I feel as if the edges are cracking. Water is seeping in. I am looking for a way out. The door has been locked from the outside. I tell myself that this is not reality. This is only in my head. The pressure is just getting to me, that’s all. Water begins to pour in, my ankles are cold. But I can’t wake up. Suddenly my head is going to either go under water or stop receiving oxygen. Its only a matter of time. “God, God” No reply. “God, God.” Again, no reply. “God I thought I was doing this for you!.” “I thought that I was going to help! I thought that people were going to know you! I thought that I was going to glorify your name and kids were going to become saved! God, I thought you were going to show up! I thought you needed me!” Who am I? The water is at my waist. My breathing is shallow, I feel my head becoming light. God, or is it god? Maybe I have been wasting my time. Maybe my life has been a series of unfortunate circumstances creating in me a flawed sense of self-worth. Maybe I deserve this. I haven’t made a way for myself in the world. I haven’t proven myself to anyone. Maybe I am not capable of this. Maybe God didn’t have a plan for me. I can’t feel my legs, the freezing water is at my chest. This could be good. I finally realized that the only thing that matters is me. Myself. I love myself. I haven’t taken care of myself-I see that now. But its not too late, I can take care of myself. In these last moments I can take care of myself. God is a distant memory, he won’t take care of me now. I can take care of myself by removing any validations I need for myself. I can take care of myself by removing the pressures of performing. I can take care of myself by being myself. I am. I see myself in light of me. I finally understand what it means to be free, not constrained. I am free. The water is filling my lungs now. I don’t struggle. I have nothing left to prove to anyone. I look into myself and see myself. I am full. I am complete. I am satisfied. I am. I begin to cough up water. My body seems to fight it even though my mind has accepted it. I will die. I am dying. A sliver of doubt fills my mind. I am not as I thought. I remember myself, my true self. The despicable self-indulgent self that aims to succeed at the cost of others. The self that sees only the flesh of a women. I am not free. The self that remembers the high only as the beginning of sorrow. I am not satisfied. I am not complete. I am dead. The last breath goes out of me. Darkness. Darkness. Darkness. Light floods the darkness. I feel a strong hand grab my shoulders and pull me from the darkness into the light. “No my son, you are only beginning to live.”
We are a people of beliefs. I believe this, you believe that and we pretend not to think that our beliefs are the correct ones. In the name of acceptance we smile and nod when someone shares a contrarian statement. Oh how civilized we are.
We are encouraged to develop our beliefs. To understand why we choose to hold on to certain items and disregard others. We are confronted daily with the task of defending and affirming our set of beliefs. When asked to articulate our understanding we do so, not attempting to persuade, merely to share with others. Yet we cry blasphemy at the idea of a just war or a lack of free will. Oh how civilized we are.
We help the least of these by participating in fair-trade and social awareness. We strive to aid the unfortunate through messages of unity and hope. Peace and justice are the bread and wine we partake in weekly. Oh how civilized we are.
We love to plant trees, ride our bikes, grow our compost, all in the name of belief. The belief that to love is to be and to be is to love. We march alongside our first nation brothers and sisters with the hope of justice. And we disregard members of our own history as intolerant fundamentalists. Oh how civilized we are.
We look upon a man who suffered much. We reach out and strike him. When he looks our way we yell in his face, “You cannot demand this from me, you worthless king.” We turn away in disgust, not at ourselves but at this lunatic for his take-it or leave-it teaching. We have to get back to protesting a war. Oh how civilized we are.
Many of the ideas in this article stemmed from conversations with friends. In no way are these all “original” thoughts.
I grew up in small town of 1000 people. On Easter Sunday my church would push 100. When I was in high school a friend of mine from youth group, Alice (not her real name) got pregnant. News of this spread quickly (it is a small town after all). Soon I began to treat her differently at church. There was a stigma attached to Alice, conversation with her seemed to be off limits because, “she was the girl who had sex before marriage.” I noticed it wasn’t only me. As soon as my friends and the students at school found out there was snickering as Alice entered the room or was passed in the hall. And while we knew that people were having sex but without the belly to prove it, we largely ignored that fact.
At church people began to distance themselves from her. There was no celebration of the new-life that was going to enter the world. There was no church-organized potluck to congratulate the couple. There was only condemnation. I am sure a few well-intentioned members tried to reach out to Alice but the impact was hardly felt throughout the church. Alice stopped attending youth-group, church, and stopped going to school. Anytime a reference was made in church about youth going astray minds would quickly wonder to Alice. It took me 7 years to realize the hypocritical role myself, and the church played in caring for her. We thought only of the implications of having a pregnant teenager in our church.
We can learn a lot from Alice and what I believe is a far-too common situation.
We need to be serious with sin but also free with grace. We would do a disservice to both the church and Alice if we ignored the sin. Sin needs to be recognized and addressed but there is no reason to dwell in it. When King David was approached by the Prophet Nathan after committing some heinous crimes (killing a man’s wife to sleep with her) what was his response (after he worked through his ignorance)? “I have sinned against the Lord,” David said. Simple. To the point. He was forgiven by God and had to deal with the consequences (2 Sam 12).
Yes, there are consequences to actions. The often forgotten ending of David and Bathsheba: David’s child ends up becoming very ill. We don’t like taking responsibility for our actions and when we do we hope there are no consequences. The important aspect of the story is what happens next. David’s son dies and he moves on in God’s forgiveness. He does not dwell on his past failures. Dwelling does not mean forgetting. David would always remember his sin and God’s greater grace (Psalms 51).
As the church we need to embody Jesus’ words and actions when he says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” Acknowledge sin. Accept responsibility for actions. Move in the Grace of Christ. Without the ill-deserved love we receive from Christ we have no basis for loving those who also deserve nothing but contempt. Instead of ostracization let us move in grace.
The unfortunate reality is that many girls who are like Alice do not go through with pregnancy. They look around, see the Alice’s before them and understand that if they keep the baby they will face condemnation and scorn from their family and friends. The church needs to be a place that promotes the holiness of Christ while showing the love of the cross. Both of these realities cannot be separated.
It would be natural now to shift and talk about how Christians should all be pro-life and fight vehemently for the well-being of the unborn. It would make sense to criticize cultural movements about abortion and what women’s rights are. But how does picketing outside of a clinic help Alice? Change needs to happen, and it will by the grace of God. As for you and I, let us look for the Alice in our own churches and extend the same grace we have been extended countless times.
The other day I watched Inception again and it besides being awesome it made me think. There was one idea that I grasped onto.
The power of discovery.
Discovery drove Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, Cobb, as he tried to find his true reality. Throughout the movie we see him losing himself in worlds in which he cannot distinguish truth from fiction. When Cobb found himself his identity was transformed.
I believe that the power of discovery is what drives true Christian growth. When one finds out who they are in Christ their world is completely transformed.
Taste and see that the Lord is good! (Ps 34:8) More often than not we are told what the goodness of God tastes and looks like rather than being urged to take part in the experience of discovering God.
Don’t get me wrong, I do not want our understanding of who God is based on our experiences… That would leave us worshipping a god who is neither real nor worth our time. Rather, we should pursue God with our entire being, challenging our mind while experiencing God’s greatness in the good and bad.
When we take time to go past knowledge and discover who we are in Christ our identity is powerfully transformed.
I recently attended a youth leaders conference and the speaker spoke on, “Being Jesus to a broken generation.” Sounds good eh?
Unfortunately during the week we lost sight of who Jesus is and what he has done. Sure we dove into what it meant to love the kids God placed in our youth groups and how to be Jesus with everyone but there was is one small problem.
I’m not Jesus and last time I checked, you weren’t either.
We cannot separate the person of Christ from the work of Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life for our atonement on the cross. Jesus was the God-man who redeemed sinners unto himself. Jesus was the moral example to fulfill God’s righteous law. The person and work of Christ are intrinsically linked.
We cannot be someone’s redeemer, we cannot atone for someone’s sin, only Christ can.
When we think we can be be Jesus with other people we end up with self-glorification and self-worship. When we try to fill the role of Christ we shift the focus of our worship from God to ourselves.
Don’t pretend to be what only Jesus can be. Point others away from yourself, towards Christ, and pray that God alone is glorified.
We like lists. Our world is filled with lists; grocery lists, to-do lists, 5-ways to a better body lists, how to become a ______ list, why is that? Well, there comfortable, manageable and even if we don’t succeed, at least we made it to step 3.
The list mentality has invaded our relationship with God and we like having a ‘10 ways to a better Christian life list.’ Much of our Bible teaching today is little more than lists on how to live a better life with Christianese thrown in (ie. 5 Steps to a Godly Marriage, 3 Easy ways to remain Faithful, 2 Sure-Working Practices to Deal with Anger). These are little more than graceless to-do lists with God sprinkled on top.
But we love them! We crave them! If there is something that I can do to make myself a better person, sign me up!
This ‘how to live a better life’ approach to Bible teaching may be full of good intent but severely hinders the Gospel of Christ.
In a previous post I talked about Salvation by Grace and while most Christians will acknowledge that it was God and God alone who saved them, many will live as if they saved themselves. When we get this down (and I don’t think any of us will fully comprehend what it means to be saved by grace) we tend to carry this train of thought through to, “While God may have saved me, I need to do a lot of good stuff so He continues to like me.”
This is an enormous lie that we tell ourselves. “For God to continue to Love me and think of me as his child, I must ______(fill in the blank).”
We stop at believing salvation is by grace alone, but now I have to pay my rent to stay worthy of what God has given me.
The truth is we are saved by grace, and only in Christ we are worthy of this free gift. Nothing of what we have done, all of what Jesus has done. If God saved you while you were a Sinner, what gives you the right to live like he is going to turn his back and decide to stop caring?
And this is where we begin our list theology. We believe that we can keep God’s favour by making ourselves better people. We believe that God will love us more if we accomplish. We begin to ‘do things for God’ out of a place of fear, “I am teaching Sunday School because I don’t want God to be angry at me.”
Let’s throw away our self-justification and start being obedient to God out of a place of love-not fear.
“I want to do this because I love you!”
When you realize that God not only has saved you by what His Son did on the cross, but that he has also made you holy, regardless of how list-filled your life is, you begin to want and serve Him more, not less.
Jesus made you worthy, not you.