I’m discovering a whole new dimension of what it means to be human. It’s called “the search for meaning.” A lot of people think they are searching for meaning, but they really haven’t become enough of a person to know how to do it. They are still stuck trying to “do” instead of “be,” which inhibits them from ever actually finding any real meaning. Let me explain…
Growing up, I always thought it was my job to fix everyone around me. I had been assigned the role of creating a Utopian environment where everyone was happy. Granted, no one ever said it out loud, and some of it was completely self-inflicted, but that was my role nonetheless. I don’t know if I caught this disease ridden thinking from church or my family, but both certainly reinforced it.
My church told me it was my job to get people saved. If I didn’t, they would go to hell forever, and when they got to the front of the line to heaven’s gates and were turned away, they would look at me as they walked towards damnation and cry “Why didn’t you tell me?” But they forgot to mention that it’s the kindness of God, and not my own works, that leads people to repentance (Romans 2:4). My church also said that if I loved God with all my heart, and I paid my tithe, and obeyed the Bible, and loved my enemies, and honored my parents, that my life would be amazing. They said that my family would be financially blessed, that marriages would be made whole, that hearts would be healed, and that the world would be a better place. All I had to do was be perfect all the time, and all this would happen! But they forgot to mention that it’s Jesus’ sacrifice, not my striving, that changes the world. They also forgot to mention that people are stubborn and blind and broken and beautiful and confused and sometimes you can do everything right and none of it will work.
They forgot to mention those days when you sit in your room crying, saying “God, how can this be happening? I thought I was in Your will…”
Or the days when the person you were sure God would heal of cancer dies.
The day when the woman who always wanted to be a mother discovers she’s infertile.
The day when the marriage you prayed into for 20 years fails.
The days when you wonder why God has forsaken you. (Psalm 22)
We live in a fallen world, writhing under the weight of sin, and sometimes it crushes us. The church lays out it’s paper plans and it’s cardboard kingdoms, then the world fires a nuclear missile. As the flames subside, the charred masses look to the church for direction, and through their scarred eyes, the same old cardboard religion looks fresh, alive, and secure. The masses rebuild their paper bomb shelters, sure that this time they built it well enough to withstand anything. Then they burn once more. I lived like this for 19 years. I was convinced that if I just followed the plan well enough, I could save everyone. If the missile destroyed everything, I was sure it was because I hadn’t done a good enough job of building. I was completely performance oriented.
Most churches breed us to behave this way, and I was a shining example. I thought this was meaningful. After all, fixing the entire world is the most meaningful thing you could ever do, right? I was doing, and by doing enough, I would one day not have to worry anymore about fixing anything, because it would all be fixed. On that day all the years of life feeling empty would suddenly be replaced by fullness! It didn’t matter that I was ignoring my feelings and my needs. I was sacrificing for Jesus. I was carrying my cross, dying to myself, sowing good seed. That’s what Jesus wants us to do, right?
I didn’t notice that I was hurting, because “hurting” wasn’t my calling. I didn’t notice I was broken, because fixing myself would be far to costly to everyone else. I was a brain surgeon dying of brain cancer. And all the while, I thought I was being holy. Then came college. Then came a reason to live…
Stay tuned for Part 2. I’ll be posting it on July 14th.