My life took a radical turn the summer after my senior year in college. It was that point where I decided I believed in God, and that something would be required of me in order to make my lifestyle congruent with that belief. So in a form I was very familiar, I prayed a formal prayer to indicate that decision. I immediately felt a strong sense of relief.
The relief came, I think, not so much as a result of feeling the love of God or a rush of freedom of soul, but instead from looking at it from the standpoint of being on the right side now. I was now saved. I was not quite sure what that was going to mean, but at least I was safe.
Now these many years later, I’m still unpacking the results of that decision.
That decision led me to think and believe and choose a path that made perfect sense even as short as five years ago, but now it has led me to a very different expression today. I no longer make my living from that belief. I don’t go to church. I don’t make music any longer and lead people in singing. Many who knew me in those days would look at my life now and assume I have given up on that decision. But I have to say it’s quite the opposite.
I’ve spent a significant amount of energy wondering what it would have been like if I had made that decision under better circumstances, under kinder, more loving and graceful leadership. How better adjusted would I be today if I wasn’t raised with a fearful view of God, or a cause and effect relationship with the Bible? My assumption was, I would have been better off.
And maybe I would, but I don’t get a do over on that one. All I’ve got is a move over. I am asking my past to step aside, to move over and allow for new works of grace to take its rightful place over the more restrictive patterns that was offered me.
I can’t change what I was given, but I can change what I give away. I met a pissed off Jesus, but I can introduce you to a more loving one. I was led to believe my attendance in a group of people in one location on Sunday morning was crucial for my behavior to remain moral. Now I can offer a different idea for what a day of rest could be.
I was given a picture of awakening being painted with broad strokes on a canvas of church attendance and political involvement. I can now give out a belief that awakening implies slumber, and that the soul may not even be aware it is asleep.
Even though I like where I am and where I am going, the invitation to go backward is always standing. The past always beckons us to think that better days were behind us. Cracker Barrel has built a pretty good business plan on this idea. But the problem is, we can’t go back, nor should we. The past is safe, but it grows stale. The soul may survive on day old rations, but it will be unable to thrive without new life and new faith.