Mark 2:13-17 (NIV)This story hits me in one of two ways depending on my mood before reading. The more frequent is a “right on, Jesus!” attitude that coincides with my feelings that many people I perceive to be self righteous are in need of being deflated, reminded they’re no better than anyone else and especially are in no place to judge who is worthy of being close to the Savior. (This attitude, of course, is in its own way self righteous and it reveals me sitting in judgment of others. I am not proud of this admission.)
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
The less common response is for me to instantly recognize myself as among the sick, the sinners. This admission is as troubling as the acknowledged hypocrisy from the last paragraph. I’m very good about writing about being imperfect, or about asking God to forgive my many sins. Yet somehow when I read about Jesus coming to call the sinners, I do not immediately react in gratitude, though I know how sinful I have been.
Maybe this disparity reflects the types of other believers I encounter — such as those in who use their faith or scripture as a weapon and are all to quick to claim a position of righteousness in the name of vilifying those with whom they disagree. These are the types who would never be caught eating with the modern day tax collectors, and such people appear willfully ignorant of the essential command to love our neighbors.
Perhaps the gap us indicative of not being as honest with myself as I imagine or intend. For all of my inward analysis and personal writing, am I really taking my flaws seriously? Am I opening up to God about where I fall short and sincerely trying to change? Or am I happier just labeling myself “imperfect” and trusting God to know what I mean when I say, “I’m sorry”? Do I trick myself into thinking I’m a generally good person and allow that to keep me from moving closer to the life God calls me to live?
The trap I most fear falling into, in general but specifically as it relates to caring for my family, is complacency, or the perpetual acceptance of “good enough.” This concerns me because it’s more or less how I approached academic work since I was just a bit older than Jack. I generally did what it took to get by and only truly applied myself when I was supremely motivated. I’ve been a much stronger force in the professional word than through years of school, but I’m very familiar with the “close enough” mentality to know when it’s seeping into other areas of my life.
As such, I very much do not want to be the type of husband or father who kind of skates by, who does just enough to be productive but never really tries my hardest. I want to be the best version of myself for my wife and children because they as much as anyone deserve my best, but for the kids especially because I want to set a positive example in every possible arena.
This doesn’t mean trying to live so my kids rave about their father and call me “the best dad ever.” Ditto my wife. What it does mean is I want them, when they’re old enough to understand, to see me as a person who makes family his first priority, who loves his wife and kids and finds ways to make that abundantly clear and who, though imperfect, tries hard to get it right.
I’m not trolling for compliments here, though I do appreciate the positive feedback I get from time to time. I’m probably also beating a familiar drum, that of being an intentional parent, of identifying how I want to carry myself and then actively pursuing that goal. But it’s important for me to operate that way and equally important for our kids to know their mom and dad are working hard to give them the best life possible. And that we do it with the strength of each other and a family built on faith.
A prayer for July 17:
Lord, you have called me to follow you, and I am trying to do just that. I know I am a sinner in need of forgiveness, and I ask you to keep challenging me to be honest with you and the people in my life. Grant me the tools I need to answer your call in full. Show me where I am weak and lead me to a place of strength. Help me set a good example for my children, and encourage them to grow strong in your love. Amen.