In a perfect world, I’m kind, patient, understanding, gracious, accommodating, secure, wise, steady and funny. In my non-perfect world, I aspire to these characteristics, but I can get frustrated when I don’t seem to be my best self. Of course, I can often feel these frustrations because lots of my life is lived in a non-perfect world. So how do we keep aiming to be our best selves when most of our life is lived in the non-perfect world?
Perhaps it could be helpful to think about the disciples that Jesus chose to be His closest followers, when we look at Jesus helping us to be our best self. It’s interesting to consider that the disciples Jesus chose to follow Him every day during His earthly ministry were less than perfect people and not often their best selves.
One of Jesus’ disciples was a tax collector, generally considered to be duplicitous and untrustworthy. Another disciple was a zealot, and this group was known for promoting anarchy and their sometimes-extreme efforts to rid Israel of Roman occupation. One of Jesus’ disciples had some very destructive mindsets pertaining to money and four of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen, known to be more working class and blue-collar people. We don’t know much of anything about the remaining disciples, but I’m confident that they had some human characteristics that undermined their best selves.
I’m glad that Jesus didn’t cherry pick perfect nor pious people to be His closest followers. I’m also glad that Jesus didn’t expel a disciple when he messed up. One of Jesus’ most famous disciples, Peter, is a good example of how Jesus navigated someone who was often not his best self. Peter talked too much, said the wrong stuff, argued with Jesus, made some crummy decisions, tried to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His earthly ministry and even denied Jesus three times. These were occasions when Peter was not his best self. But in these occasions, Jesus didn’t expel nor disqualify Peter. Jesus stayed with Peter when he wasn’t commendable nor pristine. Jesus didn’t stop loving Peter just because he wasn’t being his best self.
And the same holds true in our modern world – Jesus stays steady with us. Thankfully, nothing in our humanity disqualifies us from following Jesus and He doesn’t reject us when we aren’t our best selves. Indeed, in Romans 5:8 we read, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Before we could ever become our best selves, Jesus made the ultimate expression of love for us, by dying on the cross. With this in mind, consider that you are loved, you have been loved and you will be loved for the simple truth that God is love. This means that we don’t have to be our best selves to be deserving of being loved by God. We are already loved. And it’s very much a possibility that we become our best because we let God’s love settle into our core identity, resolving and healing internal struggles and wounds.
If we can rest and revel in this truth, that we are wholly loved by God, then perhaps we can walk with Jesus from a place of security and not merely performance, earning, deserving and acquiring. When we live from the place of being fully loved by God, I think we have a better chance to be our best selves!