Apr 16, 2009
A Love Story
I once told my ten-year-old nephew that when he turned eleven, we had to take him to the doctor to have his balls clipped off. I explained that it's a bit painful, but once the doctor clips them off with a pair of sterilized wire cutters, his "adult balls" could come in and he would be ready to enter the next phase of life. I'll never forget the look on his face, especially since his 11th birthday was only a few weeks away. It pretty much threw all the excitement about his upcoming pool party out the window.
I'm not proud of telling him that, but to this day, it continues to provide a chuckle. He's 20 now and has a kid of his own. We still laugh about my misinformation.
He had the same nervous look on his face when he was ten that I had when someone informed me that, as a new Christian, I had to be in Church every Sunday or I wouldn't make it as a Christian. I put it off for as long as I could. It became one of those things that I knew I had to do, but dreaded. Monday through Saturday was great because it was just God and me. We ran around town together like newlyweds. Everything we did, we did together. We were inseparable. When Sunday came around and I had to get in my car and go Church-hunting, I felt like I was going to the doctor for the dreadful procedure I told my nephew about.
Looking back on that time, I shake my head in embarrassment. I knew even then that something was messed up about that process. It was a dirty trick played on me and I should have known better. The truth I preach today was alive in my heart from day one. It's not something I learned through prayer and study of the Word. It was in me the moment I met Him, and quite possibly even earlier than that. That desire for freedom and realness between God and me had been burning in my soul before I was born.
It was "clipped off," however, about six months after I finally submitted to "the way things had to be."
From as early as I can remember in my Christian walk, I can recall thinking how unfortunate it was that all those "other things" existed that I had to do above and beyond my exciting love affair with the Father. Every time someone would mention another practice or tradition I had to acknowledge and practice, it was like an annoying fly buzzing around my face. I remember secretly wishing I could be the different one who walked his own path with God and didn't follow all the rules and practices. Why couldn't I be the guy at the skating rink who was allowed to skate in the middle or sit on the wall? These rules seemed so boring and life-sucking to me. Just thinking about them made me feel like I was being strangled.
My love for Him was preyed upon. It was used against me to get me to enlist in the Christian-military. I finally did it because I lost confidence in myself and what I had with Him. Rather than "go with" and trust the freedom I knew in my heart, I trusted people older and more educated than I. I trusted in what the majority of people were saying. "They must know more about what I'm supposed to do as a Christian," I thought to myself. Even though every fiber of my being was screaming not to go, I did it for Him. I didn't have the inner confidence at that time to make a stand for what I truly felt in my heart.
It was confusing to me because almost immediately, I felt a sense of separation in my heart when I walked through the doors and submitted to their system. I felt like I had broken up with my first love and I was now living a responsible life in an adult world. I knew He was there inside of me, but something caused my spiritual senses to become numb to His presence because my head was counting and recounting all the steps they gave me for fear that I might miss one or do something rebellious or against God's will. I blamed myself and figured it was because I wasn't being totally obedient to what God wanted for me. Though my body was dressed up in my Sunday best, my heart was back at home reliving the uncomplicated closeness of puppy love.
I knew that if I was going to become a "mature" Christian someday, I had to do all these "other things" they told me about. I was truly a Christian with Attention Deficit Disorder. I hated the responsibility stuff that the "adult Christians" kept telling me about. I wasn't interested in tithing, volunteering, submitting to authority, group prayer, corporate worship, Bible studies, missions or even winning souls. I was told that my lack of interest in these things was evidence of immaturity and rebelliousness. Regardless of the level of electrical guilt and condemnation I used on myself in an effort to jump-start my passion for those things; I still came up empty.
I wasn't comfortable putting my hands in the air, screaming aloud or weeping in front of everyone else during worship. It just seemed a little over the top to me. Those things really felt inappropriate, almost like pulling my pants down and sitting on the toilet in front of five-hundred observers. They told me that I wasn't willing to confess my association with Christ to the world because I felt this way. I secretly wondered if my feeling this way was evidence that I was embarrassed of Him. If I really loved God the way I claimed, I wouldn't hesitate to let it all go during a worship service. My "holding back" was proof of my lack of love for Him. If I truly cared for God like I previously thought, I would surely not be so inhibited. I started an excruciating habit of second guessing and self-bashing that would become a part of my inner existence for the next ten years. It was comparable to the first few throw-up sessions that kicked off a life long eating disorder.
I read the Bible so much that I honestly became bored. I began to fall asleep every time I sat down to read. When I listened to preachers' instructions to read the bible every morning until we burn inside, I secretly wondered if I hadn't closed my heart to the Spirit of God. I questioned whether or not I was really interested in Him because His book seemed so monumentally boring, and I was unable to drum up any excitement about a story or verse I'd read 20 times before. Reading the Bible became a task I had to endure or a quota I needed to fill in order to feel okay about myself.
I honestly didn't want to give ten percent of my paycheck in the offering plate. Faith or no faith, I was living paycheck-to-paycheck and ten percent was devastating. I tried it a fewtimes, but then the bills began to pile up and I started getting behind in my car payment. I found myself purposefully not thinking about it because the whole topic of tithing created such turmoil in my spirit. Therefore, my unwillingness to "trust God" in that area must be conclusive evidence of faithlessness. I didn't trust Him enough. That knowledge broke my heart and caused me to turn inward in self-loathing. What good is a newlywed love affair if I wasn't willing to be faithful with merely ten percent of my income? I learned that I was a fraud, and when my so-called "love for God" was weighed, it proved to be weightless.
Prayer circles turned me off big time! I wasn't comfortable holding hands with people I didn't know and I hated praying aloud in front of them. When I prayed, it sounded weird. It didn't sound like me. It was similar to the first time you hear yourself on a tape recorder. It doesn't sound like you thought you sounded; it sounds worse. That's how I was with prayer circles. My aversion to "group prayer" served as further confirmation that I was both ashamed of Him and unloving towards His people. At least that's what I told myself. These discoveries were heartbreaking.
Hating group prayer as a Christian was like being a boy and not liking girls. It was something that I knew I had to keep to myself. What made it worse was the fact that most of the time when people were praying for me, I didn't believe what they were praying for would ever come into existence. No matter how much I tried, I couldn't muster up the faith to be healed from things as simple as a headache or a hangnail.
I wasn't genuinely interested in getting healed from stuff. I wasn't interested in miracles and big moves of God. I didn't care about things like receiving a word from God or being prophesied over by the Pastor. I could care less about getting a financial blessing or having the fruits of the Spirit. Even the gifts of the Spirit didn't interest me. None of those things that were talked about all the time at Church made any difference to me. I watched how everyone else seemed so excited about these things and I beat myself up because of my genuine disinterest.
I would have been perfectly happy keeping things the way they were when I first met God. I hated this new adult-christian world. Sadly, because of my lack of fascination with these Christian practices, I began to tell myself that I was shallow and uninterested in the deeper things of God. I began to feel that I was lagging behind the pack in just about every spiritual area. Eventually, I gave up because I was too far behind to ever catch up. I wasn't even sure I wanted to catch up.
A heart to win lost souls to Christ was something I also secretly struggled with. I just didn't care -- at least, not as much as the preacher seemed to. It didn't burn within me to save the world from the devil. There was no passion to see people get saved, and because of that, I realized the ugliest truth about me that I could ever have imagined: I didn't love people. I was heartless. That revelation alone was enough to convict me of the worst guilt of all. It was indisputable evidence that my soul was dark and selfish and every part of my past "puppy love" relationship encounter with God was nothing more than self-centered fantasy.
After about 12 years of this on-going agony, I began to wonder if what I had experienced alone with God in my spiritual youth had ever really taken place. Was it only a figment of my imagination? Perhaps I was fooling myself and creating my own invisible friend with special experiences because that's what I needed at that point in my life. I felt like the tiger that had been in the cage for so long, he actually forgot there ever was a wild. The very experiences of intimacy to which I had anchored myself were slowly becoming faded pictures in my mind.
I went to Bible College, hoping to birth a passion for those things in my wicked and dark heart. In three years, my knowledge of scripture more than quadrupled. They taught me how to pray, how to worship, how to give, how to convert people and how to preach the Gospel. I left knowing more about God than ninety percent of the people I knew.
When I left college, I was commissioned to go and bear fruit. Multiply. Win others to the Lord and make them just like me. The only problem was that I had been castrated. I could no longer procreate. Winning souls was like getting my friends involved in this great multilevel marketing business called Christianity that I had personally not made so much as a buck from. The formula was identical to AMWAY and HERBALIFE. Sell, sell, sell, and get people to commit and stay involved. Motivate them every Sunday by filling their heads with a thousand embellished success stories and encourage them to come faithfully or they'll surely fall away. Encourage them to hit all their friends and family up with this "great opportunity" and discourage them from relationship with anyone who rejected it.
During this whole process, I remember occasionally recalling my first love. I would be driving down the road on my way to a Church service and the memory of how it used to be would pop up in my mind. I'd be knocking on doors and handing out flyers advertising our next big service and suddenly my mind would return to my apartment in Hollywood where I used to sit in bed and talk to God so simply, clearly, directly, plainly and soberly. It was like I had a soul tie with a high school sweetheart who was seductive and luring me back.
I began by flirting with the idea of me and Him back together like we used to be. It became a secret fantasy that I entertained in my thoughts from time to time. "I wouldn't even know how to find Him after all this time," I'd think to myself. "Where would I even begin to look? For all I know, He's married and changed His name by now. Would He even be interested in me again? Would He find me attractive after all these years?"
I eventually got myself to the point where I had to at least attempt to contact Him. I was sure He'd rem ember me. What we had was way more than "puppy love." It was real! After meditating, fantasizing and wondering for several more years, I finally approached my Church and asked for a divorce. She was understandably devastated. She went through all the classic emotions, but eventually let me go. I left behind almost 16 years of marriage to return to my first love, not even knowing if He would take me back.
I know this:
There was music playing somewhere in heaven when we came together again for the first time in years. It was better than any movie I have ever seen or any romance novel written. The embrace has lasted until today, and the simple sweetness that once was, has been restored a hundredfold.
And we lived happily ever after.
Rate This Post:
Leave a Comment
Leave a comment with your very own customized avatar!
FBN uses Gravatars to allow commenters to customize their very own comment image!
The Free Believers Newsletter
Sign up for our FREE newsletter!