Sunday, May 21, 2006

Just As I Am

This hymn has come to my mind several times this week for various reasons.

The main reason is probably my own inner longing for a more religious life again. I have gotten away from church and regular Bible study. I had reasons, at least some of which were valid. I was in a bad depression a few years ago and an out-of-whack sleep schedule was part of it. Church at that time was not providing me with the sanctuary I needed and therefore sleep was even more important. Since I've moved, I suppose it's just laziness, bad habits, that keep me from seeking out a chruch in which I can find the sanctuary I need. I should get off my duff and get to church somewhere. Take me, Lord, just as I am.

Another reason this hymn, at least this first line of it, came to mind was some discussions on homosexuality. Why have the fundamentalists picked this as their agenda? Even for those who consider this a sin, it is no worse than any other sin! Let him who is without sin throw the first stone. Why not choose those that also destroy the body (drugs or smoking), or something a larger group (dare I say "majority") recognizes as a sin? Why stir up so much controversy? My frustration with this goes deeper than mere controversy, though. People become too polarized by this topic. Either you are for or against homosexuality. HUH??

From the Christian point of view, I know the arguments, but I have struggled with them. Recently I have read thoughts of another true Christian who also struggled with this issue. Unlike me, he did some Bible study on the topic and found the common arguments against homosexuality debatable. Debatable, not wrong. Open to discussion, not definite. Apparently the Biblical references are vague on the subject, not as open and shut as so many fundamentalists would like us to believe. (I've often thought this when given a quote, but haven't done the Bible study to back me up.) Biologically, I guess things are just as vague. There are unquestionable differences between gay and straight men and women, but apparently, there is no gene or other marker scientists can point to and say "This is what makes a person gay."

In all honesty, the thing that turned me away from the homosexuality-is-a-sinful-choice attitude was seeing a man cry with genuine anguish because he wanted to be "normal," to have a wife and family and that he had tried to do that and had just made more people miserable because he just didn't "work" that way. So why don't we accept people just as they are? Don't give the the argument "Then should we accept murderers just as they are?" I'll say yes, actually we should, but it's as a protection to society that we also lock them up. Homosexuality does not present a danger to society. They do not "recruit" straight men or children. Promiscuity and pedophilia are separate issues and as a society we should deal with them, not blame one group for them. [And here, again, I believe we should accept people as they are, but pedophiles should be locked up because they are a danger to children. The promiscuous don't need to be locked up, but because they leave a wake of hurt people behind them (not to mention disease and unwanted children), this is something we, as a society, need to address.]

God loves us just as we are, while we are still sinners (any sin, all sins). If he wants us to change something about ourselves, he lets us know. We can change no one but ourselves. Change comes from within, with God's help. Let God do his work. We need to learn to love one another and accept each other. Help us, Lord, to love one another and accept one another just as we are.

A third thing that brought this hymn to mind was an article on perfection. The article was called "Set Yourself Free."

I suppose there are people who don't care about perfection. I'm not one of them. I was brought up with sayings like "If a job's worth doing, it's worth doing right." It took me years to realize something still might be worth doing even if I couldn't do it "right," but it still means I have to give it my very best. I get very frustrated when I see things that have been done shoddily, when I see people not even trying to do well. This article pointed out that as human beings perfection is beyond us. What perfection we may experience is only momentary. We are constantly changing and part of those changes is bound to involve mistakes.

A lot of people are afraid of change because they see the mistakes and problems change brings. To remain stagnant is an imperfection that leaves no room for the momentary perfection, therefore change is good. It dawned on me, we need to accept oursleves as we are, now, not when we lose those 50 pounds, get our degree, or sell a novel (fill in your own goals). We want to be perfect. We need to realize we aren't perfect as we are, but that's okay. Once we realize we aren't and can't really be perfect and allow change to be part of our life, we are free of the tyranny of perfection. We open ourselves to those moments of perfection. Help me, Lord, to accept myself, just as I am.