I have a confession to make. And it’s one that will shock absolutely no one who reads this site.
I have been in a bad state of the heart recently. My writing has reflected it. My tone of speech (for those of you who’ve seen me during this time) has shown it.
Has it really been all because of one thing? I think so. Why? Another confession must be made. Prepare yourselves; this one may shock you:
I haven’t been living like a Christian in the past six months.
I’ll step back for a second, and let that sink in. I had to do it for myself when I first realized it, on Friday of last week.
I haven’t been living like a Christian in the past six months.
No, wait. That’s not strong enough.
I haven’t been living like a Christian for a long time.
I can’t really give you an exact amount of time, nor do I want to attempt to do so. That’s irrelevant; it’s the problem, not the timeframe, that’s important here. You see, in the past few years, I’d been thinking that I’d been doing the right things mostly. I’d attended the BCM and participated in a lot of the ministry activities, even when I had a lot of academic stuff on my plate. I went to church on Sundays, for the most part. Sometimes I even went on Wednesday nights. I read my Bible, although nowhere near as often as I should have. But more than most at college, I could rationalize. I had a daily devotional e-mailed to me every day; I would read it and often print it out as a physical reminder of a tenet that I needed to work on. I said the right things, both in real life and on this website.
I thought that I was doing enough. I had myself thoroughly convinced.
And now I realize that everything was a sham.
I’ve been putting on a false face for so many years, and now I’m telling everyone. I’m taking the mask off, and feeling the sunshine on my face for the first time in a long time.
I haven’t been living like a Christian in a long time.
A common theme throughout this site has been the idea of living my life for God. I’ve talked about it specifically in at least three places. But it’s something that I keep coming back to because I keep forgetting it.
I’ve been reading a book ever since that Friday night called Authentic Christianity, by Dr. Ray C. Steadman. In it, the author makes the bold statement that once a Christian comes to that point when “the old natural life begins to reassert itself”, one of three things will happen.
- The Christian continues his decline to the point where he is finally living no differently than he was before he became a Christian.
- The Christian becomes aware of his state, is frightened by the thought of regressing to what he was before, and “casts himself in repentance and frustration upon the Lord anew.” This cycle may be repeated many times, until the time comes when it’s considered normal Christian behavior to do so.
- Most likely, the Chirstian will discover that all you have to do today is maintain the facade of Christianity. Latch onto something, whether it be high moral standards, orthodox behavior, spiritual commitment, or all three. And no one will be any the wiser. In fact, this is the Christianity the world most often sees.
I’ve found myself somewhere in all those options. I’ve had those times when I thought that I was making a change for the better. I’ve thought to myself that I need to make the change. If only I could do something about the situation that I was in, then maybe I would be a better Christian! That is, when I realized that something needed to be changed at all; when I understood that something wasn’t right, even though the ministries were being performed and the services attended.
Another way to look at it is the litmus test of life-changing. That is, can I look at my life right now and say, “People know that I’m a Christian by the way I act and the way I speak, even if I haven’t said the name of Jesus. And because of that, people want to know why I am the way that I am, and I tell them so.” Can I? Absolutely not. Certainly not within the past six months. But even beyond that…did it happen while I strolled the University campus? Maybe so, but if it did, the times were so few and far between as to be mere blips in the memory. Forget the past six months; what happened in those six years for the cause of Christ?
If you think that I’m beating myself up about this, don’t worry. Quite the opposite; I’ve not been this excited about something in a long time. Because I see what the past was now, and because of that, I can see what needs to happen in the future. So what do I need to add to the workload?
That’s right, nothing. In fact, I need to stop doing so much.
Specifically, I need to stop worrying about getting a job and my life afterwards. I need to stop wondering and fearing the very real fear that I’ve had that I’m always going to be alone, without someone to experience life with. I need to stop confining God to planting me in Birmingham when all these interviews that I’ve had may have been His way of telling me, “I really think you need to go somewhere else.” I need to stop trying to guide my own life, and start living the Life that God has promised me. In short, I need to get out of the driver’s seat.
I need to stop reacting negatively when things don’t seem to go right, and instead remember that age-old promise of God that still rings true. He has a plan for me. He has a plan for me! When I start getting disappointed in the latest interview that hasn’t gone well, what am I showing to God? Only that I’m angry because I don’t like the plan that He has for me that he will reveal in time. That I think that my way is better than his way.
One of the blogs that I frequently read (and actually is written by a fellow Ozarkian, believe it or not!), recently commented about his wife:
For if I had spent months charting, graphing and drawing the specs on the perfect woman for myself, when I handed it to God, He simply would have chuckled and said “Carey, son, are you sure this is what you want? Because the woman I have in mind for you, well, you just can’t fathom her.”
Take that one statement about one aspect of his life and apply it to my whole life — now you’ve got the way that I’ve been thinking for the past who knows how long! Even back in college, all my guiding of all the aspects of my life was just that — me guiding my life. Paying lip service to the one who has the plan.
God’s plan for me is great for four reasons:
- It works to His glory.
- It is the best course of action for me as well.
- It will come to fruition.
- Because of the first three, I should have no other alternative to being an optimist about my future! For God is for me! Who can be against me?
It’s all so clear, and I’m amazed that it’s taken me this long to realize. I’ve just been so worried about not having anything happen in these six months that I’ve tried to wrestle with God about my future while avoiding true contact with Him. If I would have honestly searched for God’s truth in all these matters, I believe I’d be a lot farther down the line than I am now. I’m not saying that I’d have a job and a house/apartment and a girlfriend and that everything would be “perfect”. I’d just have known the simple truth sooner. If I had understood the idea that trusting God in all these matters (how simple is that, and yet how hard!) was the way to go, instead of trusting myself while applying a candy-coated shell of “Christianity” so that no one would be the wiser, who knows where I’d be right now?
As it is, I’m excited. I’m looking forward to the future right now more than I have in a long, long while.
Of course, I still need to do those things I mentioned earlier – go to church and get involved. Have an active prayer life. Read and digest the word of God. Challenge my faith. But it’s nothing – nothing without the simple acknowlegement that God is, and should be, in control of my life. He is my Savior for sure; it’s time to let Him be Lord of my life again. When I start to get
discouraged about the here and now, I should trust God to provide that future that he’s promised me. When things inevitably pick up, I should resist the idea of taking back the reins because “I can handle the situation now.”
I should live for God, because God should be living for me!
I would appreciate any feedback on all these remarks. This has been the product of a few days’ revelation, followed by a stream-of-consciousness outpouring right now. And as a result, I may not have thought some things completely through. But I really think that this is a step in the right direction. Let me know what you think, one way or the other.
And if you got this far, thanks for reading. I’m glad that you care enough about me to get here. 🙂