“We dilute the beauty of the Gospel story when we divorce it from out lives, our worlds, the words and images God is writing right now on our souls….[Your] life is a story about who God is and what he does in a human heart.” Shauna Niequist
Tonight I was at a young adults service with a couple friends and I was thrilled. The place was packed. The music was awesome. We were going to dive deep into the Word of God tonight! It was going to be amazing.
And then it wasn’t. And the whole time I kept thinking, “There’s something wrong with me” followed by “Lord, please help me to see you through this.” To explain a bit, the concept of the service was awesome. It was about the Gospel of Jesus and we were going to start from his birth. And it wasn’t even Christmas! But as the sermon wore on, I couldn’t help but think “there’s got to be more.” The pastor preached the truth: “Jesus does the impossible”, “A virgin birth is a spectacular thing”, and “Jesus died for, yes, the world. But he also died for you as an individual.” All good things. And yet, I wanted to weep as the band came out and forced the pastor to squeeze his second point into five a five minute crescendo that lead up to the bridge of a song being played loud enough to burst some ear drums with lights flashing and strobing to the beat.
And if I wasn’t pained enough, at the end the pastor said, “Now I want you to feel it. Just feel it in your heart. And if you don’t feel it, I want you to ask Jesus to reveal himself to you.” The only thing I felt was grief and the pounding of a drum in my chest.
Jesus is so much more than a feeling. I wanted to get into the geneology of his birth, what his birth meant to the heart of the Israelites, what his birth meant in Mary’s heart.
See, I think that’s one of the ways the way God works. Everyday he winds his way through hearts that are willing to change. He molds and crafts us into the beings that we were always created to be. Sure, he changes situations. And that’s awesome. It’s really spectacular when someone is miraculously healed.
But what about a human heart.
If you’ve ever tried to change one that is dead set in believing something, you’ll know it’s impossible. You’ll know that you could give every reason to buy Sprite–and they could be good, solid, correct reasons– and that heart would look at all the thin possibilities of how it could possibly be right to drink Sierra Mist. And that’s the way our hearts were towards God. We were dead set on sinning, on living apart from him. Everything seems better than a relationship with him. Porn seems better. Drugs seem better. Even things that are harmless seem better. Writing seems better. Drawing seems better. But all those things, even things that we were created to be good at are death when put before him. But our hearts, in our sin, don’t see that. We see how fun it is to create something out of nothing, characters, stories, plots, ideas that didn’t exist before they were written on a page. God can wait. But wasn’t it him who wrote us into existence?
The Bible says He is the author and perfecter of our faith. Every day He writes on our hearts. He writes our stories, each one a little different than the last. Only the thing is, He only writes if we hand him the pen. We each live out our own story. God wrote us into existence but he gives us freedom to chose our own path.
I know that one thing that kept me from asking was the fact that I don’t know how to ask, or what to ask for, or even if what I was asking for should be asked for. One way this happens is when we go to services and all we learn about Jesus and his birth is that He does the impossible and that He left heaven for humility. Okay…
And I know that sounds horrible but stay with me here. Those things are true and they’re amazing and they show God’s character in a really awesome way if we dive into it. A virgin birth is impossible so it’s pretty obvious that God can do the impossible. And to leave a place in heaven for spot as human who came to serve in humility shows humility. So that’s a fact. But now what?
How often do we do this? We get so caught up in fluffy language and what God is “supposed” to be doing. We compare who God is in other people’s lives and why He isn’t like that in our lives. According to the message, God does the impossible. So why can’t He take away my anxiety? I’ve prayed about it. I’ve asked him time and time again. And yet here I am. And what does it mean to me that He came to serve in humility? How does that impact my life?
People are dealing with situations in life that seem impossible. For me, it’s anxiety among a whole bunch of other things. And when we just tell people that he does the impossible, that leaves room for doubt and questions about why he isn’t fixing their impossible situation.
And honestly, leaving heaven for humility is a catchy tag line but nothing more in every day life. I real
ly want to cuss someone out, but Jesus left heaven for humility so that should take all the emotions I have, all the anger and frustration in me, that should just be wiped away with a bit of alliteration.
So here’s me trying to be real. Here’s why I am so astoundingly impressed with the fact that Jesus does the impossible and he left heaven for humility. I am blown away because I see this in my heart every day. God impossibly changed my heart not my situations. For example, I still have anxiety. But after a pretty intense attack, God changed my heart. I saw it in a whole different way. Instead of feeling like it was this “other” it was just me. And yeah, it still sucks and it’s still hard, but God showed me that He is strong in me even when I am weak. He didn’t take away that weakness. And when I am having an anxiety attack the furthest thing that feels real is that anything can be stronger than the panic I am feeling. But He is there, right alongside my racing heart, my frantic breaths, the hand that I hold close to my chest because I am pretty sure I’ll explode if I don’t. He is there not taking it away, but showing me in the moments when my thoughts have calmed down, how strong He is. He is showing me that I don’t need to be perfect to be a part of his plan. And people who deal with things that are messy (trust me, there’s ugly crying involved in my anxiety attacks) and people who feel like broken are people He uses. And hey, it shows that in the bible too. Moses had a severe stutter and was asked to speak on God’s behalf to Pharoh. I have such a big heart for listening to people’s stories and yet, I am terrified to meet them. God will still use me.
And Jesus left heaven to allow me to see that. I was blinded in my sin. When Adam sinned, he gave his rights to a relationship with God over to Satan. There was no communication between the two. There was no guidance, no expressions of love, no correction. Jesus gave up his rights to get those back. He did not sin and because of that, He had a right to life. Instead, he took our punishment, our death. He didn’t need to. We didn’t deserve his sacrifice. But he acted in humility.
So stop. Stop divorcing the Gospel from your every day life. Stop making it something that is so shallow and vague that it seems either worthless or unattainable. Take a second and look at the story God is writing on your heart. Look at the every day implications of it, the nitty gritty messy stuff. Look at how He’s come through before and how He will come through again. And then tell that story.
That’s the story that is going to draw people to Him. Not lights, or bass, or alliteration. Stop trying to sensationalize the gospel. To make it so attractive and perfect and pristine and uninvolved with everyday human emotions. The most attractive thing about the Gospel is that it was one man for 33 years every day. And he died so He could be a part of that–a part of your every day. Not just your Thursday night once a week, or your Christian conference once a month, or your very moving Easter service once a year. He didn’t die for your occasional. He died for your every day.