One summer during high school, I spent a couple of weeks with a well-meaning adult who aggressively tried to undermine everything I believed about Jesus. The man inundated me with anti-Christian arguments I had never considered before and ran circles around my partially developed 14-year-old brain. By the end of our time together, my faith was in shambles.
When I was in my 20s, I intensely struggled with a sense of unworthiness before God; yet at the same time, I felt like I was just good enough to deserve His love because I was so well-behaved. It was a stressful way to live, and eventually, it took its toll.
This week, I had the unfortunate experience of getting multiple shots in my gums and spending a total of seven hours in three different dentist’s chairs. The only good part about the experience is that it’s finally over.
On May 26, 1994, my mother called me at home and reminded me to be careful if I left the house – apparently, a teenage girl had driven in front of an 18-wheeler that morning and had been killed on impact. “Someone said her mom is a schoolteacher named Betty Myers and works in Hattiesburg,” said Mom. “Mom, Erin’s mother is named Betty, and she’s a schoolteacher in Hattiesburg.” My mom paused for a moment as we both put it together. “Oh no. Joshua, I’m so sorry.”
If you’re anything like me, just the thought of a new year’s resolution provokes a sense of dreaded guilt – the feeling that you’re only doing it because you’ve already failed in the previous year, and you’re going to end up failing in the next one anyway. I’m thinking this is not one of those things Jesus was talking about when he was talking about coming to give us abundant lives (John 10:10).
Let’s play a game. I’ll describe someone, and you tell me who I’m talking about. 1. He’s an old man with a long, white beard. 2. He sees everything you do. 3. He keeps a list of your deeds, good and bad. 4. He lives in a far-off, magical kingdom you couldn’t find if you tried. 5. He never allows himself to be seen; and 6. All the movies about him are fairly lame.
I used to spend a great deal of my time digging in my soul for spiritual brokenness. I was on a manhunt for sinful motives, ungodly habits, and character flaws – for badness, brokenness, ugliness – all the things I thought kept me from God.
The other day, my wife and I were driving down a two-lane road in the country when we got stuck behind a big ol’ Mack truck that was stuck behind a slowly-moving tractor. We figured we would be in for a long wait – we did not anticipate, however, that we were about to watch a truck driver nearly kill somebody.
The other night at bedtime, I was about to pray for my youngest daughter, but I stopped myself.
I have some dear Christian friends whose eight-year-old son profoundly struggles with doubting God. Although my heart aches for them as they parent him through unbelief, I’m not worried about him.
The other night, I was a block away from my house when I saw an older, heavy-set, white female with a cane stumbling down the sidewalk, trying unsuccessfully to hold onto three bags of groceries. I rolled down my window and asked her if she needed a ride. “Oh, yes, yes,” she said with a New Jersey accent, slurring her words and almost crying. Her dyed, jet black hair was wrapped in a scarf; and her eyes peered out from behind thick, black mascara. She appeared to be seriously drunk.
I used to be convinced I was going to spend the rest of my life in Venezuela. I had a number of friends there, I loved the culture, and the gorgeous Venezuelan ladies treated me like a celebrity when I visited during my junior year of college. So when I got back from my visit, I spent an inordinate amount of time talking about my plans for moving. And my poor mother was one of the main victims of my endless diatribes about the new life I thought I wanted.
A significantly modified version of this post appeared at the Boundless Blog. You can find that here. (I like them both.) I was sitting in the church service when I heard the preacher say something that made me cringe: “If you can’t remember the day you gave your heart to Jesus, then you probably never were saved in the first place.”
This morning, I was washing dishes and had my back turned to my four-year-old, who was coloring. “Daddy, I can make a ‘V,’” she said.
I’m currently waiting on some news that’s important to me, and it’s starting to get a little uncomfortable.