The theme for my church's Spring Retreat this year is Story--my story, your story, and how God has been behind them all. To get us excited for it (and maybe for talking points when we're there), Hopestars are encouraged to "tweet" their story in 140 characters or less. I've never been a twitter (tweeter?), so my official story will consist of a link to this post. I'll probably never be fully satisfied with my story. (After all, it will never be complete) My last telling was pretty good, though maybe a bit too introverted and focused specifically on last December.
For most of my life, my mission statement would have gone something like this: "To get as many good things for myself as possible, without negatively affecting anyone else." Having grown up in a "Christian home", I called myself a follower of Jesus since I was old enough to start thinking independently about my faith, but really this was how I lived. Personal advancement, and later peace of mind, became idols to me. There were several problems with this way of life. The first was that it was fundamentally selfish, revolving around self-gratification. But the clause about "not hurting anyone else" blinded me to this fact and made me think I was a decently good, moral person. So my selfishness grew, hidden under a veneer of benevolence.
The second problems was that since I was living according to this self-imposed standard, I became self-righteous. When I was living up to it (which was usually the case), I felt fine, but when I failed, it really messed me up. I was willing to forgive others, but not myself. The despair I felt when I didn't meet my own expectations was still selfish in an "Oh, poor me" kind of way.
And finally, I started to internalize the difference between what I said I was (a good Christian) and how I lived (for myself). Even as I began paying more attention to my faith and relationship with God, I found it hard to see how to live it out because I had become used to doing things without thinking over the reasons.
But it was in college, when many people lose their faith, that God thankfully found me. For the past few years God has been pushing the simple but critical truth of the gospel further into every corner of my life. It shakes and topples the old laws that controlled how I lived. In the place of my arbitrary and selfish code of morality, I have the perfect example of Jesus. When I inevitably fail to fully live up to it, I don't despair because I know that I am unconditionally loved and forgiven by the only One whose view of me matters. I've been able to see my old idols for what they were and subordinate them to God's calling.
The thing that's motivated the most external change in me has been the growing notion that the things I do matter; they aren't just for my own sake, but determine how I represent God on earth and build His kingdom one fragment at a time. In this way the gospel fulfilled the need that lay beneath my old, selfish ways of living: the need to feel "right" or justified with the way I'm "supposed" to be and live, once invented by myself but now shown to me by God. If I'm inventing my own purpose for life, there is no real or transcendent significance, but with God, it's all gloriously real and meaningful.
My life isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination. The fact that I once believed myself to be a Christian while remaining totally lost stands as a stern warning to remain authentic with God, myself, and others. One of the great challenges of the Christian life is remaining faithful even in the reality of constant doubt, reminding myself daily of what I believe and why, of convincing (sometimes forcing) myself to believe that the gospel really is that good. Because it is.
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