If looks could kill, I would have fallen cold on my kitchen floor immediately. My daughter’s eyes pierced me with a mixture of indignation, pain and confusion. No wonder. My attitude was a far cry from the truths that I wrote about all day long. And she knew it. Children always know it.
Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self-Control. In just a couple of minutes, I was able to open my mouth and crush every single one of the attributes of the fruit of the Holy Spirit we Christians so often talk about. I immediately felt a pang of conviction and shame.
Don’t judge me. I bet you can relate. It only takes being alive to be a hypocrite some days. We all have done it. We read Scriptures and attend our religious services. We serve in religious organizations and bring our tithes and offerings into our houses of worship. We often counsel and teach our congregations. And then, one busy, stressful day, our children, spouses or parents push the wrong button at the wrong time and, in a matter of seconds, we manage to silence every song of praise from our lips, and deny, with our ugly actions or words, what we preach.
Years worth of work for the kingdom can be destroyed. A word can be engraved in our child’s mind and heart forever. We can drive a wedge that breaks our spouse’s trust. Although many times these actions are forgiven and the consequences aren’t irreparable, we are perceived as a fraud, even if for a moment.
I was recently reading through the Gospels and came across one of Jesus’ most chilling admonitions to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. In a speech that instantly made him the most hated man among the Jewish leaders of the day, he admonishes them for their hypocritical lifestyle. For leading others away from God with their actions. For loving religious rituals more than God, and for caring more about the appearance of goodness than about the condition of their hearts.
Although his rebuke was aimed at religious leaders, it gave me great pause. Because the last thing I want is to think that my family would see me as a hypocrite, even if for one moment. It makes me realize that it doesn’t matter how many books I write, or how many times I speak and teach God’s truths to a crowd. My religion is worth nothing if it doesn’t lead my household closer to God.
My religion must start with those I love the most first, as I make time to listen to the same not-so-interesting story, or stop typing to look at their eyes when they speak. It starts when I bite my tongue when I am too tired, too stressed out, or too hormonal, and choose to pray instead of impulsively speak.My religion must start with those I love the most first Click To Tweet
Indeed, I am convinced that my best days are not the ones when my website has the largest number of hits, my Facebook page has the most likes, or my tweets get re-tweeted more often.
My best day is any day I realize that my religion is perceived as skin deep, ask for forgiveness, and vow to change. It’s any day I am a living testimony of the grace that follows me when I need it, and forgives me when I stumble. It’s any day my life shows that I love God and people more than anything I could ever accomplish. More than the appearance of good. My best day may seem small and unfulfilling in the eyes of the world, but it’s any day my mouth and my hands are in sync, and their message is one and the same: Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self-Control.
Patricia Holbrook is a Christian author and national conference speaker. Her book, “Twelve Inches: Bridging
the Gap Between What You Know About God and How You Feel,” is available on Kindle, at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon and other retailers.