Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Being A Christian Is Hard

There are a few things I'm really good at.
Making people laugh, for example.
Writing, for another.
Brewing a pot of really strong coffee, most of all.
I am not, apparently, good at being a Christian.

Being a Christian is hard. If you're a stand-up comedian, the only thing you're expected to do is crack people up while they eat their mozzarella sticks, and you sip your beer. If you're a newspaper reporter, it's your job to report the facts. If you're a Christian, though, you have to not just play the role but live the part.

Some people are genuinely good at it, and some people fake their way through. Some folks radiate joy and peace, and others have a make believe smile slapped across their face. Most people can tell the difference and are turned off by the latter.

There there are people like me - rough around the edges, with a good heart, and still very much a work in progress. There are things we struggle to keep in check - for me it's my temper and my knee-jerk reaction to perceived hurt, and they usually go hand-in-hand. I've always been very open about this fact.

Sometimes I feel like being a Christian is a lot like an inmate going before the parole board. Yes, I know that's going to be a very unpopular view and I'll probably get flack for it, but allow me the luxury of being brutally honest for a moment. You may have robbed a bank at gunpoint one day in your life 15 years ago, but then you went through a jail house conversion, started a jail house ministry, started counseling other inmates with drug problems, and you became an exemplary inmate. But when you sit there before the parole board, the positive changes you made in your life are forgotten. All that matters is that you robbed a bank 15 years ago, and even though people say you're being judged on your more recent good deeds, the truth is, you can sense you're really being judged as a bank robber.

And so, welcome to faith. It can seem that way sometimes. You say the wrong thing, respond the wrong way, react out of anger, etc., etc. You sinned, you screwed up, and people called you to the carpet about it. But then, after working on yourself and more importantly allowing the Lord to re-shape your heart, you are still being judged according to the past sins.

It's frustrating. People believe whatever they want to believe, and no amount of pleading or whining will changes their minds. Actually, that usually makes it worse.

For me, I have spent over a year strongly desiring to work with a specific ministry. I screwed up months and months ago. I reacted to something inappropriately. I apologized, I tried to make it right, they told me they still thought I was "perfect" for their ministry, and wanted my help.
The months went by and I checked in from time to time, to see if they needed me.
They put me off. And put me off. And put me off.
Until one day this week I finally confronted them and they told me, in so many words, that they didn't feel comfortable working with me.
No specifics as to why - no, I have to wait a week to hear about that.

I'm tearing my hair out because I really had my heart set on working with that ministry, I don't know what changed over the months, or why they didn't have the courtesy to be upfront with me, and I once again feel like the inmate before the parole board.
I am not Christian enough.
Mature enough.
Calm enough.
Whatever enough.
I'm sure they prayed about it and "felt" that it wasn't right.
My sentence: they move on without me.

And for all of the emotions that have been swirling around my head these past 2 days, I can only say that I'm thankful to have a God who forgives and moves on, who doesn't hold our screw-ups over our heads and use them to judge us later. We are white as snow and He knows sincerity when He sees it. We screw up, He teaches us, if we are open we learn and grow, and we move forward.

No parole board. No judge or jury. Just forgiveness with a hope and a future. We move forward, we are never rejected, we are never turned away. Our God deals with us directly. He doesn't string us along only to let us down in the end.

God is a lot cooler than Christians, which is why I keep trying to follow Him - despite my repeated flubs - and not His followers. We're all trying to figure this life out. None of us has any hard, fast answers. The only answers we have lie in Him. We make mistakes, judge people, act immaturely. I do it, you do it.

But our God never does. One person in this entire universe and beyond never screws up, and that's why I get up and give it another shot.

Nobody else in this world is really worth the effort.

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