend with both the pain of trauma and the pain of potentially losing my closest friends if I did speak up about the way I felt treated. I also thought that speaking about my trauma may cause them to leave me anyway, as these things were not spoken about as they are now.
I had to sit there with all of that for awhile. I dearly missed my friends, and had to deal with both the pain of losing them and also the pain of my trauma at the same time. I was unaware that my inability to speak up and my fear of personal conflict was in any way related to my abuse. This did not come out until my recovery and became a painful truth. So yes, they were right, I was an impostor.
Becoming who God created you to be is no easy journey. Whether you have suffered with alcoholism, addiction, a broken home or any sort of abuse, people only know you and expect of you the pre-conversion you. They do not and cannot forgive you because many times they do not know how. If they have not also been touched by God, we cannot expect them to.
Being perfect in Christ is not the world’s definition of perfect, it is entirely different. The perfection of Christ is a move towards holiness, it is a following of His commandments, it is a consecration and a setting apart. How will they know we are Christians? By our love…
And perfection is a journey of the soul. It is a lifetime, not an overnight magic show. This is the basis of the pilgrim’s journey, step by step walking with God to attain that spiritual perfection- love your enemy, pray for those that persecute you, forgive as your heavenly father has forgiven you. These are just some of the commandments of God, these are the ways to perfection.
And these things take time…
To be sacred to God is to be crucified in our own flesh. To pray for the person that hurt you the most. To learn to see them the way that God sees them is to learn to love them the way that God loves them- holy and pure for who God created them to be. Loving them despite, loving them anyway…
Having a better understanding now of why I could not speak up and tell people how I felt earlier has freed me to understand why they are hurt. In the course of my recovery, and in obedience to my Lord, I sent several messages to people apologizing to them for the unintentional hurt I may have caused, including ceasing some relationships because I was hurting so badly. Although I would love nothing more than reconciliation and for them to understand that forgiveness is a gift that frees the soul, I am not in charge of God’s plan. They too will have to one day reconcile things with their maker. But that is not between me and them, that is between them and God. In the meantime, I have prayed everyday for them and for me- for God to to fill up my heart with love and forgiveness for them and for them to experience the same blessing of God’s love that I experience daily.
Many of you may also be in this situation- you have been become a new creature in Christ but are seen as you were by the people who once surrounded you. Or maybe the people are still there but have an expectation that you should be perfect now that you were baptized and have accepted Christ.
Do not let this be a stumbling block my brothers and sisters, let it be a challenge
If you are failing in some area, look to Christ for help. Only our Heavenly Father makes us perfect, we cannot make ourselves perfect. By studying His word, knowing His teachings and accepting the Eucharist, God, little by little, shapes our souls to grow in this perfection. But we have to intentionally seek it, want it, crave it, think about nothing else but achieving that spiritual state. This is the way we become saints and co-labor with God.
Pray with me
I am not perfect, but I wish to get there. Lead me, guide me and feed me. I cannot achieve this perfection without you. Help me to love those who have hurt me, harmed me or who do not like me, or those who will not speak to me. Set me apart Father so I can love them like you love them. Show me the way I should take and what I should do.
In your Holy and Precious Name I pray,