In my early days of working out my faith, I was fully convinced that God had a big, long list of losers, a list He glared at daily. If these losers actually got into heaven, I figured, they would only have Him to thank, because it sure wouldn’t have anything to do with any their good deeds.
I was relieved to know that I was not one of those losers.
Nope, I was actively involved in my church, to the point of near exhaustion. I had rid my life of all manner of vices that vexed only the most broken of believers. I had an explanation for every scripture; I had a rule for every moral question; and every temptation was a new opportunity to prove my worth as a believer in Jesus.
Three years into that guilt-ridden phase, my stomach perpetually ached and my shoulders were all knotted up, but there was one thing of which I was certain: God loved me – uh, sort of – you know, as long as I . . .
- Moved to a third world country after college and lived in a hut
- Didn’t drink alcohol
- Read my Bible every night
- Prayed regularly
- Didn’t curse (unless I could find the curse word in the Bible)
- Wasn’t prideful (unless I was proud of being religious)
- And kept my thoughts as pure as the driven snow (“Define ‘pure.'”)
Needless to say, my “relationship with God” was looking a lot less like a relationship and looking a lot more like a religious obsessive compulsive disorder. Despite all the Bible reading and all the suffocating religious activity, I had somehow missed the basic point that, thanks to Christ’s redeeming work (not mine), I was a son, not another one of God’s employees (John 8:34-36).
Scripture tells us that the more rules we pile on, the more sin we’ll discover popping up in our lives (Romans 5:20), and I was living proof of it. First off, whether I wanted to admit it or not, my religious pride stunk like spiritual B.O. With pride naturally preceding one’s fall, I eventually worked up quite a laundry list of additional sins in my life. The rules weren’t working for me anymore.
Then the beginning of the long breakthrough began one day when I was talking to my buddy Shon about my extreme disappointment with myself, about what a klutz I felt like for continuing to be a perpetual failure as a Christian.
“You know what your problem is?” he asked.
“You’re a loser, just like everyone else,” he replied, matter-of-factly.
What might have offended me in the past all of a sudden felt very liberating.
“You mean, I’m like, one of God’s problem children? One of ‘those kinds’ of Christians?” I asked.
“Yeah, one of ‘those,'” he said.
And for one of the first times in my Christian walk, rule-based self-preservation not only seemed unattractive, but unnecessary. It was like God was saying, “Hey, Joshua, before you have a nervous breakdown trying to show me how worthy you are of My love, how about this news flash: you’re not. Welcome to the family, the family of losers.”
And I eventually ended up in a place that was deceptively similar to where I had started, but with an important difference: I finally understood that God did, in fact, have a big, long list of losers, but (1) I was one of those losers, and (2) He wrote that list with the unerasable blood of His Son; therefore, He looked upon those names, including my name, with love (Rev. 21:27, Isaiah 49:16).
I had spent so many years running from failure as a Christian. Then I finally faced it, and I discovered that only in being broken, in being a loser, could I truly find the healing I needed, for, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick [the losers]” (Matt. 9:12).
From one fellow loser to another…..I love you unconditionally….as Christ does. Proud to be be in the walk together.Rod
Well, Josh – This is truth and we have all been there thinking we were all high and mighty!!! Not a pretty place to be but it is GETTING REAL!! Thank you – Love you – you bless my life!! Aunt kjc
OMG!! Joshua–Everytime I saw you I would always think to myself that I was a loser because I wasn't constantly sharing the love of Christ to EVERYONE I met as you always did!! You were really TOO PERFECT!!! Posting this lets me know that YOU are just as human as I am (lol). I love you Joshua!! This testimony will definitely help a lot of people.–Valerie (Columbia, Ms) (Tiara's mom)
Valerie (and everyone else out there to whom this applies), it's been so long since we've seen each other, and a lot has changed (thankfully). I still have a long way to go in a number of areas, but going back to legalistic living doesn't appeal to me at all. Back when you knew me, I was definitely seeking for the Lord, but I was trying to do so while living under the weight of the law. I then passed that burden on to others. I hope you can forgive me for being a human guilt trip ticket dispenser. Your comment really was kind of funny too though. Thanks for the laugh.
"It is easier for a worldly person to come to a healing change of his life, or even to the top of perfection, than a tired saint who is fallen from his first enthusiasm, because the worldly man will go through pain and agony and, sooner or later, he will not be able to stand it any longer, and will rush in the depths of depression to the source of true cleansing. But, when somebody has begun to pollute his name as a saint, without joyfulness and enthusiasm, he will still feel safe and, therefore, will not recognize what he is missing and, therefore, he is not easy to be taught. He will say in his heart, I’m blessed. I know it all and need nobody." [Johannes Cassian, Spannkraft der Seele (Freiburg: Herder, 1981), pp. 14950; or see John Cassian, Collations (Conferences) 4:19, translation by F. Enzio Busche]
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