When I was a kid, my favorite room in the house was the formal living room, for one simple reason: there was no furniture in it—just cushy white carpet and lots of space to cartwheel to my heart’s content.
The only thing in the room was a shelf with Mom’s Precious Moments collection in the corner. The rule was that I could do as many tumbling stunts as I wanted to, as long as I was careful not to veer into the corner and knock over the Precious Moments.
I was on a roll one day, going for a record number of cartwheels in a row, when I heard the stomach-churning sound of shattering glass. I looked down and, to my horror, saw that one of Mom’s beloved figurines had shattered into a pile of pointy shards.
There was no way I could tell Mom, I decided. I needed to fix this first. My initial stroke of genius was to reconstruct the figurine with tape, but I quickly realized that wasn’t going to work. The next obvious choice: I’d simply make her a new one. I snuck outside to gather twigs for the figurine’s arms and a little rock for the face, figuring I could paint the features on later. But as I tried to stick it all together with Silly Putty, I burst into tears. No paint job was going to salvage this sucker.
And so I did the only thing left to do: I went to Mom. I confessed. With lip quivering, I held out the handful of glass pieces and the lumpy-looking attempt at a replica. The hard truth was, I knew I’d never be able to pull it all together on my own.
As I’m reading the Gospels, I’m struck by what a ragtag band of followers Jesus had. These people who left everything to follow Jesus weren’t the spiritual elites of their day or the morally polished crowd. They didn’t have it all together. They were, in fact, in various states of mess.
There the fishermen (Luke 5:1-11), who got little respect in their culture—likely the rabbinical school dropouts. There were the tax collectors—the sleazy guys who ripped off their own people to get a bigger cut for themselves (Matthew 9:9). And there were the women of questionable reputation who didn’t do much for Jesus’ image (John 4).
When the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
These people didn’t try to put themselves together before they came to Jesus; they knew that would be as futile as a child refusing to confess until she fixed the pricey collectible she’d broken.
I love that God doesn’t ask us to pull our act together before we come to him. We come as we are, and he changes who we are.
As I see myself in this lineup of people who came to Jesus, with their hands full of the messes they’d made, I’m reminded of one of the verses of the old classic hymn “Come Ye Sinners”:
Come, ye weary, heavy-laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.
If we wait to come to Jesus until we’re better, until we have our act together, we’ll never come at all.
When I went to Mom with the broken pieces of her figurine, she hugged me and extended forgiveness to me. Here she was the one who had been hurt, but she was consoling me. When we come to God in repentance, he does the same for us. He wraps us in his arms and wipes away our wrongs. And he alone can put the precious pieces back together again.
Today, if you find yourself compelled to try to clean yourself up before you come to God, I encourage you to take your mess and come to him. Just as you are. And know that he will accept you. Just as you are.
I beg you, do not tarry till you’re better.
Come now. Come as you are.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.