Ever since I can remember I have loved to sing for anyone who would listen. I remember watching an old “home video” when I was singing my heart out into the hose of an active vacuum cleaner. As a natural-born performer, I quickly learned that a good performance merits affirmation, accolades and attention, but a poor performance can lead to criticism, condemnation and feelings of failure.
This holds true for a number of different “performances.” Perform well in your job, sport, marriage, parenthood and you will be praised, deemed successful and loved, but fail to perform and you could be fired, kicked off the team, divorced or shunned by your family. This is the reality of how our world operates. Our success and popularity is measured by the scale of our performance; by what we do.
But God’s economy is far different. God’s holy standard is unattainable and yet His reward system is unimaginable. No human in the history of the world has or could ever perform well enough to justly earn God’s pleasure and approval. We have all failed to keep His perfect law and the consequences are not just disapproval, loss of status and heartbreak, but eternal separation from God and all that is good.
So how do we respond to the crushing sorrow and shame over our performance failures? In 2 Corinthians 7:10 we see two kind of responses: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” First, a worldly kind of grief and sorrow, which leaves us feeling hopeless and beyond pardon or requires that we get back on the treadmill of performance, try harder, do more and right our wrongs to earn the love and approval of God and man. But the Bible says this is a godless grief that leads to death! The second response is a godly sorrow that leads to repentance, which leads to salvation. This kind of sorrow frees us to admit our failures and shortcomings and look outside of ourselves for forgiveness and acceptance. We look to the cross of Jesus Christ, the supernatural-born performer, the Holy Son of God, who lived the perfect life we could not live and yet bore the humiliation and dire consequence of our failures as He hung and died. By faith in the death and resurrection of Christ, we are united with Him and counted worthy to receive the love and approval of God the Father and a right standing with Him.
On my best or worst day - when my failures inevitably surface and threaten to condemn me, crying out “guilty!” - I remember the words of this beloved hymn and look up to Jesus, who sits at the Father’s right hand interceding for me and whose atoning blood forever cries out, “It is finished!” This is soothing balm to the soul of a perfectionist and natural born performer.
Verses to reference: Romans 8:34, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:21-25