Sometime during my Bible College days I went from follower to believer. I joined up with a system that taught me that believing the right thing was far more important than doing the right thing. People who did the right thing might go to heaven; people – like us – who believed the right thing were (almost) definitely going to heaven.
Then one day, about 10 years into calling myself a Christian and a half dozen as a full-time pastor type, I ran face first into a fundamental truth I had ignored. I am a sinner.
I am crack. I am my own heroin. If I was bottled I’d drink me morning, noon and night. If I was a powder I’d always have a straw up my nose. When people perceive that I’m in a bad way they’ll say, “Take care of yourself.” And I’ll have a laugh because deep down I know that nobody takes better care of me than me.
I am addicted to me.
And from that primary addiction follows a bunch of stuff I have gotten hooked on.
I won’t take time to tell the story now but the short version is this: while I knew I was a generic sinner, as we all are, I became acutely aware that I was also a very specific sinner, a personal sinner. Previously I was always happy to agree that I was a sinner saved by grace as long as it was clear, at least to me (o.k. and a lot of you too), that there were worse sinners. But I came to know that I didn’t need generic forgiveness, I needed specific forgiveness. I didn’t need an adjustment, I needed transformation. It was grace that showed me this.
Now, for some who know me you might be thinking, “C’mon, you’re not THAT bad.” Truthfully I am but more than that, being a sinner is a little like being near sighted. I do things that make my eye sight worse but I was also born with a genetic pre-disposition. In the midst of a personal crisis I heard a little invitation from a voice that wasn’t my own. The invitation was to be honest with myself, about myself. I said, “Yes.” To the invitation and literally everything began to change for me.
I saw for the first time that, left to my own bent, I couldn’t have confidence that I would either do the right thing or believe the right thing. I was fundamentally flawed in a way that causes my very perception of the world around me and inside of me to be distorted. If my past, present and future depended in any way on my own ability to be ‘right’, I was already screwed.
In the midst of that crisis I came to step 1 completely out of context and yet, in a deeper and older way, entirely in context. And I went from believer back to being a follower again. And I fell on step 2, because it was all that I had.
2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
If it depends on my ability to believe exactly right or make myself perfect or even nice, the game is already over before I started. When you dig yourself a hole, only a fool thinks he’ll get out by digging a little deeper. I know because I tried it that way. What I needed and what I continue to need is someone who will jump down into the hole I’ve dug and boost me up and out.
I had come to believe in a god who came to the edge of the hole, told me often how deep I was in the hole, who encouraged and sometimes threatened me to jump higher and get out of the hole and even tossed a list of rules I needed to build a ladder to climb up on and get out. By grace I woke up to the truth that my performance, my thought life and even my belief system would never get me out of the hole no matter how good I got at all 3 of them. I needed help and Someone wanted to help me out.
But as long as I kept trying to dig my own way out of the hole he wasn’t going to stop me.
So I admitted I was in a hole. And I came to believe in the one who jumped in with me and offer to put me on his shoulders to get me out. More than that, I chose to follow. I got on his shoulders. And some days I get off, some days I start digging again but he never deserts me, never gives up on me, never screams at me, never threatens me.
I came to believe in a God who was for me, not against me. One who was so far above me that he understood my limitations and one step towards him brought him running all the way to meet me. I came to believe in a Power that could take my mess and actually do something with it. I met One I could be completely honest with because he had no illusions about me and yet he loved me still. I didn’t have to pretend anymore that I wasn’t covered in dirt and crap from my hole digging – changing the explosive diarrhea filled diapers of 3 babies made me realize that love, real love, is never based on performance, smell or getting cleaned up first.
In short, I came to have hope.
I am not who I was, by grace, I am not yet who I will be, but I’m neither the writer or the finisher of what happens to me any more. And honest is such a much lighter way to live. Following requires an object, someone to follow. Believing only requires that I know the answers for the test. Believing can’t change me. Following can’t not change me.
How about you? Anything or anyone that you’re addicted to? Is there a hole in your yard?
…to be continued…