What if? What if we said what we were thinking? What if we disclosed the secrets, forsook the mystery, walked out of the prisons, shook off the chains, and took off the masks? What if?
Something’s got my goat lately. It’s got me all stirred up inside, leaving me broken hearted, bothered and bewildered although decidedly not bewitched (thank God and Frank Sinatra). It’s on the issue of passion. Where’s it gone? If there is one gift in which the world has beaten us Christians on, it’s this, passion. Ach sure I’ve heard preachers rile about how they’ve seen more passion at a baseball game or a romance than they’ve ever seen in the pews of a church. The congregation sits there smiling and mildly nodding in some kind of witless agreement while not really giving rat’s patooty about the matter. Let me define my terms more clearly. I am not suggesting that we become raging monkeys hanging off the chandeliers ,as my father would say, or embrace extreme Pentecostalism using the gifts of the spirit as a kind of “spiritual high” the envy of any heroin main liner. Sure, sometimes when God walks in the building, all of our illusions of our self controlled authority are shattered and we find ourselves completely broken and uncontrollably weeping at His feet. I wouldn’t want to serve a God who didn’t rock the place when He entered the building. And isn’t that the point? When God shows up and our illusions of the perfect church service and perfect social etiquette fall to the ground, and we are, in these moments, completely free of the chains that bind. We are simply….Rachel or Daniel, or Anna or Jake…. To quote an oldie but a goodie, “I am your beloved, your creation, and you love me as I am. You have called me chosen for your kingdom, unashamed to call me your own. I am your beloved.” He is unashamed of you!!! He is proud of you! My goodness people if that doesn’t rock your world, if the God of the universe walking into your life and saying “you know what, I’m happy with you. I’m crazy about you, let’s give this a shot” doesn’t humble you and shock you and fill you up with passion, I don’t know what will.
I am tired of an emotionless, wretched God who either sits back chomping down hors d'oeuvre while watching the world go to hell in a hand basket, or the voyeuristic note taker just waiting for one slip too many before damning me to eternal hell. And you know what, that’s exactly who I believed God was for most of my life. I grew up in a Christian home; I could quote the Bible to you backwards. Jonah and Moses were as familiar to me as my next door neighbors, but if I was entirely honest with you, God did little more than scare the life out of me (no pun intended). He was awful! For me to embrace Christianity, I either had to turn my back on the world and its problems and find some kind of mental happy place, or to live a life of fear and hidden anger towards this unfeeling, heartless being. Well, living with a wonderful, loving mother paralyzed from a hideous car accident and a broken body she did nothing to deserve, hardly gave one the chance to believe that this world was anything but kaput. So, I chose the second option. I chose to live with the idea of a God I secretly hated, severely distrusted and completely didn’t understand. It took the darkest, most desolate night of my life for me to reach out to someone else, to cling to one last shred of hope, that maybe, all my life, I had been wrong. And that’s exactly what I did, for the first time in ages, sitting in my backyard, pondering the quickest, most efficient ways to end it all, I was straight with God. I told Him exactly what I intended to do. And in typical, rebellious, fashion created more by pain than anything else, shook my proverbial fist to the heavens and told Him that if He was who He claimed to be, He was going to have to stop me. And He did. That night God saved my life. And ever since then, He has exchanged all of the seemingly endless, hopeless delusions, and replaced them with real, vivid hope; a hope that can’t help but breed passion. If one word, one phrase of what the Bible says is true, how can I keep this hidden and to myself? How dare I?
I have been so convicted lately, because I realized in the midst of my arrogant frustration of Christians who live almost as CIA agents, maintaining a secret identity, that I have lived a life ashamed of Him. The one, who pulled me out of the dust, brushed me off, breathed life into me and called me a new creation, the one who changed my world, showed me the meaning of true love, and swept me off my feet when I wasn’t fit to untie one of His sandals is someone I keep hidden deep in my spiritual closet. Sure, I pull out some Jesus phrases about “what the Lord has done in my life” (gag me with a sock puppet), amongst other Christians with whom I feel safe. I have chalked it up to my being a private person or that some people just aren’t ready to hear the gospel but those are comforting delusions. I have been ashamed. I’m ashamed to be a Christian because frankly being a Christian is not always associated with good things. Let’s be honest, if you tell people you are a Christian you are way less likely to get an openhearted response than if you suddenly came out of the closet! I don’t think it’s just me. I don’t think I’m the only one who is stark terrified to talk about Him. We think that being a Christian means some kind of abortion-clinic-burning extremism, Bible bashing arrogance, or even, heaven forbid, intolerance! At least that’s what I think when I hear the word "Christian" and for goodness sake, I am one! We’re not doing an awfully good job representing Him and I wonder if it’s because we don’t know who He is. Of course we’re not passionate about Him, we don’t trust Him. We’re confused by Him. We want to believe in Him, but we feel we can’t. How many Christians are, in fact, Christians? And who is the man upstairs? Awful? Greedy? Good?
Living inWurzburg, I see a lot of broken people or perhaps I am simply more aware of them. You know who I think He is, (you don’t? Too bad. I’m going to tell you anyway). I think He’s the God who sees those people, a God who knows, who cares. This past month, after the death of a friend, I had a lot of questions for God; hard questions about His character, some that I wouldn’t ask my worst enemy. They all boiled down to this: is God good? It was the one question I felt I had to ask, the answer to which could change the entire course of my life. For weeks I struggled at His feet, I angrily punched and kicked and wrestled with my God. And you know what? He didn’t answer me. But He held me. I have heard about but never quite experienced the physical presence of God in such a way as I have this past month. In this midst of raging grief, I had the distinct feeling of being held. And in those long, arduous, sometimes verging on catatonic days, I found my answer in His silent, strong presence. God didn’t have to prove Himself to me but He did, not by His words, but by His actions because that’s the kind of God He is. My God is a straight shooter. My God didn’t just talk about being nuts about His creation, He came down and showed them Himself. That’s my God. He’s an awe-inspiring, passion filling; knock you off your socks kind of a guy. That’s why I’m convinced we don’t know Him or that somewhere down the line we’ve lost what it meant to know Him.
A friend asked me the other day, what my dream was for my life and suddenly, I realized, I want to see the church passionate for Jesus. I want to live and I want to see them living what we preach. I want to see the church feeding the homeless, taking care of the undervalued, visiting the sick, standing along side the addicts instead of persecuting them, comforting the lonely and fighting for the abused. Many of you have seen the “KONY2012”initiative online. Frankly, although the motives and character of the maker of the movie may be under question, at least he is doing something. And he’s not even a Christian! So, I say we start our own initiative. JESUS 2012. Let’s make someone famous who really deserves it and let’s start representing Him in a way that would make Him not only smile, but grin. Let’s live openly and honestly before one another in all of our complexities and failures, knowing that we are accepted and not condemned by the only one whose opinion actually matters. Let this year be the year in which see our churches and our lives once again filled with passion.