The Road That Leads to Me

A journey of faith: How I found God (for real)

This is something I wrote a few years ago…it is a self-reflection of sorts that re-counts my personal faith journey. This story makes me fairly vulnerable, but I think that true vulnerability is necessary in order to develop true faith. I hope that someone out there in the blogosphere will read my story and be able to relate…

A young woman is raised in a staunch Christian home. Piety nearly drains from her every pore. Years of Sunday school lessons fill her mind with notions of should and should not. Parental pressures coupled with a false sense of need has led her into a life of ministry. Daily she lives out the manifestations of that which has been built up to her as the only source of an abundant life. She is living out her symbolic complex. In earnest she prays to a God she does not know. Instead, she has spent her life developing a relationship with someone else’s God.

The assumptions surrounding the young woman hinge on her outward indicators of faith. However, the discrepancy between what is and what is supposed is great (Percy). The girl has not adopted faith, but rather an educational package­­­­ – the life, beliefs, and Christian environment created for her. The young woman has unconsciously allowed herself to use the eyes of a system, forfeiting her own by never having opened them. Though her life revolves around a religion, she is nothing but a spectator – never taking personal ownership of the mentality she is immersed in.

For quite some time the girl is quite unaware of her self-handicapped condition. Daily she moves her body through the motions entangled within the Christian lifestyle. Dutifully the young woman attends and serves in the church. Each Sunday she is greeted by warm smiles from familiar faces – people delighted to see one of their own “on the right track.” Perceived by many as an upstanding youth, the young woman’s mind no longer can separate truth about her character from the praise of others. As she is believed to be, so she is.

The image the young girl carries has been a lifelong development. Though initially formed from the beliefs of others, the girl adopts the lifestyle and adjoining mentality assumed of her. Reflexive and pharisaical, her actions direct her thinking. Driven by a humanly engineered model of faith, the girl conforms to the expected outcomes for her life. She strives to be that which she has been told to be.

Spiritual awakening, or the experience through which the individual recognizes their direct need for a deeper more personal faith, is the only means towards the end of recovery. Until the mind is able to separate tradition from belief and duty from desire, true connection with God is unachievable. However, many never recover from their self-victimized state of living. Complacency grips the soul. Historical and familial traditions replace the zealous fire God intends for His followers. Reliant on pastors and high-ranking church officials, contemporary church-goers have traded an intimate relationship with God for a relationship much like that between product and consumer. Unlike the pioneers of modern religion, today’s churchgoers accept another’s vision, rather than seeing through the eyes of their own mind.

Longing for quick fixes to life’s hassles, wanting to please family, and desiring to fill social needs, those attending the modern church sit with inverted eyes and empty hearts. Self has replaced God. Men and women pay lip service to their God in a form of misplaced concreteness. Deceived by their own selfishness, they do not recognize the ever-growing chasm between themselves and the Lord.

The young woman observed those around her – the comfortable faces she’d grown up with. Apathy clouded the room. A young man stood up and began to speak. Though the words came from his mouth, they seemed to flow straight from his heart. Vibrantly his eyes danced across the room, establishing the attention of each individual. His smile extended beyond his face. Scarcely unable to control the very pitch of his voice, he shared his story. The young man had discovered Jesus. Raised in an un-churched home, the young man was left to discover truth by his own power. Seeking out multiple religions and schools of thought, the young man told of the way he came to find a connection with the Lord. The young girl’s heart grew warm within her. Hearing many testimonies like that of the young man, the girl knew that a deeper love relationship with God was possible.

Aware that true satisfaction and abundant joy can only be found through a personal connection with God, the young girl began her pursuit. Walls dropped and blinders fell to the floor. Casting tradition aside, she began to question the doctrines surrounding her faith – testing them to see if they were her own. Her eyes were opened to a sight more beautiful than words can describe. No longer was the girl living vicariously through the faith of someone else. Intimacy with God coupled with amazing joy were discovered on the girl’s voyage towards discovery. God is out there. One need only to look.


Where have all the twentysomethings gone?

I think there is an all-consuming black hole that opens up the minute traditional youth group kids graduate from high-school. Occasionally, the black hole delays its swallowing of said kid until midway through their freshman year of college, after college group loses its luster. It isn’t your traditional science book black hole….it is actually far more treacherous. It is the hole of apathy.

I swear that I hear Michael Stipe singing when twenty-something previous church kids walk by. “There’s me in the corner. There’s me in the spotlight, losing my religion.” And they do. Once they’re done with the barrage of camps, retreats, and Wednesday night (meat-market/whiffle ball/dancing on your chair to worship songs) church services, they disappear from churches, and do not re-emerge until they reproduce. Apparently God has no place in the lives of single college kids and couples without children.

Why do twentysomethings stop caring about God? There are several excuses commonly given…1)My church doesn’t have a good college group/singles group/young couples group. For me, this excuse doesn’t cut it. My college group was NOT a place where I necessarily fit. It was full of lots of granola type girls, guys who ALWAYS had to have deep theological discussions, and floaters that had extremely small amounts of Bible knowledge. It was very hard to relate, but I went, and I was active. I taught at my college group, and knew that it was important…fellowship is vital to a Christian, especially fellowship with fellow Christians. They understand you in a way non-Christians never will. And, another of my churches didn’t have a young couple’s group, so instead of perpetuating the problem and sitting around whining about it, I started one. You have to make it happen. Don’t use this excuse.

2)I’m so busy. This INFURIATES me. EVERYONE is busy. EVERYONE. We all worked, went to school, and had a social life. And you know what, if you don’t have room for God in your busy life, you have cut out the one thing that actually matters. If you can’t pull your butt out of bed once a week to honor your Savior and meet with other believers, you have your priorities all out of whack. “I’m so tired.” “I really need a day off.” “My Sunday is sort of my day to relax.” Give it a rest….I hope your extra hour of sleep means more to you than a relationship with Jesus.

3) We’re just always out of town. Again, you planned your trips…And, I find it hard to believe that you are gone EVERY single weekend during the summer. There are couples at our church that I literally have not seen since May. I guarantee that they will re-surface the first rainy weekend in September.

I could go on. This is obviously something I feel strongly about. Mostly because it just makes me sad. Of my youth group of 50 or so, only a  dozen or so still attend church on a regular basis. Our new church seems to be plagued with young couples adhering strictly to one of the above excuses for not attending regularly. Even as a pastor’s wife, I will be one of the first to admit that it is not all about church. Its not…Your relationship with Jesus is really the only thing that matters…However, if you are not a part of your church family…if you are not fellowshipping with other believers, experiencing corporate worship, serving in some way…how are you getting fed? How are you developing your walk? I have read my Bible every day for the last eleven years, and if that was all I did, I would one hundred percent stagnate in my relationship with God. My husband and family are Christians..but if they were the only Christians I interacted with…I would never grow, or learn, or get to serve. My faith would not be challenged.

So, I say its time for the twentysomethings to climb out of the black hole of apathy, and face the real reason they aren’t a part of a church body. They don’t care. One of my all time most-convicting verses in the Bible is found in Revelation 2:4-5, “You have forsaken your First Love. Remember the height from which you have fallen.” I want to go up to some people and say, “Don’t you remember the fire you felt?” “Don’t you remember what it is like to be right with Jesus?” “Wasn’t it awesome to have such a solid group of Christian friends to uplift you, support you, and keep you accountable?”

I can’t make my friends and others around me crawl out of their hole. I can’t make them care about God, and I can’t make them fall in love with Jesus again…But I can throw them a rope…I will be there…desperately praying for the black hole to go away.

Under a heavy load
July 14, 2008, 4:32 am
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God often gives us a “truck-load” of burdens, and things we must carry  as we travel through life. These burdens and weights we must carry are often necessary to our existence and survival…things we are unable to drop. Often we don’t receive help, and the load can be heavy. However, as we move on, though often slowly and with pain, we slowly make progress…our “truck” keeps moving. We do what we have to do…going on even when it seems to hard, and that our weary bodies can’t move another inch. We must keep moving, knowing that the pain we are bearing now will lead to something else…something for our good. It is in these times that we must remember that ALL things work together for the good of those who love God. What seems unbearable in the moment is often a blessing in disguise…something we might not be able to see or understand, unless we are willing to assume God’s perspective and dare to look at our lives in an unconventional way. We CAN make it. Nothing we are given is beyond what we are capable of bearing. He may bend us, but He will not break us. We have to remember that if God is behind it, it is worth it. He heaps on us things that may be difficult, but which can also build our strength, determination, and faith in Him and His perfect plan. We must press on, forgetting what is behind, laying hold of the goal which is ahead…God is God, and we are not. We won’t always understand, and sometimes it might take us years to be able to look back and say, “Ohhh, that’s why that happened.” But we can’t allow our fears, doubts, and sinful perspective to prevent us from carrying on. We have to remember that our troubles are light and momentary, and that Christ carried the ultimate load..all of our sin…He allowed us the chance to trust Him…the ultimate privilege..the ultimate reward…We MUST be faithful. He will protect us, and lead us to the place He has for us. Keep going….

Riding the Jesus Couch

“What I believe is NOT what I SAY I believe. What I believe is what I DO. ” ~ Donald Miller

Christians have a tendency to ride the Jesus couch…lounging in their own comfortable bubble of isms, mantras, and other media-ized “spiritual” propaganda. We’re purpose driven-coming back to the heart of worship-opening the eyes of our hearts- prayer “mmhmming”-“Jesus has a plan” Christians. We’re great actors really….It truly is amazing how much we can pull off..The question is, “who are we fooling?” The only answer that matters is, “not God.”

Is this the life we want? Do we want to fake our way through the only relationship that truly matters? Is it enough for us to profess and not act? We can close our eyes during the songs all we want, take as many sermon notes as possible, and even skim our Bibles every single day, and NEVER truly know the God we claim to love. Imagine if we treated our spouse, our children, or our family the way we treat our relationship with Jesus? Imagine if we only spoke to them once a week…on Sundays? What if we chose not to listen to 90% of the things they said to us? What if we took for granted all of the things they did for us?  Would the relationship last?

We get busy. We get tired. But building and developing our relationship with Jesus is not what we need to take a break from….its the vacation. But, we don’t care. We know all the right answers. Most of us can look to a time when we were right with God and remember the way we felt..we remember the fire…we remember what it was like to rely on Him…to trust Him…to really and truly LOVE him.

So why are we still on the Jesus couch? Why are we sleeping through this life? It may be comfortable…its certainly easier. Any relationship takes work, and the Jesus couch often looks more inviting, more entertaining….The thing is, He won’t give up…Even when we refuse to even glance His way…when we talk about Him one way and behave another…..when we refuse to pay any attention to Him…The question is, how far do you want God to go to get YOUR attention?

Its time to get off the Jesus couch.