I feel like I’m always doing it. Mainly because my lungs are temperamental and my body craves alcohol and caffeine alternately throughout the days. I have enjoyed some success in battling the booze, but I am a slave to the bean y’all.
Sometimes I struggle with my faith. Not in a “does God even exist?” kind of way, but in a “God, why u no get rid of all my problems?” kind of way. Funny story: our pastor touched on this no less than twelve hours ago, and I have to wonder if God has given him the ability to communicate with me telepathically. That, or the government has somehow microchipped my brain and randomly sends out personal thought information to local church leaders for reasons unbeknownst to me but probably involving aliens and contaminated cherry coke.
Fact: Christians should expect to endure for real hardships. Character building and such, revealing the glory of God. It’s our thing. We get sick. We lose friends. We don’t all drive BMWs or live in brick mansions or make loads of money. There are people who would really like it if we couldn’t worship, talk, think, or live in a way consistent with what we believe. There are people who would kill our bodies.
It’s not okay, but it will be.
In the dead center of this free country, in what is perhaps the most biblely state in the U.S., I grow in my faith and I try to raise my children in a way Jesus would want. The building where we live is made of wood and glass and cement. The cars we drive get us from here to there. The jobs we do provide us with money for food, shelter, and clothing. Nothing we have defines us. Nothing we have we got on our own. Nothing we have belongs to us.
But everything we are is from God and because of God. We are not spontaneously-generated ants on a sphere in a black hole of space and time. God designed us and has given us tools and a purpose while we are here on Earth.
If I woke up tomorrow and a volcano boiled my house up with red hot lava (a recurring nightmare of Merrick’s), God would provide me and my family with a place(s) to lay our heads. If my car was like, say, a green, four-door, ’97 Saturn and it wouldn’t start worth a flip? God would send a ride if He thought I needed to be somewhere. God will use me and He will use the talents and the resources He gave to me no matter where I am or what I am doing. If I burn my thumb on a hot poptart (shut up), He will help me relate it to my walk with Him and give me the words to tell you fine people about it.
God wants to use us, all the times and all the places. This can be hard to do when we’re physically hurting or mentally exhausted, or scared or confused or sad or really, just human.
I’ve been hesitant to talk about all the million hundred hot-button issues of the past few weeks but one thing I cannot shake–and obviously it’s the people who were murdered in cold heartless blood while praying and worshipping peacefully in their own church. What the actual heck.
I’m not going to say anything new on this. It’s racism. It’s murder. It’s evil. It’s satan, buck-naked on a trampoline with a megaphone.
I like my satan obvious and predictable. But what about the satan who rolls up in a practical, eco-friendly ride, all decked out in his Target best, stroking my ego and affirming every awesome thing I ever thought about myself? That guy is out there too, and he is a sneaky mcsneakerton.
Christians Christians Christians.
Get ready. Crap has hit the fan and no one’s climbing up there to clean it off. This world, this place, is not going to get any better. Things are not going to be easier. People are not going to to be nicer. I’m not even sure the number of people who call themselves Christians is going to grow. But we still have us a Divine to-do list:
- To see the preciousness in every beautiful person on the planet.
- To see the face of God in every person He created–and He created them all.
- To tell people the truth about Jesus: not to jazz Him up and make a bunch of promises we can’t back up, like “believe in Jesus and your life on Earth will be straight kick-ass and then you’ll die and go straight to even more awesome Heaven.”
- To love one another as He loves us; to show people the love of Christ first and foremost before addressing their personal shortcomings. If we’re all about spreading the Gospel then our priority número uno should be making people feel heard and cared about. If we’re hoping to build lasting relationships with the people in our towns and schools and jobs, we can’t stomp all over everything they’ve ever believed to be true about themselves.
- Me going off on a tangent: this is something that’s been on my heart about the LGBT community specifically: they’re not going to pick up on our Jesus if we’re constantly slamming the church door in their faces. If we have friends who are blatant alcoholics and we’ve never given them unsolicited advice about their sin yet we eagerly invite them to church week after week, why would we treat people in a homosexual lifestyle any different? If a hefty chunk of any one church population is not only overweight/obese but embraces and celebrates gluttony, why, then, are we telling gay people that there’s no place for them in Christianity? Sorrynotsorry but we need to love us some ALL PEOPLE.
- That said, we are also called to tell the truth about God’s Word. And about sin. And salvation. The fact that I commit a certain sin does not cancel out another person’s sin. The biblical definition of marriage between a husband and a wife is pretty freakin’ clear. The Bible also spells out how utterly evil the sins of pride, wrath, envy, greed, gluttony, and lust truly are–sins that I need to beg God for forgiveness from pretty much on the daily.
“My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me. I will give them eternal life, and they will never perish, ever! No one will snatch them out of my hand.” –John 10:27
I love this verse I think more than any other verse in the Bible. To me it serves as a comfort but also as a warning and I occassionally find myself going over a gut-checklist of questions:
- Would you recognize the voice of your shepherd? Do you listen for Him and do you go to Him when He calls you? Will your shepherd know you?
- Are you a Christian-lite? Do you say you believe in Jesus but what you mean by that is you go to church twice a month at best and live the way you feel like the rest of the time? Do you take time to pray and read the bible and study it and understand it? Do you love God or do you love the idea of God (but still not as much as you love your sleep/free time/cusswords/wine/job/live-in boyfriend/girlfriend/designer shoes/yourself)?
- When was the last time you prayed in private on your knees? If someone asked your kids if you loved God with all your heart, what would be their likely honest response? If you died tomorrow would you regret not taking your family to church for the past six months? If you were the poster child for Christianity, would there be renewed interest in Jesus or would people walk away from the church, and everything it should represent, in disgust?
- Have you ever given any real thought to these questions? Do any of them make you feel more than a little uncomfortable? Does your walk with God need some fine-tuning or a complete overhaul? Because we all–often–need one or the other. And there’s always room for growth. I’ve got so so so far to go.