“So is your husband a Christian too?” my friend asked.
I was startled. I assumed she knew. But then, she’d only ever met my husband once and for a few moments, and in our chats when I mentioned him I wasn’t sure I’d even mentioned that he was also a Christian directly. It was silly of me, but I had always assumed that the people who knew I was a Christian would know my husband was Christian, too.
“Yeah, he is.”
She paused, considered. “Is he like you with it?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond. “Like me?”
She pondered. “Is he really devout like you?”
Devout? Devout? I don’t know why the word threw me, but it did. Call me a committed Christian, a serious Christian, and I would nod my head in agreement. But devout is a word I associate with elder Christians, with the faithful little old ladies who show up for church before the doors are open when there’s a blizzard outside. With the believers who are so far along that you know they sin but you can’t imagine where or how. With the Amish, and also deeply devoted Catholics. With my mom.
The dictionary tells me that “devout” means having or showing deep religious commitment. And despite being a committed Christian who takes my relationship with God very seriously, I stumbled hearing the label applied to me because it doesn’t ring true. I hear myself complain. I know exactly how selfish I am. I can be reckless and gossipy in my speech. I am prideful. I have spoken in deceit and sometimes in wrath. And I know I have done at least some of those things right in front of the friend who just called me devout.
But that’s the great tension, isn’t it?
Devout means devoted, ardent, sincere, deeply dedicated. Devout swore to Jesus it would follow him anywhere, then cut off a guard’s ear and abandoned Him at the first sign of trouble. Devout acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, then bickered over the seating chart in heaven. Devout mourned Jesus’ apparent death, but refused to believe He’d triumphed over death until He made His appearance, scars and all.
The devout Christian is not perfectly righteous or pure or good, because no one can be. The devout Christian is trying to get there, sometimes managing in the grace of the Holy Spirit, and also almost always screwing up. The devout Christian behaves selfishly, and then regrets it the next day and has to ask for forgiveness. The devout Christian sometimes yells at other cars during rush hour and then flinches with realization. The devout Christian sometimes forgets everything in the Bible in a moment of panic and reverts to spiritual toddler-hood.
The devout Christian trusts that God can use imperfect vessels. The devout Christian says, “I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips” but can also say, having been redeemed by Christ, “Here am I. Send me!”
So I turned to my friend and I smiled. “Yeah,” I said. “He’s pretty devout. We both are.”
Deeply devoted. Soul-committed. And able to acknowledge that such a commitment doesn’t exclude imperfection, stumbles, the struggle with my own humanness and my sin nature.
I’m glad God made it so.