I’m not perfect.
You’ve said it. Or you’ve heard this said by someone else. Usually, it’s an excuse. It’s a common attempt to justify a defect in one’s character or a moral failure of some sort. Rarely is it ever a confession.
I confess. I am not perfect. Specifically, I’m not perfect in love…for anyone. Particularly God. Over the past several months, I’ve been made acutely aware of the imperfection of my love for God. Not surprisingly perhaps, this awareness has come about through experiencing intense fear. Deep, gut-churning fear. Fear of cancer. Fear of death.
I’ve been struggling with depression and what appears to be an anxiety disorder for probably more than year. I’ve had panic attacks in connection to some minor illnesses and stress. It began when migraines lead me to fear a brain tumor. A case of pneumonia drove me to obsess over my ability to breathe. Acid reflux in conjunction with my obsession with my lungs resulted in two emergency room visits. An infection in my intestine (like giardia lamblia) had me worried about colon cancer. In sum, no matter how minor or fleeting my illness, in my mind I was terrorized by the expectation (not the mere thought, mind you) of my imminent death.
As I have prayed about and through these experiences, God has comforted me in unexpectedly intimate ways. He has also given me a new insight into our relationship; while His love for me is perfect, my love for Him is not. Eugene Peterson’s rendering of 1 John 4:17-19 says that perfect love leaves no room for fear, particularly fear of death and fear of judgement. Another translation says that perfect love drives out fear. (I can’t help thinking of Jesus driving out demons.) I can’t help but think that there would be no possibility of panic attacks, irrational fears of impending death, if I loved God as perfectly as He loves me.
When I talk about loving God, I’m not talking about that emotional sensation of affection. I’m talking about the intentional choice to believe that He is set upon doing good to and for me. If I were choosing constantly to believe His promise to raise me up to new bodily life, why would I fear dying? Wouldn’t I be like Paul and say that dying, for me, would be gain? Would be a benefit?
I have confessed to God the imperfection of my love for Him. It’s not been a guilt-ridden confession, but rather an expressed agreement with what He has brought to light in our relationship. And for His part, God has been faithful and just. He has comforted me as He promised he would (faithful) and He has forgiven me as He promised He would (just). The panic attacks have subsided, however the fear has yet to completely abate. But I believe it will. I believe that ongoing confession of the imperfection of my love for Him which leads to my fear (whether in formal counseling or not) will keep me honest before God. And God, in honest relationship with me, will in His own time perfect my love for Him and release me from my fear of decay, decrepitude and death.
I will wait on the Lord.