The last number of years have been pretty challenging for me. Most of you know that I spent a number of years as a youth pastor and during that time I changed a lot as a person. I changed a lot as a Christian. I count those 2.5 years as some of the best in my life (the word ‘best’ is not to be confused with the words ‘easy’, ‘joyful’, ‘fabulous’ etc). I saw a lot. I thought a lot. I did a lot. I became disillusioned with a lot of things including middle-class suburban life, Evangelical Christianity, and the influence materialism was having on my life. All of these things changed me.
Now there are probably others out there who can identify with this sort of paradigm shifting, life-altering sort of experience and what I want to note is that there are different ways of dealing with this.
Towards the end of my time as a youth pastor I began to develop some bad habits. Things started appearing in my life that may or may not have been bad in-and-of themselves but these things lead to other things which resulted in me living a dishonest (less than abundant) life. I was so overwhelmed with life/employment situations and so frustrated with the confines of Evangelical Christianity and white middle-class piety and I’m not sure I really knew how to handle all of this.
Last night I sat down with a good friend/mentor in my life to talk about some things I’ve been struggling with and he posed the following question to me: “Ok, so what are the real issues?” What? At first I didn’t know how to respond. I couldn’t really pinpoint any “real issues” in my life that manifested themselves in bad fruit. I couldn’t think of any internal issues that showed up certain ways on the outside.
But I’ve been thinking about this since last evening. And while I’m still (obviously) processing a lot of these things I think one of the internal issues that manifested itself in a particular way on the outside was bitterness. I didn’t start out bitter. I started out frustrated but the more and more things I saw and experienced caused this frustration to slowly turn to bitterness. I began to hate a lot of what I was exposed to in Evangelical Christianity.
I won’t delve too deeply into the sorts of things I’m talking about here because I’m still working through them but perhaps I can touch on them at a later date.
Also, while I’ve begun to realize the root of bitterness in my life this should not be confused with me retreating and embracing much of what Evangelical Christianity has on-tap in the developed world. No. A lot of that is still bullshit and still frustrating but I’m hoping that from here on out I can use those things and those emotions to write a different sort of story for myself in the grace and peace of Christ.
So, here’s to life. Triumphs accomplished. Failures experienced. Second chances. And, above all, grace that refuses to allow us to remain the same.
ps – Today as I was thinking about all these sorts of things I read this blog by Don Miller and, needless to say, it hit be square in the face.