I don’t know if you’re like me, but now that I’m in my thirties, I reflect on the passion I had for Jesus in my youth with fondness. The whole world was ahead of me as I planned my future - every bright and shiny promise in my Bible highlighted in yellow pen and emphasized with a big exclamation point.
The question of when to stay and when to leave a church is complex. It does not have a one-size-fits-all formula. Although there are clear reasons to leave—such as abuse, or a church’s departure from basic historic Christian beliefs—church members exit their churches for a myriad of other reason - some valid, and some less so.
I put my faith in Jesus as a teenager, and soon came to realize that my own sense of wanting to put the world right was in fact an echo of God’s deeper call for justice. God will finally put the world to right when Jesus returns, but until then, I needed to have confidence in what I couldn’t yet see (Hebrews 11:1) and lean into doing justice and loving mercy. Here. Now.
“I just feel so guilty,” my friend shared, and all I could do was nod in agreement. Both of us have a long track record of wanting to be the helper–willing to make an extra meal, pick up the slack, watch someone’s kids, stay up late to finish a project—but both of us have a hard time receiving that kind of sacrificial help from others. What’s worse is that the need for help has only increased with time, even though our time-management strategies have gotten that much better.
As a follower of Jesus for 16 years, I have always believed that I should actively evangelize. However, until about two years ago, I shared the Gospel embarrassingly infrequently. The few times I did share, I was ridiculously ineffective. In fact, my infrequent and ineffective efforts created a negative vicious cycle...
Mary walked into my counseling office breathless. She sat down quickly, and with tears in her eyes, began apologizing for nothing and everything, in particular.
“I just feel so stretched. I don’t even know where I end and the next person begins,” she told me.
I hate unloading the dishwasher. It’s the chore that irritates me most: a never-ending cycle. That particular Tuesday I’d had enough. I thought “What am I Doing?! What a waste of my life to be standing here unloading the freaking dishes! Again!”
At 29, I found myself suddenly single, a season of life I thought I’d long bid farewell when I had stood at the altar and promised ‘until death do us part’ three years prior. Nowhere in my 10 year plan had I ever envisaged divorce, let alone navigating my way through the daunting dating jungle again.
Thankfully God’s Spirit faithfully downloads just the right scripture at just the right time. As I began re-packing my suitcase for the return trip, feeling way out of my league and fretting that the numbers proved it, sometime between the bathroom and closet in the hotel room, the prayer of Agur from Proverbs 30 dropped into my mind...
I have wanted a nose ring for more than 20 years: a little diamond-y stud, a twinkle beneath my eye. It’s been more than 20 years now and my nose is still—somewhat disappointingly—stud free. Someone recently asked me why I didn’t just go for it, which in turn needed clarification – why didn’t I do it then? Or why don’t I do it now?
Forgiveness has the power to resurrect what bitterness tries to destroy. It makes the mountain a place of wise perspective to see the full picture of how God brought you out of the valley. Forgiveness doesn’t always restore a relationship but it will always heal your heart. A heart lavishly loved by a wise, forgiving, loving God.