As I sat down to write today, I looked up at the wall where the family pictures hang. Off to my left, one was crooked. Of course, I immediately fixed it. That made me think of Sunday morning while I was preaching. For some reason, I found myself making sure my Bible was set down straight next to my notes. And last week during family pictures, I was giving input into how to arrange the family for the photo when the photographer said to me: “Brad, it doesn’t need to be perfectly symmetrical.” I think I have a problem.
The truth is, I like things perfect. I like them refined. I like all the rough edges smoothed and the blemishes worked out. I like straight picture frames and symmetrical pictures. So I often hold myself to that same smoothed out standard. The problem is, God doesn’t. In fact, He prefers quite the opposite.
Exodus 20:25 If you use stones to build my altar, use only natural, uncut stones. Do not shape the stones with a tool, for that would make the altar unfit for holy use.
My brain tells me that God prefers things that I have perfected, but my Bible tells me that He prefers things just as they are. Here in Exodus 20, God gives these simple instructions on how to build the altar of sacrifice: naturally. Use the stones with all the sharp edges. Use stones with cracks in them. It’s okay if they are different colors, shapes, and sizes. It can look messy. In fact, it should look messy. That’s the kind of altar He is going for.
Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” I’ve read this verse hundreds of times, and it has always seemed to say that I need to bring my holy and pleasing self to God. But that’s not what it says in light of Exodus 20:25. It simply says to bring myself.
God isn’t after perfection. He isn’t after our smoothed out stones. He doesn’t need us to take our tools and fix ourselves before He uses us. Instead, He asks us to come as we are, natural and uncut. It is in that state they He does His best work. If He feels it is necessary, He will do the refining; He will do the shaping. But we’ve got to let go of the perfectionism of our self. I’ve got to let go.
So today, I bring him my crooked picture frame, my sideways Bible and my asymmetrical picture. I come as I am. Because that’s how He asks me to come.