With the exception of a period in my teen - young adult years, I've always been a Christian. It was quite a major exception, though. Lets call them my "prodigal son/daughter" years. I was rebellious and stubborn; I did harmful things to myself in the name of personal freedom; I let wounds fester and consume me, just because I wouldn't let anyone 'tell me what to do'. I told God I didn't believe in Him anymore (oh the irony) because I felt like he'd let me down too badly.
And I was miserable. In all of the outward display of freedom and fun, I was lost and dying inside.
I think you know where this story is going... Jesus saved me.
It's a pity that a statement like that is glossed over as a cliche these days, because it's actually so profound. But it's almost impossible to explain unless you have lived it yourself, and even then the impact is often lost.
It was both instant and gradual.
When you are rescued the initial relief is instant and amazing. And yet there are still things to deal with from your time in chains. There are wounds and trauma and old habits that die so, so hard. There are even detours back into captivity when for some brief periods the difficulties of dealing with pain don't seem worth it and you want to hide back in the familiar dark.
But I am so grateful for the way God always had his hand on me, so that even when I thought I was as far away from Him as I could get, He was preparing the way ahead.
It got gradually easier to see that there was purpose even in the pain, and that God was healing me of many things. But I thought that was pretty much it. Jesus saved me from self destruction and the rest of my life was going to be about putting me back together. I honestly thought that the rest of my life was going to involve 'dealing with things'.
Oh, I knew it would get easier. I saw glimpses of joy and peace. But while it wasn't a totally conscious thought, I believed life would always be hard for me.
I had gone away from God because I felt the Christian life was boring and it was too hard to be good. Now that I was back, I realised that God was there to strengthen me, and it was religion and legalism that made me feel burdened and judged, not Jesus. But somewhere in there I was still believing that life for me was going to mean giving up old dreams and passions that had led me astray, and settling down into a sort of quiet, peaceful and slightly boring life. I thought I just had to make the best of it.
I think a lot of us believe that to some extent or in some form. While we may read of the exciting lives of a few extreme missionaries, leaders and disciples, we tend to think that's for the select minority and for the rest of us Christianity is just quiet submission to an ordinary and hopefully comfortable, trouble free life. No wonder we don't get that excited about heaven - we think its just an extension of a quiet life with no dangerous excitement or passion.
And you know what? If you live like that for a while, you stop aspiring to anything more. You become numb to the passions that stirred in your youth, and you start thinking that this is what you want - a regular life, climbing the ladders put in front of you, acquiring things and comfort to make your life easy, and maybe giving other people a little leg up the rungs if it comes easily to do so.
That's where I found myself.
There had been things God had asked me to let go of - and I'd obediently done it, trying to push away the feelings of sadness and loss at watching my dreams packed away. I tried to bury any discontent, because I thought God had asked me to live a quiet life and stop searching for something else.
The thing is, if I'd just taken those feelings to God instead of burying them, I might have heard Him sooner telling me that it was just temporary, that the things I was giving up were not packed away to never see the light of day. They were given to Him. He was taking my dreams and desires, and refining them, shaping them - refining me and shaping me - until the right time to lay hold of them together.
And as He gives me back, piece by piece, some of the dreams I thought were lost to me, I am beginning to see a clearer and clearer vision of what those dreams really look like when they start to become reality.
And that's where the wrecking my life bit comes in.
Because the great thing about dreams in the dreaming stage is that they can be anything. In a day dream, anything is possible; there's no fear, no doubt, no pesky limitations when everything is still in the airy imagination stage.
Then God starts giving you what you said you always wanted. Oh boy... You mean when I used to dream about doing big things and changing the world... It might actually be possible??
Umm... I don't know about this anymore. In my day dreams I'm always a lot more confident, equipped, popular, daring, talented and thin.... and I didn't have a 10 month old daughter and no sleep. I don't think I can actually do this...
But the more Jesus reveals himself to me, the more he ruins any chance of me returning to a quiet, comfortable life. Though it terrifies me, it also thrills me; when I imagine living not just for Jesus, but - when I imagine the possibilities of a fully awake and unified and passionate body of Christ - I can't look back. It's too good. It's too exciting, and full of purpose and promise and passion.
And it's unsettling.
The tension within me is telling me to either give away everything I own right now... Or take a nap til it passes. One of the two is going to happen somehow.
Either we are going to put our money - and life - where our mouth is and embrace the fact that Jesus was serious when He told us what life with Him would be like, or we are going to retreat further into comfort and as much ease as we can acquire, while everyone else fends for themselves - and we miss the whole point while we are spiritually sleeping.
I'm telling you, if you thought Jesus saved you from pain simply for a life of quiet ease until you get to heaven, and if that thought bores you and you are feeling flickers of old dreams and new passions stirring up the dust - watch out. If you've convinced yourself you know what it means to be a Christian, but you can feel the tension of knowing there's something missing, take another look at what Jesus really said.
Don't play dumb any more.
The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How will I ever get on in the world?- Søren Kierkegaard
Jesus is about the wreck your life - and it might just be the best thing that could ever happen to you!
I can't wait!!