On October 25 and 26 I will be speaking at Allume, a brilliant conference for women. I have been thinking a little around what I might say and I came up with the title,
“Everything is Spiritual: quit trying so hard to be miserable.”
Below is a small glimpse into the backdrop of my session. Don’t worry; I don’t plan to preach at the conference, I am a terrible preacher. I am a storyteller and my mom thinks I’m funny so I also try to use a little humor when I talk… you know, for mom. However, to set the stage, I do preach a little below.
For generations Christianity has been painted with the brush of bible verses like, “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23), or “O LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death,” (Psalm 9:13), or “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” (Matthew 24:9) . . . and many more.
These verses paint a picture that’s pretty miserable. And what’s strange about them is that the Christian world seems to have taken them both as a badge of pride and as the A, B, C’s of Christianity. I am not saying there is anything wrong with the verses, I am simply saying they aren’t the standard we’re meant to strive for.
Growing up, I saw Christianity like this (Think US ARMY commercial)
We are the hard-core few who have chosen a life of death to self every day, so that we can “attain the prize”. We are those who understand what it means to give up everything for the sake of the call. We will sacrifice and be persecuted and we will turn the other cheek and we will work hard our whole lives, giving of ourselves so that the love and beauty of Jesus can be seen through us.
There is a reason the Army writes commercials like this, because everyone wants to be a part of the elite few. Deep down we all want to be more hard-core and willing to stand up for what we believe… even unto death.
But the verses I mentioned are not the brush with which we are meant to paint our lives. The bible is full of stories of men, women and children who lived lives of adventure, filled with miracles, joy and incredible beauty. Most of the stories in the bible are
stories of wonder where God breaks through and the broken are healed and the lonely are placed in families and the unloved experience transformational love and the homeless find a home and the tormented find peace…
And those doing the loving and the transforming and the breaking through are in no way miserable, they are living lives up absolute wonder and fulfillment. And most of those doing the loving are not pastors or missionaries, but shepherds, tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen…etc.
I think two of the most over used and wrongly used words in the Christian world are “persecution” and “sacrifice”. I’ve often heard Christians brag about being “persecuted” for their beliefs when really all that has happened is that they have experienced some form of personal rejection. And it makes sense. We hold up being persecuted as the apex of what it means to live for Christ. But Jesus didn’t want the cross; he endured it. And the disciples didn’t want to be martyred.
I fully believe that if the disciples had lived like many of us do today, they never would have died for what they believed. I think they stepped up in the moment because of the life they had lived and the experiences they’d had. Each of the disciples had risked and loved and laughed and experienced a life that was desperately full.
Without a full heart, without a full life, without a life of miracles and intense beauty and wonder and daily interactions with God, the martyrs of our faith never would have been able to step up when the moment arose.
I often hear people talk about the “sacrifice” needed in our relationship with God. We need to sacrifice our time and read and pray and do more and we need to sacrifice our finances and give more…etc. But these aren’t sacrifices. It’s not a sacrifice to spend time with my wife and daughter or to spend money on them. Sure I have to prioritize, but that’s different. In the context of relationship it’s simply called love. Though, in the context of a religion of works, I suppose its fair to call it a sacrifice.
If we don’t choose beauty and adventure and wonder and if we don’t relate to God daily and experience miracles regularly then we will never be able to stand when actual persecution comes. And we will never be able to sacrifice when the need arises. Beauty is a choice. Wonder is a choice. To experience a miracle we have to choose to have an adventure.
So, let me take a left turn here. As I said above, this is not what I am talking about at Allume. But this is the base from which I will be jumping off. Think about this in the context of your blog, of your art, of your book, of your platform. If life is about doing what we love and through that making the largest impact with Christ, how does that translate? If life is about collecting God stories- and we can’t do that if we just hang out in church and write blogs, then what does that look like? The impact of our life happens when we are out living and loving to the absolute fullest.
And this should be where our art comes from.