Titanic: The story of my life

Sunday, July 13, 2008
OK, it is 3:20 AM on a Sunday, and I am ready for some religious ramblings!

First, a side point: In all of the times that a pastor has brought up "The Gifts of The Spirit", I always said that "Faith" is not a spiritual gift of mine. I have always struggled with faith, and have never found a solid faith, so I assumed that it was not a spiritual gift of mine.

But I have been thinking lately: through all of my life's hardships, pains, trials, depression, sins, and sorrows, I have always had some level of faith. I look back and I see times that there was no good reason for me to have faith, but I did. I mean, I am basing the way that I live my life on the words of a guy that has been dead for almost two thousand years... but I still have faith.

Maybe faith is one of my gifts.

Moving on...

Lately I have been having a spiritual battle. I was brought up in (what I call) "The Church of America" (or TCoA for short). TCoA's beliefs are simple:
God = love
God wants to love you, and accepts you where you are
God wants you to be saved, so all you have to do is say "the prayer" and you are in. You don't actually have to LIVE a certain way, as long as you went to church at least once a month and pretended to read your Bible, you were saved.
God wants you to be prosperous.

Yes, that list is sarcastic, I wasn't actually brought up believing the above... but close to it. I was told that you should go to church and read your Bible, but those that told me to do it didn't do it themselves. And as for giving... well, you give what change you have at the end of the month to the offering plate, and that is it.

I have always felt that that way of living wasn't enough, that TCoA missed it, and not by a little bit. But I was brought up that way, and I find myself thinking that way, even if I don't agree with it (I want an iPhone, even if that money could better be used for God's kingdom).

Then came the Hot Tub Church of Christ (HTCoC for short). Before I get weird e-mails, let me explain: A few months ago my brother and I were at my dad's house for some jobs. Late after a job one night, we went out to my dad's hot tub, and in a round-about way, we got to talking about religion.

My brother starts talking about how he has been studying the Bible and has been thinking a lot about how we should live our lives. He says that if a person were to really experience Christ, their lives would be different. (Warning: The following is me putting his beliefs into my words. I my not be completely accurate as to what his beliefs are, this is just the way that I put it into words.)

See, when People join The Church of America, their lives don't change. Sure, they go to church on Sundays, and they give 10% of what they make... they stop cussing, and will even give up questionable behavior (smoking and drinking). But their every day lives are the same. They go to work, come home, watch TV, pay their taxes, and go to bed. How has their lives changed since Christ entered their lives?

My brother's point is that If they were to REALLY experience Christ (HTCoC style), then their every day, every hour, every minute of living would change. They would give up the luxuries of life, they would stop working to em-better themselves, and they would devote their time to "the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind" (Luke 14:12-14). They wouldn't believe America's lies that wealth has worth. They wouldn't watch TV (which turns off your brain), they would go out to homeless shelters and volunteer, they would bring hot food to people on the streets, they would comfort someone in need (it could be a friend down the street). And they wouldn't only give 10% to the church (which is an Old Testament tradition), they would give every dime that they could scrape from under the couch cushions to a variety of charities (not only when a commercial comes on for hungry African children), THEN they would go out and give every extra waking minute to those that need help. THAT is the way that Christ led his life, and THAT is the way that we should follow his footsteps.

So that is the teachings of the HTCoC: that if we were truly Christians, our lives would be changed. (yes, I know my dear brother, there is a lot more to it than that... but I am trying to keep this blog post down to under twenty pages... those other points will come in time, or feel free to make them in a comment below)

So, to get back to my post-introductory opening point: Lately I have been having a spiritual battle. See, my body still likes the teachings of The Church of America (TCoA), but TCoA simply isn't biblical. Yes, God is Love, but he also calls us to do his work. In reality, TCoA is based on America's culture more than it is based on the Bible. Conversely, the Hot Tub Church of Christ (HTCoC) is based on the Bible... "Get rid of all of that culture crap and get back to the basics." Which makes sense to me because I am a big believer in following the Bible.

Here is a great metaphor that I have come up with: Lets say that you are on a cruise ship, and halfway through your voyage you fall overboard. No one notices you are gone, so the ship keeps going, and soon you are all alone in the water. No life raft, no floaties around your arms, nothing. What do you do? You tread water, of course! Soon, you get too weighed down, so you take off your shoes, probably your pants, your jacket, anything weighing you down, just to lighten the load.

Hours go by. Then days go by.

After several days, it is obvious that they aren't out looking for you (or they would have found you). So now you have two options: the spirit on one shoulder is saying: "Just tread water a little longer, they will find you. Just keep doing what you're doing, you are doing good." The other spirit says: "Fool! Treading water ain't getting you anywhere! You are going to have to swim for shore! BTW, shore is that way... I am almost certain."

So what do you do? One option is the easy choice (tread water and wait it out), the other option makes more sense (swim for it), but it would take a lot of work to do.

But it isn't just about which option sounds better. See, you have already been treading water for several days. Treading water isn't easy, it takes constant work, constant concentration, and you are dog tired. You have already put every ounce of energy that you have into just keeping afloat. Swimming to shore is the logical thing to do, it makes sense, and everything else equal you have a much better chance of getting rescued. BUT you have NO energy to even do that, because you have already spent your energy on staying where you are.

On top of this, there are sharks. And I don't mean "Oh I think that there may be sharks down there," I mean you can see them, you can feel them, and one has already bitten off your toes! (anyone seen Open Water?) YOU KNOW that they are there, just waiting on you to stumble.

THAT is the story of my life. I feel like I have devoted myself to TCoA (shedding off the things weighing me down), but here comes a teaching that makes sense, that is logical, that is actually biblical... so why not jump on board? Oh how easy it would be!!! Truth is, I am having enough problems just having faith as it is! Back to my introductory opening: while I have always HAD faith, it has never been stable, I have never felt sure about my faith. It was always there, but it was always rocky, always something that was hard for me to grasp. Now I have someone on my shoulder telling me "Swim for it" and my response is "I am so freaken tired of treading water I am just about ready to give up as it is. Swimming is out of the question!"

You would think that me finding a closer walk with God a good thing for my spiritual life, but it has hurt it. Before the HTCoC, I was at least happy with where I was. Now, I know that I am not where I should be, but I don't have the energy/faith to move to where I need to be. I am being ripped apart, and I find myself between the two camps, which is dead-man's land, worse than being in either camp.

It is easy to say "Yes, but muscle must tear before it gets stronger. Now is hard, but God is just using it to make you better." Frankly, that is the ABSOLUTELY WORST advice you could give me right now. (OK, not the absolutely worst, but it sure feels like it sometimes) I don't want to hear "it will get better later", I want it to be better NOW! And I am not being demanding or forceful, I am saying that where I am SUCKS and I don't want to be here. But if I go one way I feel guilty, and if I go the other way I have to completely break who I am and become someone else (and right now the LAST thing I want to do is break down even more).

And that isn't including the "sharks". Sin is still a struggle in my every day life. Sure I "came out" about my pornography addiction and how I "overcame it". But to be honest, it is still a daily struggle for me. Just because I stopped doing it doesn't mean that the temptation went away. If you were once an alcoholic, it doesn't matter how "recovered" you are, you will always be drawn back to the bar. Even if you don't get drunk, you still want to hang out in a bar. And I find myself doing that: going to sites I shouldn't go to. No, the sites aren't "pornographic", I don't directly use the sites to lust. But they fill a sinful need deep inside that I find hard to squash.

(Take a deep breath... I don't know how you read the above paragraphs, but in my mind, they are full of passion. These things really hurt, and I have to hold back emotion when I think the above thoughts. I get on a roll, and the thoughts and words crescendo, keep getting louder and faster... so, take a deep breath, then move on to the next topic.)

That having been said (and it was a lot to say), I am not looking for answers from you guys. I don't want a bunch of comments and phone calls reassuring me that treading water for now is a good option, or that swimming, however hard, is worth it. That is not what I want; nay, that is not what I need.

I need prayer. I need honest intercession with Christ for my behalf. I want you to pray that God delivers to me His truth... then stop. I want you to ONLY pray that God delivers to me His truth. Don't pray "God, show him that your truth is to swim for shore" or "God, he really needs to see that treading water is good right now." I don't like it when people put their opinions in prayers... kinda like when pastors pray (just before an offering) "And let these people empty out their pockets for You God." They aren't praying that the people will give a lot of money, they are sending signals to the congregation that he wants them to open their wallets. (Not to say that a pastor can't pray the above prayer, I just think it is showy when he says it out loud... kinda like praying on a street corner, you don't do it because you are praying, you do it for the people watching) (Sorry, that was a rant... back to MY problems now!)

I ask that you pray that God give me His truth, whatever it may be. Please pray that I have the wisdom to understand when God is talking to me, and the wisdom and courage to choose the right path. Please pray that the sharks of sin don't devour me, but that I may be redeemed and rescued by Christ.

Matthew

PS: That post is over 2000 words, and took just over an hour to write... now it is time to proofread!

PPS: OK, 4:50 AM now... I am so tired I couldn't think of the word "proofread", so much so that I had to do a Google search for "writing steps"... "Research, Write, Revise... Proofread, ya, that word!" So really, nighty night time... I am just glad that I don't have church in the morning, or I would have to be there in three hours!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

you rock!

Swing said...

I'll second that - you rock :)

Matt said...

Yeah, you do rock. I love you bro, and I'll definitely be praying for you.

I know you don't want advice, but wrong thinking can prevent you from hearing the Holy Spirit by being worried about the wrong things.

Just remember: don't have faith in your faith ("oh no, my faith isn't strong!"), rather have faith in the precious Lord Jesus ("my faith is weak, but Jesus is the One who saves me, not my faith").

I love you, dood.