Hypothetically speaking, if someone were to approach you with an outline of your life, how would you respond? IF there ever was a way to know exactly when life would throttle us through peaks, valleys, and wide turns would there be any purpose in faith? If someone had told me 10 years ago that in 2014 I would graduate college and in 2016 I would have a life threatening tumor what would I have likely done? I would have worried for 2 years, perhaps not finished school, and it would all be over something that God already had handled. Our human nature, and the biggest complaint I hear from friends is the lack of control that comes with being a human in this crazy world. Nothing is promised, yet amidst it all I see people fight through hardships. See, we think that what we need is answers, but in my life it has always been true that what I needed more than anything was faith.
On that note I want to clarify a few things both for the readers who do not know my personal background and for those who do not know me well on a personal level: I have not always been a believing, faith filled individual. I have not had unwavering faith, and in fact, I do not encourage it because I do not believe it exists. There is no shame in questioning the existence of Jesus Christ. You should explore faith and your spiritual relationship to the father outside of religion, outside of a building, and outside of “unwavering” Christian friends. You should put it to the test and against trials. Doing so does not weaken your faith, it strengthens it, and that is because Christ is faithful. He will meet you wherever you are, even if it is in the midst of fleeing him.
I was, as many of you know, raised in a Christian home. Sure, we went to church as a family, and I was introduced to Christ, but those are not the years I remember. I remember the years my parents stopped going to church because it was then that I truly understood that being the church was more important than going to church. It was then that I understood that watching my parents give their time, money, and love to others was church. So, when I say that I have not always been a believer I am simply saying that I have many times stepped away from my faith. I’ve questioned God, I’ve questioned what Church looks like at in its most ideal structure and I’ve questioned what being a “Christian” really means. Here is what I have found out; Christ was clear…we are to love one another. Churches can build the biggest buildings with the most members and the most sheik furniture but unless people are connecting with one another on an authentic level it is all a waste of money. What’s more, and this is a question you can answer for yourself, if Church is a place for community and connection is it set in stone that this requires a building with formal schedules/events? Another line of thought, what does your relationship with Christ look like without the Church as it is currently? In all honesty I think a fair amount of well-intentioned believers would really struggle to answer that question. Anyways, I can go to Church, and I can believe in Christ, but unless I am out in my community (wherever that may be at the time) being Christ- Like to others, my faith begins and ends with me.
Moving along, hopefully with a better understanding of how I view spirituality and relationship I want to return to the original statement about calling into question our quest for control amidst life’s uncertainties. Most of us approach our relationship with Christ one of two ways.
- We live primarily dependent on our relationships, our accomplishments, and ourselves. We take life on constantly bracing for impact and hoping we can skim by day-to-day doing it “our way” because at least “our way” feels in control. Christ becomes secondary to our need for control and it isn’t until our efforts fail that we reach out to him in desperation.
- We lead a pretty disciplined spiritual life, but tend to still feel “stuck”. It seems like we do the right things, and we stay present to Christ call on our life, yet…we fall short of feeling like we have done much of anything that matters. We wonder if and when and how God will use us. Sometimes life feels pretty good, but all too often it can seem like a few days of even plain followed by weeks of going uphill.
Notice there is no option that says, “Everything is perfect, God is good, I am using my gifts. My kids are on point, my spouse loves me wholly, and my Church is flawless. I have friends in every corner of the world, I love my body, my mind is at ease, and work is a breeze.”
Now, I have heard Christians “talk at” me this way. You will typically spot these individuals, because they talk at you not to you. They are trying to meet their needs by impressing upon you their version of what is most likely an extremely chaotic spiritual life. More likely, they live in an illusion where they are Christ to themselves and by God, you will know it by the time they leave.
Instead however let’s say that you’re reading this and you’re thinking…I’m definitely some version of option 1 and 2. Let me tell you something that I have come to learn in the last 3 months specifically. Jesus Christ is the author of my life. My story as already been written. Sure, I have the free will to throw the book down and pout or live outside of my calling, but in the end…the book will still be there where I left it. Christ is not asking us to put our Faith in something that has not already been promised. I almost hate to even say that because it sounds like such a Christian Cliché where you’re like “Umm where the hell are these promises, my life is hard.” Here is the unpopular truth of God’s promises; We live in a world where people use their free will against one another instead of for one another, and as a result we experience pain that truthfully could often be avoided. Life is unfair, and it is painful, but it is important to remember that God did not create or facilitate these problems, but he did promise to give us what we need to subside the noise amidst these problems. So often we are waiting on God. Waiting on his voice in prayer. Waiting on him to make a move in our favor. Waiting for the finances to come in. Waiting for the job to arrive. Waiting for the spouse. Waiting for the kids to grow up make us proud. We are always waiting. We wait so much that we miss it most of the time. See, God is always in pursuit of us. He will fulfill the desires of your heart, he will speak to you, he will bring the money in, and he will give your children the grace they need to grow…but why would he do anything if we are simply waiting on him like a Genie? As if to say; listen I know we don’t know each other real well but here’s what I need. This is where it breakdowns and this is where I think we have failed to be honest with one another. A checklist does not determine your faith, nor does Church attendance, or by what others say about you. Faith is not a set of doctrine, a fancy worship song that just “moves you”. Faith is hard. Faith is uncomfortable. Faith is contrary to human nature. Faith is out of control.
Let me leave you with this; a statement about when I knew my life went from being a Christian to being Christ-Centered, and how I went from being faithless to faithful.
I knew I went from being a Christian to being Christ-Centered when I stopped going to Church. For me it was necessary to evaluate my faith, and my relationship to God outside of a structure I felt was familiar but not satisfying to me at the time. I spent my mornings with God and I found God in places no one had ever told me to look. Then I realized it wasn’t about where I “looked” but by the eagerness in my heart to seek him. If where you are right now doesn’t get you excited about your spiritual life, reroute.
I knew I was faithless when I sat at the top of my stairs in college, smoking a cigarette and downing a beer one Sunday morning after being hung-over from the night before. Here there was no one to “show up” for. I could drown myself in self-pity. I was angry because college had presented me with some pretty harsh trials. I felt as though God was not just absent, but intentionally hurting me. Everything in my spirit lay deep with depression. I was disconnected from almost everyone, and I ran as far away from God as I could. One night I had decided to take a drive. It was and always has been one of many ways I like to shake off emotions and zone in on music. On this particular night I drove past a man who appeared to be homeless. It was about 2 in the morning, dead of winter, and I could not help but feel this deep-seated urgency to tend to him. As I drove back around the block, and approached him, I could see that he was crying. I offered him a cigarette and asked him to get in my car to warm up. He gratefully accepted my offer and as I sat there with a homeless man in my car I felt like I was staring down the state of my insides; Cold, alone, in pain, sad, and unworthy of love. After a long silence the man proclaimed, “You know, God is good. After all, here you are.” I nearly cried right in front of him. Christ is in us and we are Christ to one another. Faith is being faithful. Faith is being out of control. Faith is not knowing where you’re going to sleep or when you’re going to eat but knowing that someone will be Christ to you. I’ll say it again; FAITH is being OUT of control.
Much Love and Many Blessings,