Tag Archives: spirituality

The Type of Christian That Christians Like

I love my wife! Let me just get that out of the way at the outset. She’s beautiful, vibrant, a wonderful mother and a cold slap of common sense reality when I need it.

Like today.

Well, like most days, but today in particular.

I was talking to her about a particularly bad day I had the previous weekend: You see, every now and then on my half-hour commute to work, if I’m not jamming on some obscure Pink Floyd or thinking up ideas for the next incredible blog post, I enjoy a little “quiet time”. It’s a time to reflect, to ease myself into (or out of) my day; or a time to commune with God. And that’s what I was on doing this particular morning.

I was asking God to take care of my wife because she’d not been feeling well. I asked Him to look after my kids so they behaved and didn’t cause mom any additional undo stress. And, I prayed that I might be an example of Christ to those I would come in contact with that day, both customers and fellow employees. Something to the effect of, “God, I would really like to be more of a light for You at work; to be an example to those who may be far from You.”

Then I added, “If need be God, if the right words don’t come, provide them by Your Spirit. Let them be Your words, not mine.”

I told her it genuinely confused me that, when asking that God use his Spirit to give me words should my words fail, I would have the type of day that I had. It was horrible. I was a real smartass. (For those of you who know me, even more so than usual.) I thought, where was God? Did I miss a busy signal in the prayer phone on the way to work?

“All lines are busy; please try your prayer again later.” *click* Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

You know my wife’s immediate reaction?

“Maybe you’re praying that God make you into someone you’re not meant to be.”

Say what?? 

“I think you have this mindset of what a Christian is supposed to be,” she continued, “But maybe that’s not how God sees you. You’re trying to be this prim, proper, hands-folded-in-constant-prayer kind of Christian you think you’re supposed to be. And that’s fine for people who are genuinely built that way. But that’s not you.” She laughs at this point, “That’s definitely not you!”

“You’re more blunt, honest,” she continued, “And yeah, you can be a smartass, but who’s to say God can’t use that? Who’s to say He’s not using you now? When He’s quiet like that, maybe He’s saying, ‘No. No, that’s not what I have in mind for you. That’s not who I want you to be.'”

“God wants me to be a smartass?”

“Well . . . yeah. Maybe. For now.”

I don’t know, but for some reason that clicked with me. I think I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to be the type of Christian that I see other Christians trying to be; the type of Christian that Christians “like”, that they’re comfortable with, that I forgot that maybe that’s not me. Maybe that’s not what God wants me to be. Maybe that’s not what I want to be. If we were all this cookie-cutter image of a “proper” Christian—you know, the pressed, white shirt, skinny black tie, high water pants, little gold halo, eyes looking reverently towards the heavens—how boring would that be? How boring would heaven be?

When I get to heaven, I want the angelic choir to be backed by loud guitars and a double-bass drum kit! I want clouds with bungee cords attached so I can leap off, ruffle some unsuspecting guy’s hair then snap back up into heaven as the guy whips his head around in a mild panic. When Jesus turns the water into wine, I want it to be REAL wine.

But that’s just me.

And maybe God’s alright with that.

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Our Spiritual Drifts

Ah, the gifts of the Spirit. You know what I’m talking about; wisdom, faith, healing, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of speaking in tongues, etc. Everyone’s supposed to have them: lying dormant in those yet to cross the line of faith; itching to bubble to the surface if not already on full, glorious display in those who have.

I think I’ve finally figured out mine . . .

. . . Mine is being in awe of those who have spiritual gifts.

It truly floors me when I’m able to connect with a song from Third Day, MercyMe or Casting Crowns (and their brilliant lyricist, Mark Hall) or a book by Francis Chan or C.S. Lewis. To be moved by inspirational speakers like James McDonald (Walk in the Word) or Mark Gungor (Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage). Those guys have got it. To me, they are very obviously being led by the Holy Spirit. And I think . . .

What’s wrong with me?

Why aren’t I able to inspire like that? Why aren’t I able to discern life around me through the lens of spiritual wisdom? Why can’t I speak in tongues? (Well, if you listen to me get into playing fits with the kids you might think otherwise, but I digress.) Maybe I’m not doing it right. Maybe I don’t have the Holy Spirit in me. Maybe God isn’t listening and I am just praying to the empty air around me.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I thought so. I think we’ve all been there. If we’re totally honest with ourselves, I think we continue to visit that particular exit on the road to spiritual fulfillment more often than we’re comfortable with. Furthermore, I think that’s one of the biggest ongoing problems with those seeking answers, those new to Christian faith, and pretty much anyone else, including many who’d call themselves “mature” Christians.

Doubt.

Not a lack of Spiritual Gifts but an overabundance of Spiritual Drift.

Once you cross the line of faith you expect to be different. Choirs should sing, beams of light should shoot out of the sky and hosts of heavenly angels should alight all around you giving high fives and doing end-zone style victory dances.

Doesn’t happen does it? (But, in their defense, maybe my angels were off that day.)

How about when you pray? Don’t you expect to be heard? Don’t you expect to be answered—your way? You expect your problem to be solved, your worry to abate, your friend or relative to be miraculously healed.

Doesn’t always happen does it? That addiction remains a maddening temptation. That problem is still nagging. That friend or relative still dies.

And what about spiritual gifts? Gifts of the Spirit are a big thing at our church. We’re constantly told that, know it or not, we all have them. That if we ask, we will be shown.  Or if not, we can always take one of the ready-made tests available—both in church and on-line—to be able to figure out what our particular gift is.

I don’t know about you, but every time I take that test I get a different gift. And it’s never one of the really cool ones like speaking in tongues. That would be great!

Doubt creeps in.

I must not be doing it right.

Maybe I’m not really “saved” after all.

Maybe, because I’m still such a screw-up that God really doesn’t want me on the home team; even as a bench-warmer.

Or worse, maybe God doesn’t care.

I will say this; atheists are right on one account. We, who believe in a God, have a lot riding on faith. We put our hope out into the ethereal nothingness in promise that it sticks to something, to Someone. The hope is that He is indeed there, and He is faithful to answer. The faith is in the confidence that, if He says “no” or “wait” there is more, or better, or at least understanding, awaiting us at the end of whatever trial we’re currently going through. The doubt is in being human: An incurable, terminal condition that we’re all born with.

And honestly, I don’t have all the answers either. I’m still waiting for some of my answers just as you are. I’ve been told “no” on a few, just as I’m sure you have. But I rest in my faith. I rely in my hope. And, I get mad in my occasional doubt. Just as I’m sure you have. I don’t think I’m too unusual in my spiritual journey. But I do think that any believer who says they’ve figured it all out, all their prayers have been answered, and their lives have been nothing but blue skies and rainbows is probably lying; to themselves and to others.

Or they’re just weird.

Especially if they’re speaking in tongues.

D.Faults

My lovely wife asked if she could read some of my post drafts earlier this week and, of course, I said yes. And so, I’ve been waiting over the last couple of days for any kind of feedback, wondering how she would take my feeble attempts at humor and meager exercises in pithiness. This morning the clouds parted, the sun shone through, and my wife says, “I read some of your posts yesterday . . .”

“. . . you don’t seem very happy.”

Wha . . uh, huh??

Ummm, okay.

“Your humor’s lame.” That I could’ve handled.

“You’re not as deep as you think you are.” That would’ve been okay, too.

Even, “your writing sucks,” wouldn’t have been surprising.

But, “You don’t seem very happy.”? Not what I was expecting.

So I read them again for myself; trying to read them through her eyes. There’s not a lot, I’m not that prolific. But I read them all, and you know what?

She’s right.

What I thought were witty attempts at humor with just a touch of weary cynicism were at times biting; bordering on annoyance and anger more often than I wanted to admit. What was going on?  What was I thinking?  Why am I doing this? Is it to provide a living, breathing document of my struggles and hopefully, eventual reconciliation between my public-oriented job and my chosen faith—as I’d always envisioned it to be? Or is my subconscious simply trying to exorcise my inner resentment and cynical, jaded demons?

My original desire in writing was to point up the nerve-wracking, wearisome, often frustrating world that we—the ones who have chosen customer service as our bread and butter—live and sometimes even thrive in; interweaving my struggle to come to terms with, and even have a cohesive relationship, between my work and my faith. But, reading through my as-yet-unposted drafts, you might start to believe that I truly do think the worst of people. That my opinion would be that if given the choice of right and wrong, good and evil, noble and self-serving, we as a species would bend to the self-serving, evil and “wrong”. Because, in my opinion and as some people would say, “it’s the way we’re wired.” Or, as I like to say, it’s our default. And thinking of people in this way is apparently MY default.

Ugh. What a wonderful way to go through life. Especially when you don’t know it.  Yet when it’s pointed out to you it’s so blatantly obvious you can’t help but go, “oh, crap. Yeah.”

So . . . “You don’t seem very happy.”

No, I don’t.

And I’m glad she’s pointed this out. I’m glad that, what I thought were passable attempts at witticism—attempts to make other people happy—only pointed up the lack of joy and happiness in my own life . . . pointed up by the one closest to me. And I guess she should know.

And that makes me happy.

What am I missing?

I woke up in a horrible mood today.

Last night we went to our local county fair.  It should have been a fun time for all; especially as I’ve got two children who love rides, animals, vegetable displays and all the free stuff the vendors hand out to entice a conversation with weary (and wary) adults.  And don’t get me wrong, the kids had a great time overall.  In between bouts of dad constantly yelling, “Get down”, “Get back”, “Come here” (or as Bill Cosby puts it, “Come here!…  comeherecomeherecomeherecomeherecomehere . . . come HERE!!”)

I felt like I was herding cats all night and I came home exhausted and strung out.

Oh, then I didn’t sleep well ‘cuz I felt like crap all night over the way I acted.  Which, when I finally crawled out of bed this morning, got me thinking about how I too often act at work towards surly customers and needy employees.  (Well, not all of them, but those are the ones that usually elicit a reaction out of me . . . usually negative.)  Which spiralled me further into my funk.  Which got me thinking about how hard it is to be attempting to live out the fruits of the spirit within the parameters of “retail customer service.”

Like a dog chasing its tail, my thoughts spiralled around the, “it shouldn’t be this hard.  Well, if God were truly in your life it wouldn’t be this hard.  Well, I’ve asked him to lead in my life and I just have to have faith he is.  Well, maybe you didn’t do it right.  It shouldn’t be this hard!  Well, maybe I shouldn’t even be in this line of work if it’s this hard.  Well, maybe you’re in this line of work for a reason.  Well, this line of work is driving me, and my family, crazy!  Well, maybe you’re doing it wrong.  IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS HARD!!”

Yet it is.

And all this leads me to wonder, in my morning funk and depressing stupor, what am I missing?

I’m currently reading Francis Chan’s book “Forgotten God” for the second time.  Yet, this time it’s incredibly hard to get through.  I feel as though I’m just going through the motions; slogging listlessly, page by page, reading out of some sense of “duty” rather than for the joy and experience I should be feeling.  And again, I can’t help feeling I’m missing something.  I’ve been at this a long time now.  Time and time again, I’ve come before God with my faults and foibles, sins and shortcomings, laying them at the foot of the cross; earnestly praying for the forgiveness I so desperately need and the guidance and wisdom I so desperately crave.  And I rise from my prayers feeling . . . .

. . . . no different.

As Chan puts it in his introduction to Forgotten God, “It doesn’t make sense that Almighty God would have children characterized by fear and insecurity. He put His Spirit in us so we could be known for our power (Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 1:7).”

What am I missing?

Or, maybe I’m just having a bad day.  The weather is gorgeous this morning.  The kids are quiet.  The coffee’s good.  Maybe in my quest for the answers to the “big things” in life, I’m missing all the little things that are supposed to give me pause, give me a slight centering or at least cause me to just stop and take a breath.  Could that be a “still, small voice” I hear?

Naw, just my six-year-old wanting “purpa grape joos”.

But still . . .