Being a Godly person. That’s a challenge. Sometimes I feel like I’m not very good at it. That’s when I have to remember that I’m not the one who makes me “a Godly person.” Jesus does the work in me; it is my challenge to cooperate with what He is doing.
The issue of godliness is a problem of floors and ceilings: minimums and maximums. We find out what the minimum is and that’s the maximum you ever get out of us. We are just trained to do that. We carry this perspective of measurements, making the grade.
You learn minimums and maximums in your schooling. As you proceeded through each grade, you were given assignments and you did them (at least most of them). You figured out what you had to do to get the grade you wanted and that is what you did. Student’s don’t ask, “Teacher, teacher, could I please write one more term paper or read one more book?” You find out what is required and you do that.
You learn, “Tell me what the minimum requirement is because that’s the maximum you get out of me.” The floor (minimum) becomes your ceiling (maximum). After some twelve or fifteen years of this procedure, you march into the job market. You discover rather quickly that the minimum/maximum system you used in school doesn’t work at work. Here’s what NOT to say at a job interview: “What’s the least I can do around here and still get paid?” However, all too quickly, that becomes the attitude of many people on the job.
Tragedy strikes when you carry the minimum/maximum motive into your home. “What’s the least I can do because that the most you will get out of me?” “What is the minimum amount of emotional honesty I can get away with?” “What’s the least amount of freedom I can give others and still keep all the control I want?” Or this can go the other way, “What is the expectation, for no matter how unrealistic, I will do my best to live up to it?” “What are the demands placed on me, for I will break my health and my heart to meet them?” Again, this is the dangerous dynamic of minimums and maximums, floors and ceilings.
It is natural, yet dangerous, to carry the minimum/maximum dynamic into your relationship with God. And, on more than one occasion, I have met with a person who, when he gets through beating around the bush, wants to know, “Can I do this and still get to heaven?” I understand the question. I know people who would be happy to answer the question for you with their own expectations and demands.
The question is wrong. The premise of the question is wrong. Godliness is not so much about measures as the motives, not about demands but desire, not about expectations but an adventure in faith, hope, and love.
As a teacher, let me tell you a secret: I do my best to get the grades off the table. The best learning (deep, life changing learning) is not under the pressure of a grade, but from a desire to learn, to master a subject, to find a solution, or create something new. And, if a teacher can help students tap into this level of motive, the learning changes.
I just finished an online class. The technology broke down in the last week. I knew my students would be nervous, concerned, and some had enough of a perfectionist streak to be fearful. I wrote to one such student and assured her that her grades were all good, so just “enjoy the final part of the course… it is about learning, not just posting assignments.”
She wrote back,
“The funny thing Dr. Parrott is that I really did learn so much, and my grade was far from my normally perfectionist mind. What a great class this has been.”
There you have it. She is no longer a student; she has become a scholar. The joy and desire to learn is what drives her, not the grade. Now, my reader, I bet you can apply this little illustration to your life in God, to what it means to be a Godly Person.
There is a wonderful and old hymn that describes this kind of Godliness:
I have one deep supreme desire
That I may be like Jesus
To this I fervently aspire
That I may be like Jesus
I want my heart his throne to be
So that a watching world may see
His likeness shining forth in me
I want to be like Jesus
In the next blog, I want to share with you the prayer, “O Lord, Make Me a Compassionate Person.”
Copyright © Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.