The Hard and Holy Thing
The great virtue of the twenty-first century Church is our busyness. Never have we been busier, and never have we been weaker.
We excel in implementing our children's programs, our women's luncheons, and our family retreats. As the young women of the Church, we are often the heart and soul of these endeavors. With our Lilly Pulitzer planners, we artfully color-coordinate our prayer meetings, coffee dates, and extracurricular activities. It's satisfying to Snapchat or Instagram the full tidy schedule. #Blessed
This seems harmless enough, but somewhere between the pages of our highlighted journal Bibles and our Jesus-filled coffee chats, we have lost lasting holiness. During our latest 7-step program, we exchanged spiritual depth for our pursuit of perfection. Where are the Ruths and Esthers of our generation?
The renowned missionary and writer, Elisabeth Elliot, observed, "Holiness has never been the driving force of the majority. It is, however, mandatory for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom."
Where is the disconnect between serving the Lord as a Church and individual holiness? It begins with the heart. The modern Church faces an unlikely dilemma: we worship convenience but we are endowed by Christ with a conscience.
We want to please God, but this is often superficially accomplished through our good deeds; that is, our efforts to reach the lost and broken through free concerts and sanitized soundbites of the Gospel.
In my hometown, I know a talented lady who runs a successful homeless ministry. Her respected organization has had visits from governors to country music stars. When you meet her, her passion for ministry for the homeless is both touching and inspiring. However, in her personal life, she was one of the last people to visit and care for her aging parents. I know this because I did it instead of her.
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17 ESV)
As Christian women, it is our job to make sure that we are not doing what feels or looks good, but to make sure we are doing what needs to be done. Just like Christ, we are called to lay down our lives for others. Not for the Instagram picture that is sure to get 500+ likes, but for the glory of God. That is motive enough.
Holiness is not passive. Rather, it is action-oriented because it is fueled by a love for God and a desire for righteousness. The more you surrender to God, the more you desire for His will in your life. Slowly, His desires becomes yours.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action,and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV)
What do holy women look like? What is actual holiness on a practical level?
First of all, they will be humble. Preacher Andrew Miller once said, The greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us. In man, humility is the one thing needed to allow God's holiness to dwell in him and shine through him. The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility. The holiest will be the humblest."
Holy women are absorbed in whatever calling God has placed in their life, however glamorous or menial it may be. As part of their surrender, they embrace His will wholeheartedly. One of my dearest friends is the most talented illustrator I know. Currently, she is working to put herself through art school so she can graduate with minimal debt. As an art student, she needs to study and practice about five hours a day in addition to class time, and she is teaching art classes in addition to her other job. She is helping to plan her sister's wedding and she is deeply invested in a group of middle school girls at her church. On average, she sleeps only several hours a night. And yet, Mandy is one of the most contented (albeit exhausted) and holy young women I know.
She doesn't walk around with a halo on her head and spout Bible verses, but her passion for life that comes from pursuing her calling exudes from her. Her gentleness and consideration for others sets her apart. That is an example of holiness.
The world is already full of people with good intentions, what we need is more of the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we need to critically examine our own souls before we contribute to the latest ministry fads. Is your life a true reflection of Christ's love and sacrifice, or are you treating the Church as some kind of social club?
Girls, if your heart longs to see the modern Church rise up to meet the needs of this dying culture, you must be willing to do the hard and holy thing, whatever that may be.
Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine. (Leviticus 20:26 ESV)
A transplant from Nashville, Payden Annie now hails from Texas and works in the fashion industry. Inspired by authors like C.S. Lewis and Elisabeth Elliot, she writes in an effort to expose the beauty of the Gospel in everyday life. You can find her in search of an adventure or rereading the Anne of Green Gables series for the 100th time. Visit Payden at Mint All Over.