What have I learned? OR, A few things every Christian should know. OR, For Heaven’s sake, grow up
My husband tells me that if I want to be a writer, I should write every day and put it on the Internet, just to get in the habit (not because anyone is actually going to read it–but hope springs eternal). So, after many years of dilly-dallying and trying to decide what to wear, I’m going to bang out a few practical thoughts day by day about the Christian life—how we should relate to one another, and how we should act and think.
There’s nothing new or groundbreaking in the words themselves. If there is any value here it is in my life experiences which made the words real. I helped start an evangelical ministry 15 years ago which consisted of a singing group that performed drama and preached on the street, in prisons and churches. Later our plans grew to include more ambitious projects, including the renovation of a 10,000 square foot historic mansion. Things worked out differently than we expected over the years, for many reasons. After facing some difficult, draining experiences, and negotiating constant obstacles, we decided to move on. This ministry is now in the hands of others, who are developing something new out of something old. My husband and I have returned to regular church life in a different community and we are raising our children like all the other middle-class couples on our street. At first, because of emotional and spiritual turmoil, I was happy to leave it all behind. But later, I recognized that my identity and sense of purpose for nearly 14 years was wrapped up in that vision. Disappointments and dashed hopes left me unsure of who I was and what I really believed. How do you let go? The fact is gone, like the lover who leaves, but I dwelt on the memories of a torrid though doomed love affair, for a long time.
If people ask, I tell them that what I thought was a marathon turned out to be a relay race, and my part was completed in the first lap. Though it was a marathon that went unnoticed by passers-by, I still burned to communicate my experience in it. So here is my life, poured out on these pages. I hope that even though you weren’t expecting advice, you will still find it a useful and pleasant surprise, like a twenty-dollar bill you find in the laundry room, folded up and forgotten in your jeans pocket.
I will not bore you with the process of redefining myself, but rather with the lessons I learned, particularly when it comes to relationships. Some of the memories are fuzzy now, like petroleum jelly smudged around the camera lens. The pain is fading, with the bustle of life in the intervening years. Since the particulars are bound to be lost to clear memory, all that is left are a few principles, which I share with you now.
Christians of every stripe all have opinions about the general state of the church. Those judgments are formed by our experiences, some bad, others good. They can be harsh, infected with our prejudices and insecurities, the stuff of regrets. But no one can deny that the stronger the experience, the stronger the opinion. The trick is to recognize the choice we are faced with in our experiences.
How are we going to react?
The freedom Jesus won for us on the cross is never so apparent as when we are faced with the every day situations that require a godly response. Even though I tried to keep my personal judgments from creeping out between the lines on the page, like closing the door on a messy room one wants to hide from the guests, I may not have always succeeded. You may walk by some door and see my personal baggage seeping out underneath. If that’s what you see in the coming pages, I apologize in advance. At least you recognized it. (Or did you? Maybe it’s your baggage…)
*I’d tell you what I think, but would you respect me in the morning?*
Principle #1: Speak in the Active Voice.