The Pharisee Mentality

I have noticed a beautiful change in my spiritual life lately. Just when I stopped striving too hard to perfect my ways before the Lord and acted instead as His child who is loved, cherished, and a constant recipient of His grace and mercy, that was the time I began to feel and really enjoy His love. For years I had worked very hard to deserve His favor, perfecting my ways all day and night even when I felt my mind and body were burning out and my heart was shrinking.

I had been that hard to my sick and suffering self, willing it to do more for the Lord in each and every day perchance He would took pity on me and He would completely heal me at last. Looking back, I realize it now that those years, though replete with tough and precious lessons, were also the ones that were almost devoid of joy, rest, and a nurtured feeling. As I drove myself hard to win God’s favor, I felt I was becoming more bitter and certainly didn’t know how to rest in God’s love.

I would force myself to read chapters of the Bible even between my morning and evening devotions. I’d praise in my mind unceasingly as I rested. I taught the Bible to my children nightly even when I was dizzy and not breathing comfortably. I learned to sing new songs during my idle time. I didn’t socialize via Internet (and since I couldn’t go out, I had zero social life). I only read the Bible or Christian devotional books. I didn’t watch movies or TV. I never learned computer games. I only approved of Scrabble as a game for the whole family. My days were shaped by a great, cowering fear of God and desperate striving for perfection. Because of all these, when I still suffered despite of all that, I questioned God bitterly in my heart. I couldn’t feel His rest, love, and nurturing. There was only striving. I entertained hurts, resentments, and self-pity in my heart. My posture was of one who questioned, or had the right to question. I had these silent thoughts:

Why does God continue to bless him/her though I haven’t seen his/her perfect ways?

Why is he/she healthy, peaceful, happy though I haven’t seen him/her do diligently what I do for God?

I’ve praised, prayed, read the Bible, obeyed Jesus’ teachings, and yet, I’m still sick and suffering.

Yes, I could only see my attempts at perfection, what I did, but only became bitter because of them. Maybe, unknowingly, I had stood before God silently displaying my works and had not known how to rest in His love and receive His grace. Even when I hadn’t been perfect before Him. Especially when I hadn’t been perfect before Him.

This had made me like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-14:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

When I finally let go of perfectionism and my strivings {I didn’t force myself to sing when I couldn’t; I didn’t force myself to read chapters of the Bible when it was hard to breathe; I slept instead of doing one more spiritual thing because it was what my sick body needed; I socialized on FB and it made me happy and I didn’t feel guilty about it; I read good, clean Christian novels; I watched good, clean Hallmark movies or Dove-approved movies (I also watched novel-made-intomovies like Catherine Cookson’s, though I felt miserable with them); I didn’t terrorize myself in my mind when I failed or committed a mistake} – it was then that I truly felt God’s love working in my life. That I can rest in it. When I loosened myself of the grip of perfectionism and allowed some ‘clean, fun living’ with all the shortcomings, mistakes, and failures that came with it – God’s grace and mercy in my life became more palpable.

When I allowed myself to be just His child with the mistakes that a child makes, my praise and worship of Him became deeper and more soul-felt because then I knew that I was under grace and in need of His mercy. 

Why can’t we be more like little children before God – humble and obedient but fun-knowing, imperfect but loving and devoted to Him?

“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 18:3)

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Journey with Jesus,

Comments

  1. Maria says:

    This was a beautiful transparent message. Thank you for sharing! This was the message I needed to start my week, focused on Christ and not on works.

  2. Trudy says:

    Such a heartfelt message I can really identify with, Rina. Thank you for being so transparent. Legalism and perfectionism can be such a big stumbling block, can’t it? So glad Jesus’ love is free and unconditional!

  3. jedidja says:

    Thanks you. This is what the Lord learned me the last months. I am so glad to read the same here :)

  4. Lux Ganzon says:

    Amazing just how we could all learn from children. But also, Jesus is telling us that to enter heaven is as simple as being simple like the children.

  5. Beth says:

    I’m so glad you were able to lay that perfectionistic striving down, Rina. There is such rest in the Lord and then He’s the One working through you to do all the good works He has planned for you. Thanks for sharing this very vulnerable story, my friend, because there are so many who struggle just like this. It’s such an important topic and I pray it is going to be so helpful to many!

    • RinaPeru says:

      Thank you, Beth. I believe it is still the Lord WHO made me finally realize these things. It is all a part of His relentless love for us.

  6. Hazel Moon says:

    How blessed it is when we realize that God sees us a perfect in His site, and we do NOT need to prove our devotion to Him. Because of our love and gratitude, then our heart will overflow with song and praise and a jump into the Word of God. Thank you for sharing that you are not guilt free when you read or watch a clean story (book or movie) Even Face Book is a blessing when used correctly. Thanks you for sharing with us at Tell me a Story.

  7. Ann says:

    Hi, Rina! Yes, I know the feeling of dwelling on all that I have done to be the “good Christian woman’ and wondering why I haven’t received what I think I justly should. It’s difficult to keep that false precedence going for very long and have joy in one’s life. The Lord has and is still teaching me this difficult lesson, too. But, as I go through it, I am actually starting to feel more peace and joy, as I release all control of my life over to God. Thanks for sharing, sister!

    • RinaPeru says:

      True, Ann, our strivings for perfectionism can be a source of unconscious pride that will hinder us from luxuriating in God’s mercy and grace.

  8. Dawn says:

    I love this post! I think the reason we experience this kind of freedom is because we are coming with child-like faith to the Father who sees us just as precious as he sees the beautiful children, and He knows what their worth is. The great thing is that when children come to you they accept the love you give because they are not hindered by the perfectionism that life ingrains in us as we grow, and so they are free to love God back fully.
    Great lesson!
    Blessings,
    Dawn

    • RinaPeru says:

      Perfectly said, Dawn! That’s what I observe with my children with their earthly father and I do marvel at the beauty of it. That’s what our heavenly Father is longing for, I believe.

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