If you didn’t read yesterday’s blog, this one may not make much sense, but if you did here’s the rest of my story from my book, The 10 Second Rule:
“A crisis of faith triggered by cancer forced me to take a second look at Jesus, trying to figure out what I’d missed. And as I began rereading the Gospels, here’s what started to trip me up:
Do good to those who hate you.
Deny yourself daily.
I came not to be served, but to serve.
But I say forgive seventy times seven.
Whoever wants to be first…must become last.
No man can serve two masters.
Give to the one who asks you.
Give no thought for tomorrow.
This Jesus who said these things appeared to be anything but sensible! Here was God himself in Jesus Christ inviting all who would enter his kingdom to abandon comfortable Christianity – to abandon the common sense I prized so highly, the very thing that governed my life. Leave it at the door, he was saying. I’ll meet you at the foot of the cross, where your old life will end and the new life I’ll give you will begin. I’ll issue you new instructions from there. Trust me – and come follow me.
I found nothing in the Gospels that sounded even remotely like the church-on-Sundays-and-Wednesdays, believe-in-the-Bible, serve-on-some-committees plan. The beige plan.
What the Jesus of the Gospels seemed to be calling me to frightened and confused me, partly because it threatened the very survival of every aspect of my carefully planned life. Besides, I knew very few Christians who actually lived like that. I had always admired the few I did know in my church – the really gung-ho types. You know the ones I mean. The ones always more than willing to serve anyone anytime, the first to sign up for a month-long missions trip to Mexico in the sweltering heat of summer. I cheered them on from the sidelines. I just didn’t see the point, for myself, of being overly obedient or spiritual. I didn’t need box seats in heaven – after all, how bad could the bleachers be? I was in.
Was I? The more I read the Bible, the only plan Jesus ever seemed to offer was: I am the way, the truth, and the life. Deny yourself Take up your cross daily and follow me. Imitate me. Love others more than yourself. Apparently the gold plan.
And, it was slowly dawning on me, sitting in church every Sunday, I was theologically certain but an obedience coward – no better than Peter. I could almost hear the cock crowing – this time for me!
It wasn’t until I was thirty-one, the proverbial rich young ruler – husband, father of three, Sunday school teacher, deacon, a twice-on-Sunday Christian – that a bonfire of true faith was lit inside me. To this day, I’m not sure if God simply fanned into flames the pilot light of faith I received as a child or if I was truly born again.
This much is certain: I fell in love with Jesus and repented of both my stubborn, sinful heart and most of my cultural Christianity. This time, I gladly and unashamedly pledged my eternal allegiance to him and to his kingdom agenda.
It felt like I had been born again! I felt like a boy on the first day of spring – so happy I couldn’t take it all in. People thought I’d “gone religious.” Just the opposite – I was in love with God, not religion. But that’s another story for another day, which he’s still writing for me.”
Quoted from the opening pages of The 10 Second Rule
My second question for you: If you’re still stuck in the gerbil-like routine of beige Christianity, what really keeps you from “going for it?”
I’m dead serious. I don’t Twitter – don’t do any lengthy email. I never even saw a Facebook page until a year ago. I rarely do social media. This is my first blog ever, so please be patient with me while I figure this out.
So then, why blog?
As much as I value theological truth and want always to pursue it, you’ll only rarely read me weighing in on deep theological issues or controversies. Here’s what really interests me; and, I’ve said this about myself many times. “I’m reasonably certain Jesus would prefer that I was half as smart and twice as obedient.” What really drives me is how does this truth I claim to believe, work itself out in real life?
I’m a teacher and spiritual mentor, but mostly I’m a storyteller. I’m hoping that in some of my stories you’ll recognize yourself and I can help keep you from making some of the mistakes I’ve made. I’ve been nearly a full time mentor for almost 27 years. (You can go to the About page, if you really want to know more about me.) At 63, I have mileage and the odometer is still rolling – I’m still learning from God and life. And, perhaps I can help you better navigate this amazing adventure of following Jesus.
So, here’s my first story – it’s actually my own story, taken from the opening pages of my new book, The 10 Second Rule. At the end I have a question for you, so please hang with me.
“Up until age thirty-one, I was your standard-issue Christian – the kind the Christian schools and churches in our town pounded out year after year like spiritual model T’s – mostly in one color: beige. We were covenant children. We figured we came with a cradle-to-grave salvational warranty.
And in the mid-sixties, every high school senior in my church was expected to make a public profession of their faith unless they were atheists or a democrat. I was neither. But I had questions.
So my parents called our pastor. A good man, really – kind, intelligent, but a man who could be deadly serious when he needed to be. “Our son’s just not sure, Pastor. Maybe if you talked to him.” And over he came to our house to work on me like the last holdout on a hung jury. My parents knew they needed a closer. And Reverend Jacob was a closer.
My parents sat in the room with us, praying, while Jake went to work. “Tell me, son – what’s the problem?”
Well, the problem was that I didn’t feel anything – any real excitement for Jesus. I believed that everything in the Bible was true. I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, that he’d died on the cross, risen from the dead, and was coming back to judge the living and the dead. I bought the whole party line – but felt no passion for God, no passion to live a life radically different from any other guy my age.
If I was going to make a public profession of my faith, the equivalent of adult baptism in most churches, then it seemed to me that I ought to have a little fire in my belly for God. I didn’t. All I really cared about were girls and making a ton of money as fast as I could. Of course, I couldn’t say that to the pastor, especially not in front of my parents, so I just stuck with the “I don’t feel anything special” line.
I don’t remember everything he said that day, but here’s the gist of it: “Clare, if you believe that everything you’ve been taught about God is true – you have faith. You are a believer, even if you don’t feel it right now.”
I looked to my parents for support, but they were avoiding direct eye contact. They sensed that Jake was on the verge of victory, and they didn’t want to break the cobra’s stare.
I loved my parents more than God back then, so I caved.
They were happy.
The pastor was happy.
But, I wasn’t.
I felt like I was about to stand in front of the king and pledge my allegiance, even though I wasn’t really in love yet with either him or his kingdom. It felt phony.
But Jake was the pastor, seminary trained and all, so who was I, a seventeen-year-old kid, to tell him what faith was? I became an official Christian that June.
One of the worst mistakes of my life.
In my mind I now had my “get out of hell free” card! I just needed to keep loving God (whatever that meant), love others, attend church regularly, serve, give, keep a lid on the public sin in my life, and pray. I’d grown up in the church; I knew what was expected, and I did it. One more beige Christian parked in the pews waiting for my weekly fill-up.
I don’t blame my church, or my parents, or the Christian schools – they taught me truth and loved me well. I didn’t even know I had a problem to blame anyone for. I just thought that’s all there was to it – that that’s what it meant to be a Christian. It was a sensible faith. God was close enough to be a comfort, but distant enough to not be terribly inconvenient.”
Quoted from About the Author in, The 10 Second Rule
So, whether “I’ve been a Christian all my life” is your story, or you came to faith at Camp Winamonka somewhere when you were a kid;
When you came to my website, I stated that I’ll only post weekly – on Mondays. I’m going to violate that, first shot out of the box. In the interest of continuity, I’ll post the second half of my story tomorrow, on Tuesday. Then I’ll wait for your feedback until next Monday.Send This Post to a Friend