“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” 1 Peter 2:23-25
Anyone else feeling discouraged but at the same time revived?
I listened to a sermon this morning that made me, well, angry. Not (as the pastor seemed to be directing) at those who are watering down the Gospel, or those who don’t take the Bible literally, or those who seek peace with other faiths and are willing to compromise, but more at my own faith in God. Is the Gospel message so watered down in me that I cannot stand up and love those around me, even if I disagree with them?
I feel like I am a true member of the church today – impassioned and enraged at moments, wagging a finger in judgment in other moments, retreating to my own Christian culture or to sin (often one and the same) when things get tough. Do I believe that Jesus did what Peter says, that “he entrusted him who judges justly” and that I too can turn to God for justice and guidance?
This last week the CSU system officially removed InterVarsity as a recognized campus club because they make their leaders sign a Statement of Faith. This act of signing a statement was determined to be discriminatory. The rationale is that anyone of any faith or creed or race or gender must be given equal opportunity to run any campus club, and the statement excludes rather than includes. And, though not stated, I am sure they think that if leaders are elected democratically in a club, the club will pick its leaders to match its own values. The signing of a statement doesn’t allow flexibility – it is discriminatory against anyone that doesn’t believe it. The decision seems only to affect faith-based clubs, though it is within itself not explicitly discriminatory.
I went through a whole series of emotions regarding this. How do I reconcile the ridiculousness of this decision with my faith in a way that conveys respect and steadfastness? Is it wrong to fear that this is only the first glimpse at a larger wave of changes coming faster than the changes in climate? I am left just wondering…God?
As I approach turning 35 years old next year (ah!), I have started to step back more and look at my own life. The question that keeps coming back is – why am I here? This isn’t where I want to be or where I thought I was going to be. So I decided to change that, to pursue a life more in-line with what I wanted and expected, following the movement of God in my life, using the talents I have been given, fighting the challenges I have received.
The first step to it was changing my hair style. It is ridiculous, I know, but it felt like something small, something I could change without many consequences. Then for a couple of weeks I grew out a beard, mostly because I was too busy to find the time to shave it all off. But I kept it. The beard felt like momentum, like a first step towards conquering mountains that God gave me victory over long ago. Alright, Lord, here I am and I am ready. What else?
I know, I’ll get in better shape. Yeah. I gained weight after the baby was born, so time to get healthy, to avoid the pitfalls men in my family have faced for years. I won’t get heart disease, I refuse to. So I started a routine I thought I could do, taking about twenty minutes every morning. At first I struggled with getting up early in the morning. But eventually I enjoyed doing it and felt great about the results. I started to run again. It was yet another victory in an area that I thought I had complete control.
But then there were tougher areas. Like my marriage. Like pornography. Like writing. Like purifying my mind and heart so that I am at the ready.
For the first time in years my work started to slow down to the point that I was looking for other things to do. And I fell back into one of my greatest weaknesses; the malaise of laziness. I struggled to get simple things done. I lost even more motivation outside of work. And things got messier. My worries about money started to grow, another friend struggled a lot with his life and needed support, my wife felt distant and removed, I was turning to old habits to make me feel better, my writing slowed down. How in the world could I bring this life back to life?
I again stepped back and looked at everything. Is God who He says He is – to me? How could I forget who God is if I know Him and relate with Him daily? Looking around the landscape I saw that my mind was crowded with weeds that I let grow over the years. I wanted to pull them myself. As soon as I pulled one I turned around to see another old one growing back. A yard full of weeds is discouraging especially when I know I need to step out of the gate into the world to be an ambassador for Christ. I began to fear that all of the other people in my life, including those that don’t know anything about Jesus, saw the weeds too. What if they turned away from faith because of me?
The only answer I know of is to turn to God, to cry to God. I can’t fix this.
I shouldn’t try to fix this.
When I heard about the decision of the CSU Chancellor to de-recognize InterVarsity I became immediately angry. How could a school system that I attended boot a campus ministry over discrimination like this? This is InterVarsity, whose leaders opened my eyes to racism, prejudice, and injustice in our community and around the world. What? All that I ever saw come from the chapter at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was help to the campus, to the church, and to the community. When strife broke out it was returned with love and reconciliation. We volunteered and served all over the place.
Against my nature I thought of all of things I could do to stand up against this, to say it wasn’t okay, that I felt it was a stupid decision based off of irrational reasoning. I wanted to start a letter campaign. I wanted to start a boycott of giving to the school system. I wanted to march in protest. I wanted to go to the Chancellor and tell him that the students of the California State University System need Jesus now more than ever. That there is no hope in the world without Jesus because there is no possibility of lasting change for the good apart from Him.
But I realized I was still trapped in the weeds of my own life and they stop me from doing anything. They render me impotent, distracted, hurting and hungry. I can’t stand because people will spot my blemishes and use them as a smear campaign against Jesus. And why shouldn’t they – those things don’t represent Him but they justify what they believe.
So I don’t do anything.
I am the church in the United States today. We are trapped in the weeds we have let grow. We are addicted to pornography. We are lying and cheating. We are proud of ourselves for being right and knowing the right way, but we don’t really follow it ourselves. We are afraid that the world around us will crumble. We are afraid that we will be rejected and made irrelevant – like we try make other people that we want to silence. We lie to ourselves that our world is safe and okay and happy. We lie to ourselves that by being certain the end is coming soon we can retreat and let it happen.
I’m going to be 35 in 4 months and I’m tired of me. It’s time to re-enter the battle. I have to put myself out there and allow the arrows to fly at me. I have to trust God really, to admit that I failed and let the weeds grow but that God is the only one that can clean up this mess. God must be my only protection. I have to take these talents and invest them where they will yield a return for God’s purposes.
I’m done being right.
No, I’m not right. I’m redeemed, my life exchanged.
Church – perhaps we are put here for such a time as this? What are we going to do about it?