The Overclocked Christian

The Raspberry Pi is a $35 credit-card sized computer that programming hobbyists have used in some pretty spectacular projects. A quick search will pull up hundreds of guides explaining how to use a Pi as the brains of a homemade weather station, arcade cabinet, media server, security system, home automation hub, AI assistant, motorized garden enclosure, robot, and a dozen other projects that might interest you.

One of the more useful things you can do, especially if your project is taxing the limits of your Pi, is a little trick called “overclocking.”

Overclocking is the process of taking a computer and pushing it a little harder than the manufacturer intended for it to go. For the Raspberry Pi, it’s a relatively simple process—open the right text file, find the right numbers, and replace those numbers with bigger numbers.

Voila. Restart the system, and you’re overclocked. A higher clock speed means your computer can chew through difficult tasks faster—which, depending on what you’re using the Pi for, can make a huge difference in what your project is capable of accomplishing.

But there’s a trade-off, of course. Otherwise the manufacturer would have the clock speed cranked up as high as it could go.

The trade-off is this: Overclocking requires more power. More power produces more heat. More heat and faster speeds generally mean a shorter lifespan for the components involved. Besides all that, changing the manufacturer’s clock settings both voids the warranty and introduces an element of instability into the system. Even with a dedicated cooling system, there’s a non-zero chance that tweaking those settings will crash your operating system or fry something important.

In the case of the Pi, we’re talking about an easily replaceable $35 computer. As far as taking risks goes, messing with the settings a little bit isn’t exactly a huge gamble.

But it’s possible to overclock more than computers.

If you want, you can overclock yourself.

* * *

I think Martha was probably an overclocked Christian. At least, I think she was during the brief little window we get to see her the first time we see her in the gospels. Martha and her sister, Mary, were hosting Jesus in Martha’s house. “But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me'” (Luke 10:40).

Martha was focused on being a good host. She was focused intently on that. The Bible says she was distracted with much serving. How much? Enough to forget what really mattered in the moment. Jesus (gently, I imagine) responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41).

Worried. Troubled. Distracted. I think we all know an overclocked Christian when we see one—especially because we all have the capacity to be an overclocked Christian.

The overclocked Christian never believes she’s doing enough, and every time she’s reminded of this, she tries to compensate by pushing herself a little harder.

The overclocked Christian is stressed and anxious because he sets standards for himself that go above and beyond what God expects of him.

The overclocked Christian works hard to maintain the image of a picture-perfect life, because she’s afraid of what others would think if they saw the flawed human being beneath the façade.

The overclocked Christian confuses money with God’s approval, and focuses his efforts on earning—or at least spending—as much as his successful fellow Christians (who, for all he knows, are drowning in their own debt).

The overclocked Christian finds solace in her own track record of obedience to God, living in fear that past or present failures might disqualify her as a child of God.

The overclocked Christian fixates on a distant, difficult milestone and tells himself that God will be happy with him once he gets there—that he will be at peace with himself once he gets there—that he can slow down once he gets there.

The overclocked Christian forgets a lot of important scriptures. Scriptures like, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Or scriptures that warn us not to stray from “the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Or ones that remind us of the faithful men and women who went through this life “destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:37-38). Or ones that draw a line in the sand and tell us, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

* * *

Grace.

Grace is what the overclocked Christian so often overlooks.

Christianity is not about being perfect, but becoming perfect. Overcoming. Growing. It’s a process that begins with repentance, forgiveness, justification, and the Spirit of God—all gifts we can never earn or deserve. These gifts make our journey possible, and we rely on them every step of the way.

Overclocked Christianity is what happens when we put these gifts to the side and try to fill the gaps ourselves. It’s what happens when we demand (our own version of) perfection from ourselves—or at least push ourselves to maintain the illusion. But no matter how hard we strain, our own righteousness can only ever serve as a record of all the times we fell short of God’s standards. We’ll burn out our circuits trying to plug holes we can’t possibly plug.

And so we see Paul berating the Galatians, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? … He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:3, 5).

The Christian, overclocked or not, has work to do. There is no place in the Kingdom for those who refuse to let go of a lifestyle of sin (Revelation 22:15). We need to be changing. We need to be growing. We need to be overcoming.

But we don’t need to be perfect. We don’t need to be at the end of the road the day after we start walking the trail. We just need to be walking.

Your journey will be marked with struggles, setbacks, complications, misfires, and moments of incredible failure.

So what?

You’re human. We all are—and all our stories look like that. But it doesn’t matter.

Paul, after reminding the Corinthians of the sinful lifestyles that have no place in the Kingdom, explained, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Do you think the Corinthians had somehow transcended sin? Hardly. Paul spends most of that letter taking them to task for serious congregational sins. But he still uses the past tense: “Such were some of you.” When we’re washed, justified, and sanctified, we’re not what we were before. We’re “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Not perfect. Not yet. But new. Set apart. Forgiven. Granted access to the throne of grace whenever we need it (Hebrews 4:16). And that very grace is what makes the concept of overclocking ourselves so incredible pointless—and not just pointless, but harmful.

* * *

When we try to “do enough,” we try to earn an entirely unearned gift. When we set our standards higher than God’s, we reach for something unattainable. When we project the picture-perfect life, we make others feel inadequate while God remains unfooled. When we rely on our own track record of obedience, we’re forced to stare at our own failings with no way to erase them. When we conflate wealth with righteousness, we pursue money as a divine badge of approval. When we put all our chips on a distant milestone, we reject both the love and peace God offers us right now, in this moment.

Christ’s yoke is easy. His burden is light. When it’s not, there’s a good chance we’re overclocking ourselves—and the only thing we can accomplish with overclocking is unnecessary stress and inevitable burnout.

The Manufacturer set your clock speed where He did for a reason.

Within those boundaries, you can be all the Christian you’ll ever need to be.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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