[this is a draft and not “perfect” yet, but I wanted to post it anyway. edits may follow, but if I wait until it’s “ready”, it will never get posted.]
There are some people I interact with in church circles that I can tend to feel “guilty” around because I feel judged by them. I alter my behavior in their presence, not out of conviction or fear of God, but out of the fear of man and the knowledge that they are almost certainly judging me, and finding me lacking.
Then there are people like Athena. With Athena, I knew she wasn’t ever judging me with human scorn . . . but when I was around her, she was so much like Jesus that it was almost as if Jesus Himself was sitting right there in the room with me. I quite clearly remember once making an off-color joke in her presence, and the almost immediate feeling of conviction I felt. In the face of such a Christlike demeanor, I was as aware of my depravity as I would have been if Jesus Himself was standing there, and I had a genuine desire to change my behavior because of this “little Christ” who was in the room with me.
One thing I know about myself . . . I will never be anywhere near to what Athena was, not this side of heaven. All of the edges that are rough within me do not take well to repeated attempts at molding and refining.
Maybe this is is a copout, but I suspect that I struggle with sin even more than most. The natural tendency I have to question everything, my impulsivity, my blunt nature and the anger I’ve never quite been able to shake. And I can point to any number of reasons (or, to call them what they really are, excuses) for why I am the way I am . . . temperament, upbringing, or whatever else I can find. But tonight, as I wrestle with Athena’s passing into glory, I find myself wondering what I can and should be doing to move myself towards the point where people will see that in me . . .
It’s not that Athena would have wanted the acclaim or the praise for herself. I am well aware of that, and I am certain that her peace came not from any sense of her own goodness, but from a sure and settled knowledge that Jesus had accomplished in her life what she could not. And I am certain that it is within this knowledge that she found her peace.
But although I know that it is not humanly possible for her to have been “perfect” on this earth, Athena was still one of the few people I’ve known for whom “she was such a good person” was really NOT a cliche. Quite simply, Athena looked and acted like Jesus, and everyone who interacted with her knew it.
Athena would not have claimed to have achieved complete sanctification while on this earth, but that doesn’t change the fact that she was probably one of the most amazing and influential Jesus followers that I have ever known. I truly believe that she was one of those people that the Bible speaks of as “of whom the world is not worthy“.
I don’t think it’s enough for me to say that I admired her gentle spirit, her life that preached the Gospel in a way that words were barely necessary. I hope I don’t stop there, but that I honor her life and her death, and the Jesus she loved so much, by pouring everything I am into becoming someone who looks more and more like Jesus every day that I live.