Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Subtle, Morally and Socially Acceptable Abandonment of Grace :: Part 1

If I were writing a book hoped to one day be amongst the best sellers in Christian Living, it would be titled "3 Simple Ways to Abandon Grace." The table of contents would read: 1. Do the right thing :: 2. Have your act down :: 3. Repeat the rest of our life. However, knowing that you're probably already exhausted by "10 step" books, "5 secrets" seminars and 3 more things to "go and do" after Sunday's sermon, I'll save you the trouble and just share my story. But first a song:

I wanna do the right thing.
I wanna be the sure shot.
I wanna have my mind straight.
I wanna have my point got.
I wanna be a good man,
I wanna have my act down.
I wanna be the future
and I wanna be right now.

Sometimes I feel
like I can change the world.
But I don't know where to start.
I dig and come up empty,
clutching an empty heart.

I wanna see a life change.
I wanna see a new man.
I wanna fight the good fight.
I wanna take the right stand.
I wanna be like Jesus.
I wanna pour my heart out.
I wanna pick my cross up.
I wanna hear the mob shout.

I'm wide awake
and thinking about the cross,
the Trinity apart.
I dig and come up empty,
clutching an empty heart.

Before you ask why I would post lyrics dating back to over a decade ago from a relatively unknown band (the OC Supertones), I'll admit that yes, I did go through a ska/punk phase in my musical development. Somewhere in between what was vogue and what really spoke to me, I tried, like every other 13 year-old to express my identity, feelings and emotions through music. 
To me the greater question is why I chose these lyrics in efforts to share and define my story with you. 

The answer, I believe lies in the chorus: "sometimes I feel like I could change the world. But I don't know where to start. I dig and come up empty, clutching an empty heart."

I’ve always felt that I could change the world. I believed and wholeheartedly sang: “I want to do the right thing…..I wanna have my act down.” I remember singing this song over and over again to the point where it became my creed. I sought to change the world – to be a good Christian – to be the “good man” God wanted me to be. So I did two things: I sought to do the right thing and have my act down.

Subtly I turned to moralism and performance. The more I immersed myself in Christian culture the more reinforced my methods became. From prayer and devotions to church attendance and music selection, my digging into what I thought Christianity was all about left me empty time and time again. I was clutching at a heart emptied by the weight of my shame and guilt. Shamed from the painful feelings of the inadequacy and inauthenticity of my performance lead me to guilt and guilt only furthered my shame. I laid awake at night, “thinking about the cross” but I continued to dig and come up empty clutching at a heart motivated by fear, guilt and shame. My emptiness would only continue to grow the more I prayed, read and memorized scripture, lead accountability groups, church worship and Bible studies.

I was abandoning grace the Christian way - one act at a time. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

An honest conversation begins...

I've read books, blogs, articles, tweets and Facebook posts. I've kept up with the bestsellers list in the Christian living section. I've visited countless churches and was even educated by Christian institutions. I've dined around the tables of fundamentalists, conservatives and liberals. For years I've listened to, gleaned from, and observed evangelical Christians from various cultures, ethnicities and denominational backgrounds. What I've discovered is that they all have one thing in common: they're spiritually disillusioned. Disillusioned from the world of pretending - hiding - performing. Exhausted by the weight of guilt and shame.

Disillusionment is subtle and is most often caused unintentionally. Principle-driven sermons, well intentioned bible studies, biblical counseling, pastoral advice, Christian radio even a simple prayer request can all unintentionally lead to spiritual disillusionment. Expressed uniquely by different people, disillusionment presents in one of two dominant ways: despair and pride.

I want to share my story - a story that I believe is our story - the story of anyone who has ever been a part of a church and sought to follow after Christ.

So, an honest conversation begins...