How many of you Christians out there are barely holding it together?
I know the inclination should be towards joy and hope, but for some of us, it's not. And I sometimes wonder, if there's enough grace for us? Can grace cover a perpetually sad-sack Christian, who knows what he or she has to look forward to, but has trouble translating that into the here and now?
If I had to guess, there are too many hiding in the closet of a cheerful grin and happy veneer, all the while wondering how others do it, or how much longer will we be able to last before we crack. Whether it's a full-blown depression that needs to be treated, or some weird ennui that often comes over us, it exists. I know it exists, and that you're not alone. I know this, because I exist, and I am one of you.
Like every Christian who walks through the door of a church with their “Sunday best” on, and I’m talking about a big smile, and an enthusiastic, “I'M GREAT!" We all still walk in as sinners struggling with our failings. I know there are more like me out there — many who'd rather drown their sorrows in a bottle of whiskey or a pint of rocky road.
This is where I exist more times than not.
Please don't tell me about, "my best life now," or how I am, "destined to reign." These are false narratives designed to sell books to people who are dying for something more from this world, and think now that they finally follow God. He is required to give it to them. He's not. No one is promised the moon and stars here in this life, no matter how you twist scripture.
I can’t hide the fact that there are some days I feel it might be a more provident mercy that God would remove me from this earthly plane once and for all. Just so you know, It’s ok sometimes to think that too. I've heard enough of Christians cry out, "Come Lord Jesus!" It’s even scriptural. "To live is Christ, to die is gain." If Paul, an Apostle of God, a writer of the Epistles, doesn't feel it's necessary to hide from his worst feelings, I think it's ok for us too. Do you need more convincing? Go read the Psalms.
Over the thousands of years, this earth has seen the demise of many of God's followers. Most of them likely died in poverty, pain, sickness, torture, and sacrifice. Most of us don't get to go with some great last word passed on to the next generation. Most of us will be forgotten. Even that fills me with fear. It almost seems that to die and be forgotten, is like you didn't exist, you didn't do anything of importance.
I’m just really trying to be honest about how I feel right now, and maybe some of you feel, hiding behind the masks.
My faith in God, more than ever before, is constantly being revealed to me in how much he clings to me, then I cling to him. He is the bar that clamps down to my seat on the rollercoaster as I let go with arms held up high. As that first steep violent drop wants to separate me from my seat, I always wonder if it'll finally give way and eject me once and for all.
Christ is that bar, so the answer is no, even if you worry if it’s pushed down enough as you climb high towards that first drop. I can tell you, every rollercoaster I’ve ever been on, my bar has always felt a little loose.
That’s probably as good a description of my faith as there is.
It is an "epic," mustard-seed sized, type faith.
It’s the smallest kind of faith, and if I can be honest, it’s the kind of faith that has a hard time believing God holds me as he does. It’s the kind of faith that sins, sometimes on purpose, with reckless abandoned, mixed with guilt, shame, and tears.
That mustard seed is an amazing thing.
As small as it may be, it grows huge, so huge that even birds might nest in its branches. Some see this as a parable about God building the kingdom if people have the faith to believe for the impossible. I’m sure there's some smiling TV preacher who's got a sermon tucked away somewhere on that. "This is about God doing great big things. Generation-encompassing, long-term strategy stuff."
But I see that seed. A seed that I didn't originally have. A seed that God had to plant in me. A seed planted in me at my baptism. A seed cultivated with the fertile soil of a lifetime of communion I didn't always understand.
And he did something with that watered, well-fertilized seed.
He saved me.
He saved a sinner. He called him worthy to eat with him, worthy of being in his presence, veil be damned.
He adopted him, called him a son, called him a saint.
Those are some pretty big branches right there.
I know what you want to say to me. I’ve heard it. I've heard all the positive affirmations and encouragements to, "turn my frown upside down." I’ve heard all the exhortations too. "I’m a new creation, now act like it."
Just stop. Please.
It doesn't help me, and it doesn't help others. In its worse form, those "encouraging" words, plant different kinds of seeds, seeds of doubt as we begin to wonder if I'm really part of the kingdom because I'm not "deliriously happy" like all the others.
Trust me, like so many others; I can still laugh. I can still enjoy a good conversation. I can still live reasonably well. I promise you.
But I am still the same person, with days that feel like I’m perpetually barely holding it together inside. I'm guessing there are many more like me. Most may be too afraid to admit it publicly.
To all of the like-minded people out there who may come across this meager offering of words, hear this: You really are not alone.
Hear this as well: YOU ARE GOD’S!
For those more like me, than the great “over-comers” of the faith, you're really are his.
The bar is locked down. You’re not getting tossed off the rollercoaster. There is a present and future hope despite what seems to be a constant current darkness. Your future hope in glory forever.
You're not alone.
A theological misfit landing in the area of Lutheranism, Dominick has come to deeply appreciate the truth of scripture as defined by the distinction between Law and Gospel. He has found freedom in knowing that Christ is his substitute on even his worst days. He has been for the course of his church life everything from chair-stacker to men's ministry leader. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two great young men, which he can say without a doubt, he doesn't deserve. He counts among his favorite things: Star Trek, classic superhero comics, movies, Yankees and yes, he admits to it, the Knicks. He enjoys a good conversation and good food. Finally, he is grateful for the opportunity to share the message of God's Grace among all these great teachers, pastors and theologians and hopes he doesn't mess up big time. But then again, that's what grace is for, right?