11 May 2014

Not good enough?

As a religionist I often am met with questions about God's approval from those who are either seeking such or who used to do so. "Will God be happy with me if I ..." or "I'm trying to be a better person because recently I ..." as if I'm in a confessional booth (foreign to my Jewish life) or somehow have a hotline to their Almighty. I'm grateful to those who welcome my input and who are seeking to know something from heaven about their lives. For them and for you, let me share a story that involves this photo from my childhood.

Actually the photo is of a single store of this hamburger chain, which when I was about 8-20 years old, was located near my synagogue. (This photo is from another location in Kansas City. I remember the smells of the grease and the fun in having a quarter (25 cent coin) in my pocket and going to get one of their Smak burgers and returning with change leftover.

Usually that would not have been such a big deal, but if I went on the Sabbath, and purchased one, well, that was another story. You see Orthodox Jews like I was, are not supposed to carry on the Sabbath, especially no money, are not supposed to work (nor support those who do) on the Sabbath, and certainly not to eat non-kosher food as this clearly was. So I was a violator. But I lived with (all) that.

I especially remember one day, about 2 in the afternoon. It was in September or so and I was about 14. The year before I had been Bar Mitzvahed and became an adult in the community. I became responsible to comply with Jewish regulations and to represent Jewish people worldwide. The autumn day was crisp and clear. It was Yom Kippur, the most serious of days in the Jewish calendar and one on which we fast, from evening (before) to evening of. A mere 25 hours or so, but to a 14-year-old, that was borderline unbearable. 

We had attended synagogue the night before and then returned home to rest. That morning my mom and dad and sister and I went back to synagogue to pray and be forgiven of our sins or just to check the boxes aright so as to be considered "good Jews." There were two services held simultaneously. One for the adults and one for teens downstairs. I, of course, went to the teen service and it ended about 1 pm. Many of us hung out together sharing stories of all kinds. Some went upstairs to join their parents, others went home, and no one went to the shopping center where we often went on the Sabbath at certain times.

I was 14. It had been 19 hours since I ate and I 'was starving.' I had a quarter with me. (Don't ask.) You can feel the tension rising, can't you? Would I misbehave on the most important day for Jews everywhere? Would I break several commandments?

Yes, I did. I walked the half block away from synagogue to Smaks and got myself a burger. It was so satisfying. So refreshing. The pickles and onion and the dollop of ketchup (tomato sauce) felt so right. Ah, now I can make it all the way to 7 pm and eat the dinner Mom would prepare on our return from synagogue.

After I downed the burger with great speed I walked back to synagogue. I re-entered and went to the seats with my parents. I joined in the afternoon prayers. After a few minutes, my mother asked me where I had been. "Downstairs," I would have told that part of the truth. She took hold of my suit jacket and pointed to the end of my white shirt's sleeve. Ketchup! As obvious as the rabbi's beard, this red stain was not to be hidden. It screamed "BURGER" and my mother heard it. Then my father. And whoever else, I don't remember, but this I do remember--- I had failed miserably that day. Shame joined the list of feelings I had. Caught. Heads shook. My love of Judaism shrank in a heartbeat.

____

I guess I share this story to remind myself and to tell you that even on the holiest day of the year, you will fail. You are never going to be good enough to satisfy God, or your parents, or your rabbi, or your wife, husband, school, ... And even if everyone DID say you were wonderful and kind and generous and lovely and 'always do the right thing' you would know, if you know about the Living God, that He has standards that are so high and lofty that no one, not even your mother (and I'm writing this on Mother's Day) could reach those standards. We all fail. None of us is good enough.

So if that be so, why be a religionist at all? Why try to placate Him?  If He will never be happy with me, what kind of relationship can we ever have?

Ah, just because I say you cannot be perfect does not mean He doesn't love you. He wants to be in relationship with you. He wants to hug you, when you are good or when you have ketchup on your sleeve. He knows your human condition. And maybe that's why the person of Yeshua (some call him 'Jesus') is so awesome. He knew what was 'in man.' He knew the human condition since he was born in Bethlehem, lived among people in Israel, and died at the hands of Roman soldiers and a kangaroo court about 2000 years ago.  He died to forgive you of your sins and to bring you back into relationship with His Father.

Performance-based religions are going to leave you empty. What Yeshua did for you is how you are approved. What you do for God is good and all, but it will never get you into heaven. You have stains on you, deeper than your shirt sleeve. Your soul is spotted and stained with sin. God alone can forgive you of those and sustain you in relationship with Him.

Would you (honestly) like that just now?
Would you like to be assured of being His and being approved?

It's not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.  Won't you trust Him now? Confess Yeshua as your saviour and your deliverer from sin. Profess Him to others and if you would like, I'd love to hear from you, too.

That day will be your Day of Atonement. And you will know you are approved. Enjoy that reality; it's better than change in your pocket.

2 comments:

Sandiibeach said...

Love this. Amen. So glad to have my Lord on my side!

Billy Holland - Olathe KS USA said...

Awesome and inspiring post. Thank you for this!