I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was a kid, got saved at 21 and committed myself to Jesus at 24.
Exactly like that.
I truly believe I welcomed Christ into my heart, my life, when I was a kid. But I didn’t know what it meant to be saved because I never needed saving from anything.
At 19 I began to question everything about God, the Bible, Christianity, the works. I remember calling my dad up and saying, “WHY did you tell me Jesus loves me? He DOESN’T love me. He loves himself. He only does things to glorify himself, including dying on the cross. That’s just rude.” And where did everyone get this crazy idea that even if there was only ONE person on the Earth, Jesus still would have died on the cross? I couldn’t find that in scripture. So clearly people were lying to me.
I got to the point where my life goal was to drive somewhere new and start over. I wanted a clean slate, where no one knew I had ever identified myself as a Christian.
I call those my closet atheist years.
I was angry and unhappy. I would go church, cross my arms and roll my eyes. Everyone was so naive!
My breaking point came at 21, when I was sitting among a group of Christian women and confessed my dirty secret. “I don’t think I’m a Christian.”
I told them I felt numb, that I couldn’t feel joy or pain. I preferred being numb because I had spent the last two years hating God and I was exhausted. So feeling nothing was the best I could do.
I cried and cried and cried, allowing myself to feel the pain hidden inside.
When I went home I wrote in my diary, “Tonight something in me was broken. Lord, I’m listening.”
And then I didn’t feel any better – I felt worse. Like I had just been hit by a truck. I went to the YMCA the next day, because I was a camp counselor, and I stood around like a zombie as kids ran onto a Slip ‘N Slide full of spaghetti.
Talk about a low point.
That weekend I went to a church camping retreat with those Christian women who knew I wasn’t really a Christian (I committed to the trip pre-confession.) When I was there I attended a breakout session where someone talked about Satan.
Lightbulbs went off. I realized I had spent all my energy being angry at God, when in fact he was the good guy and Satan was the one who deserved my anger.
Two weeks later I wrote in my diary, “You know what I just decided? This is life and I’m not going to waste it anymore. Instead I’m going to enjoy it. The key is JESUS.”
As soon as I gave Jesus the go ahead, he swooped in and saved me from myself.
As the weeks followed, I finally understood what that meant, being saved. It was revolutionary.
I wept when I saw that Lifehouse skit.
I started liking God and maybe falling for him a little bit, though in some areas I was still hesitant.
A few years later I went on the World Race, where I had a breakthrough with God in Africa. I stopped flirting with him and committed myself to him whatever the cost. Abraham sacrificing Issac kind of stuff.
At that point I knew I was in and there was no going back… no driving away and starting somewhere new. I was married; he and I had become one and separation was no longer possible.
That was helpful when the wrestling match began. At the beginning of 2013, when I was 26, I stepped into the ring with God. We had wrestled before, but not like this. This wrestling match lasted a year and a half. I won’t go into the details of why (that’s another blog for another day), but I can tell you I would NOT LET GO. We would fall asleep in the same bed, facing opposite directions at times. I was hurt and disappointed, but I would never kick him out… like I said, the couch wasn’t an option.
We stopped fighting on my birthday this year. I threw up my hands in surrender and let him win me over with his love.
I’m so glad I never let go. What I mean by that is I’m glad I didn’t let my heart turn cold. During that year and a half my heart was bloody and beaten and bruised, but it was always pumping for him.
He has remained faithful as well.
I’m writing this blog because I’m a little fired up. (I might go all prophet on you, so get ready.)
In the last few years I’ve seen Christians around me give up on God. And it breaks my heart. Even now, tears come to my eyes. They might not give up on him entirely, but in certain areas they have lost trust and let their hearts harden. It’s not typically a deliberate decision, more of a slow, subconscious heart change. Like how married people wake up one day and are like, “who is this stranger next to me?”
It’s usually because they stopped trying, stopped fighting.
God didn’t come through when he said he would. He turned out to be different than previously thought. He seems to prefer / provide for / bestow blessings on everyone else.
I’d like to see Christians wrestle more. I’d like to see Christians ask themselves more questions… like why they believe what they believe and do they actually believe it.
Or are they just standing on chairs and shouting because everyone else is.
I’d like to see more Christians give God the benefit of the doubt in disappointing situations, rather than turning their faces away and running into the arms of someone else.
It’s not easy.
Everything else is. Going through the motions is easy. Giving up is easy, sleeping with someone is easy.
Thinking for yourself, asking uncomfortable questions, fighting and falling down and getting up again and NOT LETTING GO is hard.
It breaks your heart.
The cracks leave room for love to rush in like blood.
God can do a lot with a broken heart.
A broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.
I can tell when someone’s heart has been broken, but they have not let it grow bitter toward God. After Jacob wrestled with God he walked around with a limp. You can just tell.
I trust those people.
And I’d love to see more of them around.
If you’re someone who has never wrestled things out with God, or is currently holding God at arm’s length because you feel let down by him… I invite you into the ring. It’s filled with dirt and blood and tears and pain, but it’s worth the battle. Trust me, my limp speaks for itself. And so does everyone else’s.
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
I’ll leave you with this quote by Shauna Niequist, who takes the words right out of my mouth… (the bold parts are when I’m fist pumping.)
Nearly ten years ago, my friend Doug told me that the central image of the Christian faith is death and rebirth, that the core of it all, over and over again, is death and rebirth. I’m sure I’d heard that before, but when he told me, for whatever reason, I really thought about it for the first time. And at the time, I didn’t agree.
What I didn’t understand until recently is that he wasn’t speaking to me as a theologian or a pastor or an expert, but rather as a person whose heart had been broken and who had been brought back to life by the story God tells in all our lives.
When you haven’t yet had your heart really broken, the gospel isn’t about death and rebirth. It’s about life and more life. It’s about hope and possibility and a brighter future. And it is, certainly, about those things.
But when you’ve faced some kind of death — the loss of someone you loved dearly, the failure of a dream, the fracture of a relationship — that’s when you start understanding that central metaphor. When your life is easy, a lot of the really crucial parts of Christian doctrine and life are nice theories, but you don’t really need them. When, however, death of any kind is staring you in the face, all of a sudden rebirth and new life are very, very important to you. Now, ten years later, I know Doug was right.