To all those who are broken and fumbling: (and all those who think they are not.)

“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”  He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?”  Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” -Matthew 19:16-22

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When Jesus revealed the rich man’s need, he stood back, aghast at the request. How? How could he give up everything? What kind of benevolent Messiah would ask that of his followers? He worked hard for what he had and no loving God who would make that a prerequisite for entrance into his Kingdom. Surely it is the law that holds the power of salvation! Surely i’m a good person, surely…I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.

Jesus looked at the disciples and claimed that “It is harder for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.” As his disciples scratched their heads at this, wondering how their Master could endorse such a narrow way, Jesus said that those who would inherit eternal life would be those who left everything behind for him.

My quasi-Christian American civil religion doesn’t allow for this kind of cognitive dissonance. We want to take up our platforms and raise rabble over so much, but when Jesus’ words hit us squarely between the eyes and challenge and provoke us, we are more apt to close the Book and go on with the way we like, as we have done many times before.

I don’t believe that Jesus is slandering the rich or diminishing God’s goodness with his strong words. I believe he is illustrating the law apart from grace, he is decrying selfishness and raising rabble about our tricky penchant for idolatry.

I grew up in a loving supportive Christian family where my Mom and Dad were both present and loved God with reckless abandon and, in many ways, raised me to fall in love with Jesus and to truly believe what he says. I grew up in a youth group where for many kids, this was not the case. I have since ministered in youth groups where this was not the case. And you know what? I love those kids.

One of my favorite things about them is that they are abundantly aware of their need. They are well acquainted with their brokenness and their doubts. There’s so much that I want them to know about the Gospel and selflessness and truly taking hold of the life God is calling them to, and that can be very very difficult at times. But I don’t have to convince them that they are desperately in need of a savior. They are so aware of that. And there’s a lesson in that.

The rich man walked away from Jesus because he wanted the Kingdom of God as a sort of side item in a combo meal he paid for with his “good” works. I want my wealth, my security, my self-assuredeness of works righteousness and if that’s good enough for my perfect life, that is good enough for eternal life.

And Jesus stood in the face of that flimsy theology and spoke directly to his need that he would not admit he had. Our pride swells and our spirituality buckles under the weight of the brokenness we believe we are hiding.

It has been an unbelievably difficult week for me. My friend Max went to heaven on Friday. My mother found out that she has cancer in one of her kidneys. That mocking voice in the back of my mind has been whispering threats and doubts and insults and hurling me to the conclusion that I am powerless to stop the tides from pulling me under and filling my lungs with water, but you know what? God has revealed to me in all of this that I am powerless. I am irreconcilably broken and I have not arrived and I will not arrived until the day I embrace my Jesus in his Kingdom.

It is out of our abundant need that the seed of the gospel is watered and grows. It is in having the humility to admit that we are broken beyond any repairs we could complete ourselves and must look outside of ourselves for the truth of Jesus to hit us squarely between the eyes and cut us deep.

My friend Max was one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. He lived his life without fear of failure because he knew who was holding him. Before he died, he wrote a note in the hospital about how he picked up his Bible and hugged it to himself. “The very Word of God is heavy on my chest,” he penned. Max, at any moment’s notice, would’ve been willing to sacrifice everything to be in the will of God. He spoke boldly to others about the love of Jesus. He figuratively had the very Word of God heavy on his chest at all times.

So in brokenness we find respite.

In loneliness, we are comforted by God’s very breath.

In adversity, we rise stronger than before we were knocked down.

In humility, considering others as better than ourselves.

In obedience, denying ourselves, picking up our cross, and following Jesus, wherever he leads and laying whatever he says aside for the sake of the Gospel.

We are all in desperate need. We all have brokenness coursing through our veins and to say otherwise is to deny the fundamental realization that brings us to Jesus in the first place. We are beset, but our completeness is in Christ alone.

 

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Fall Together, Fall Apart (a poem about colder weather and cognitive dissonance)

Idioms and axioms swirling across the concrete of my twisted mind,

Like reddish yellow leaves swirling ‘cross the concrete of  twisted sidewalks where I find,

My beginning and my end.

 

Righteous indignation sets ablaze the synapses in my head,

Like the fire in my bones is strengthened by emotions long thought to be dead.

“I am the beginning and the end.”

 

But God who called the dust to rise up and speak a life-giving word,

How can I discern your plans for me when silence is all I’ve heard

At the beginning and the end?

 

Where is this mysterious scroll  of prophecies long inscribed by omnipotence,

Hiding beneath the clouds of vested emotion or rambling beneath my own incompetence?

You are my beginning and my end.

 

My judgment has been marred by trust long broken,

Faith in anything is so frail that affirmative words are now hardly spoken,

As if bearing heavy burdens is an easy trend.

 

Goosebumps, a childhood memory that kept me up at night, weaving tales of killer clowns and puppets across the back of my eyelids that would make your skin crawl. Goosebumps, that feeling of anticipation that something was about to happen that would change everything and you couldn’t put it down. Goosebumps, raised on my flesh as war rages under my feeble plans. Rising knots in my throat and tears in my eyes as I try to put pen to paper and understand my own rebellious heart. What a wretched, empty soul who cries out “Abba, Father” and is made whole. Following your heart is just fine in fairy tales, but “the heart is deceitful…who can know it?”

 

You can know it because you know me,

Like leaves racing across the blacktop of childhood dreams,

Their path unknown to the casual passerby,

 

Twisting and turning and ripping at the seams.

Unraveling like words in a line and cognitive dissonance shaking the corners of stanzas yet

to be

(or not to be)

written.

Falling apart, we fall into ourselves,

and

into our selfish whims,

But we are not of those who shrink back,

But those who cry

 

“Abba

Father.”

 

 

Predetermined or burdened with purpose?

Invisible streams flowing mightily from the one who holds it all in his hands,

My beginning and my end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better Than This (or, manifesto destiny)

“The difference between me and my parent’s generation, the culture warriors, is that I actually know people on the other side, and I like them.” -Russell Moore

I write this not to clarify my positions or to postulate some new and radical philosophy of political engagement. I don’t write this to endorse anyone or convince you to change your mind about whoever you have decided is best to lead this country. In fact, I really don’t care.

US politics this go around has been a three ring circus of epic proportions, with less actual discussion of policy and enough vitriol and libel slung across enemy lines to level a nation, which is what I fear.

I was born into a very specific sect of Christianity , which shapes and informs my (many) opinions on everything from abortion to same-sex marriage to the refugee crisis. And as a minister of a Gospel which I believe gives life to all who receive it, I am horrified at the trends I’ve seen rock our nation to its core the last several months.

My politics would probably be categorized as center-right if you’re one of those people who desires tidy boxes with which to organize all the things that you couldn’t possibly wrap your head around without such a system. But I identify myself as an Independent, because I believe party lines in a post Reagan world are more divisive and ugly than helpful. I want to learn who the candidates are up and down the ticket, as to make wise and informed decisions.

Now, I hope that doesn’t make me sound too engaged in the political system, because I also consider myself, if such a term exists, politically agnostic, in that I don’t know if these partisan political circuses are even remotely the way things ought to be (and I have a sneaking suspicion that they are not.)

Hillary and Donald are human beings, deeply flawed human beings with whom I am so disgusted with. I don’t believe either of them are honest and I don’t believe either of them are what we need. But they are, apparently, what America wants right now. And as much as the conservative and liberal media would want you to believe otherwise, they are human beings created in the image of God.

I hear echoes of Israel crying out for a King to lead them into a new age of peace and prosperity. Whispers of God’s people crying for a messiah, and not recognizing him when he appeared.

I have friends who I love deeply, believers and non believers alike across the spectrum of republican and democrat and everything else. To the politicians, they are a voting block. But to me, they are friends and family members, who are human beings created in the image of God. They all have lots of opinions, lots of data and theories to justify that one of these candidates is the obviously better choice.

I don’t write this to exalt the merits of either of them or change your opinions about which one of them is Adolph Hitler in disguise. I don’t even write this to slander either of them. This is less a discussion of politics and more one of basic humanity.

Because one of the most heartbreaking things I see in this time are all of those people whom I love and are created in the image of God at each other’s throats.

I am blessed to have all different kinds of friends. My Facebook page isn’t an echo chamber resounding with opinions that resemble my own. And I think that keeps me honest. It reaffirms my calling as an evangelist, not to win people over to my side of an argument but to proclaim God’s goodness across the massive scope of humanity. I believe that his kindness draws us to repentance. It is my job to love you no matter how we differ. And I don’t apologize for that belief.

But I urge you, my friends and neighbors and strangers who read this blog: do not let the mean spiritedness of our current political climate let you hate those with whom you disagree. Don’t fling fiery darts across your news feed or tweetstorm the ignorant into oblivion.

To my Christian brothers and sisters, specifically: remember the life to which you have been called. Remember that your identity rests not in a politician or platform, but in a person named Jesus Christ. Do not sully your witness by being the very agitator you cry out against.

Ideological divides are no excuse for ugliness. If our presidential candidates will not act like adults, the responsibility falls into our hands. It is my hope that I and those I love will treat one another with dignity. Love as Christ loves. We are better than this.

Words are a Weight (On Loving the Church When it Hurts.)

“The Church is a whore, but she is my mother.”

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Several years ago while I was in college, I wrote those words on my Facebook page under the “Religious Views” section. The quote is often attributed to Augustine, but is rumored to have been said by Martin Luther and a host of other church fathers. I was a frustrated young millennial, seeing the overwhelming hypocrisy of the body that nurtured me and raised me into the man I was. I saw political jargon shouted from pulpits, taken as Gospel by racists and adulterers, one and all. I saw small huddles of men in the parking lots, filling their bodies with smoke and decrying those who spent their weekends at the bar, claiming that the world was going to hell in a handbasket and there was nothing we could do about it but curse the filthy sinners that filled it.  I heard the women gossiping in their Sunday School rooms about why so-and-so wasn’t here this week and did you hear that Pam was cheating on Jim with Ron Swanson?

I’d seen the faces of disgruntled youth, trying to fit into the world of religion like a kid’s piece into an adult’s special edition Thomas Kinkade puzzle, larger than life and filled with loud primary colors clashing with the tiny diminished hues of a portrait where they didn’t belong. Begrudgingly nodding, but not convinced that the Gospel could be summed up in these words: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?”

My understanding of the mercy and goodness of God was skewered by the inconsistencies I saw all around me, and I was pissed. So, when my mother called me in my dorm room and said we needed to talk, my heart momentarily stopped. Had someone died? Had I been caught in some elaborate lie? All of my sins were called up before my swirling head. What could it be?

“The preacher and one of the deacons showed up at our house today to talk about you.”

Oh, God. This is it. I’m going to be excommunicated. Can Baptists even excommunicate people?

Apparently, someone had seen that section of my Facebook. They went so far as to print it out and hand deliver it to the pastor with feigned concern. The concern, you ask? That i’d used the word whore.

Not that they wondered if I was losing my faith.

Not that I came across as angry or missed the point.

That I had used a word.

I saw red.

My blood boiled at the thought of all that work done to expose me as a pottymouth. Forget context, forget the state of the thing I loved with all of my heart. But I said a dirty word.

And far be it from them, adults, to come to me, an adult, to talk about this indiscretion. They brought it to my parents, because obviously I wasn’t old enough to answer their fears or questions. Maybe my mind had been polluted by the big, bad Christian university I was attending.

For the first time in my life, whether real or perceived, I felt like an apostate.


I sat across from a room full of students, all of them looking to me for answers. What did I know? I was just a volunteer chaperone at summer camp.

The church gives us no respect, they don’t see us as people.

How can we carry on the work of the church when we are adults if we’re never allowed to have a say now? Where do we fit in?

Why do they treat us like we’re little kids?

I listened to their fears and their desire to be part of the Body, to really take part and contribute. To some, it would no doubt sound like blind idealism of youth. But as they spoke, I felt that weight pressing on me as well. The adults may have many excuses: they are too broken, too sinful, too young, they don’t understand doctrine or the Baptist Faith and Message. They don’t get it.

But did they themselves even understand the particulars?

Do I? Do any of us really have what it takes to live beyond reproach and advance the Gospel? (How glorious a gift God gave us, entrusting us with a task for which he makes us able to carry out!)

I encouraged those students. I prayed with them. I cried with them. And I held out hope that someday, things would change. Someday, they would feel valued. And maybe so would I.


Apostasy.

The word rang in my ears. As the quiet hum grew deafening, I pondered the implications. What would happen if I just left it all behind? Is it worth it? If there is no place for me in the community in which I was raised, is there any place for me at all?

I spoke to my pastor later that day over the phone. It was a strange conversation, full of awkward silences and unruly dissonance. I tried to explain to him the manner in which I used the quote, tried to outline my frustrations, but overall hope that I held. The church is a whore in every sense of the word. She has sold herself to politicians and to the world. She has shouted in outrage at the sins of a broken world while waiting for night to fall, so she can join the debauchery. She has traded gossip for prayer, and has been the Pharisee, blind to the log bursting from her eye while trying to excise the splinter from another’s.

But she is my mother. She birthed me, raised me, loved me, taught me who Jesus is and baptized me in his name. I am grateful for her witness, stained though it may be. I love her with all of my heart though she vexes me so.

The conversation stalled, but picked back up as he continually brought up that word. I had committed what seemed to be an unpardonable sin. These were the dregs of legalism if I’d ever saw them. To dismiss the words of a church father because you don’t understand them? In my soul, my frustration raged. I tried to remain calm, but as a college freshman, I was full of knowledge but wisdom and a healthy temperament had yet to show up on my course list.

We ended our conversation, still on opposing sides. This man was my pastor. I felt bad because I felt I owed him respect, but didn’t feel like the best way to show it was to give in and apologize. At that point in my life, I didn’t understand the value in picking your battles and if my time in the religion department had taught me anything, it’s that any topic could be a hill to die on.


In hindsight, I forgave those who didn’t understand and learned to be a little more discerning in the words I choose to say. I realized that in choosing love over bitterness, the quote I had been so adamant about was playing itself out in my life.

Sometimes the Church will choose legalism, even if you know better.

Sometimes the Church will misunderstand, even if you have the best intentions.

Sometimes she will harbor secret (or not so secret) sins and run after idols that vie for her affections, even as you call for her to repent.

But we do not exist as islands, we are not some distant relative of the beaten and beraggled Bride of Christ. We are her. We exist as one Church to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. We exist as deeply flawed, inexcusable sinners who do so much damage to the name of Jesus with our various failures and broken intentions.

But we choose to forgive the inexcusable in others because Christ forgave the inexcusable in us, as Lewis says.

Because though the Bride sometimes feels like she is barely hanging on, torn apart and stitched together again and again, she is loved by a Groom who will do anything, who paid everything to buy her back from the idols that have wrapped their tendrils around her heart. And as she gasps for breath amid the broken reality she chose, she finally sighs in freedom because her lover has rescued her and made her whole.

I love the Church, I am the Church.

And if you claim the name and mission of Jesus, so are you.

“Here I raise my Ebenezer…”

From its inception, this blog has been a vehicle for many things. Initially, I wrote as a way to vent my grief surrounding losing my best friend. Eventually, it transformed into an interactive journal of sorts, a place where my thoughts could be public, where I could share with others whatever it was I happened to be thinking about at any given moment. When inspiration was lacking, it became emptiness. When I could say nothing about the emotions that swirled through me because they were far too painful, it bled out into poetry. Vague enough to leave people guessing, but honest enough to set my mind at ease.

Now I am in a season of life where nothing is certain. Some days I feel a great need to speak, to write, to say something of value to leave some kind of impression on the world. More often than not, silence has been the only reply of my soul. Gone are the ramblings of adolescence; the wordless groans of adulthood are here to take their place!

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Seasons come and seasons go, but I’m reminded of a powerful truth bestowed on me in college. I was given a journal my junior year and told of the story in 1 Samuel, where the Israelites were under siege from the Philistines. They asked Samuel to pray for them, and when God answered those prayers and the Philistines were defeated, Samuel placed a stone and called it Ebenezer. In Hebrew, Ebenezer means stone of help.It was a symbol of God’s help in times of struggle, one the people of Israel could look back on and remember God’s faithfulness.

In the past couple of years, my life has changed drastically. I’ve carved out a place for myself in this world, ministered to others, grown spiritually, made new friends, fell in and out of love, experienced overwhelming joy and devastating heartbreak. The only constant was change. And change can be scary. But as I hold that journal (and this blog) in my hand, one theme that rises from it is God’s faithfulness.

I am a broken mess, but God’s faithfulness has never left me.

When I struggled through loneliness in a new city, he provided me with peace and brought new friendships.

When I felt ineffective in my ministry, he sent his affirmation and strong, godly mentors to show me that God’s economy isn’t quantified in terms of success, but in obedience. He showed me those I ministered to experiencing God, some for the first time.

When one of my youth went into cardiac arrest…twice, he literally raised him to life. He showed me his power is not limited to our imaginations or probabilities, but is made perfect in our weakness.

When I faced my own depravity, he covered me in his grace.

When I experienced heartbreak, he reminded me that if everything else in my life were to vanish and all I had was Him, then I would be okay. He is enough. He is more than enough. He taught me to seek first the Kingdom of God, that his will and his way will always be most important.

When I thought I would lose my Dad this weekend, he comforted me. As I blazed down the interstate at 3 am, racing to get to his bedside, God protected me and comforted me and gave my family peace. When my Dad was on a ventilator for almost two days, unconscious, he showed us that joy is never lost and hope is never dead. When Dad woke up and laughed with us, he reminded us of his power and love. Dad told me that, as the ambulance pulled closer to the hospital and he lost consciousness, his last thought was that he only had peace. And he is alive because God’s power is not limited to my fear.

Ebenezers, all of them. From tragedy and brokenness, I have been given a peace that far surpasses my frail understanding of reality. I have seen God deliver me time and time again. I have seen his promises remain as true in moments of sorrow as in moments of joy.

I place these stories of God’s faithfulness to me and those I love here as a stone of help, a monument to his mercy and love for all of us. So that when times get tough, I can look back on these monuments and beam with joy at the goodness of my Savior.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
  Let  the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble…” (Psalm 107:1-2)

 

 

Album Review: Levi the Poet, Correspondence (a fiction)

Spoken Word poetry has become a staple in Christianity as of late. More YouTubers than I can count have taken to broadcasting their innermost thoughts with rapid fire delivery of theological one-liners and honest confessions about their brokenness.

I dare you, type Christian spoken word into your browser and see just how many similarly themed videos pop up. Don’t get me wrong, several of these folks that use this particular art form are talented people who I enjoy listening to. But it is a form that, in Christian circles, has been cheapened by the sheer volume of different players. It’s almost dizzying how many different people can release poems that sound the same, feel the same. So much of it is too didactic, machine-gun style systematic theology that relies on tired colloquialisms and pop culture references. And i’m-going-to-insult-my-audience’s-intelligence in your face references that remind you, as if you didn’t know, that THIS POEM IS ABOUT JESUS.

And I’m all for transparency and bold proclamations of the Gospel, but I believe poetry can be beautiful and paint pictures with words that help us see the Gospel in a different way while moving us like mere clever one-liners can never do.

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I can probably count the number of times I’ve listened to an album and been reduced to a puddle of tears on one hand, and spoken word even less. Enter Correspondence (a fiction), an album by Levi the Poet, with musical accompaniment by Alex Sugg of Glowhouse.

I’ve followed Levi’s work for years, starting with his work Werewolves, a singy-screamy-talky journey through his own life. I first saw him at a hardcore show were he got on stage and yelled poetry between sets. From the beginning, I was sold. The way he spoke and the fire behind his words hooked me, and his passion for God and approaching him honestly inspired me, and still does to this day.

When the Kickstarter project for this album came up, I jumped at the chance to support him and his art. The album takes you on a sonic journey, telling a story about a boy and a girl in love, the girl goes on a journey to sea with her Father to chase the fabled white whale
and has to leave him.They communicate through letters in bottles, while the boy builds her a treehouse they will share when she returns home, twisting together the power of imagination and the innocence of childhood and the thrill of adventure and the pain of loss. It calls back to Melville, childhood, and the struggles of growing up in this world and finding God and yourself.

The power behind this story is that it is a story. It’s not simply content to just tell you the truth, it wants to show you the truth displayed through the eyes of fictional people and situations that mirror our own.

Like Lewis said, ““That is one of the functions of art: to present what the narrow and desperately practical perspectives of real life exclude.”

The emotion that surges behind Levi’s words just overwhelms me and this album is one I will certainly return to again and again. This album finds him maturing in his writing and his delivery, and while I miss him just screaming the words the whole time, I thoroughly enjoy the tale he weaves and the urgency he brings to his art. Just beautiful.

Favorite lines:

“If you can hear me, I’d rather have you than all of my answers.”

“However long your voyage, you’ll have a place to call home when you come back. The ladder is nailed to the trunk and I started hammering the foundation to be sure that we have something to build our future on.”

“The fog was like poetry: difficult to define but I am completely indifferent to what it means so long as we are able to get lost in it.”

“You’d think that if God created everything good, she wouldn’t stand up on a mountain proclaiming inanimate objects bad and demonizing the rest of creation like it’s the tempo’s fault that she’s stuck alone on a pedestal, cutting herself in half.”

“I have no idea what to believe, but beauty pulls me beyond myself like I don’t even have a choice, so I know I don’t believe in nothing.”

“Indifference sneaks in subtly, and subtleties can kill a man.  It will be of no comfort to you, though if there is a God, know that I will stand before him with no excuse, and I can only assume that he will weep. “Tragedy, indeed, that innocence, though it never was, could have been.”

“I am lonely, and I can’t reconcile loneliness with meaninglessness because, like beauty, it leaves me wanting for more. She is still a decision that floats out like debris, on ripples that began at her stone’s throw.”

“Know that it was unending love that fueled the moon’s magnetic pull to pursue you through the death that threatened to conquer it, and it is beautiful. It cannot fail.”

  • Favorite Tracks: “Rooster Cogburn in Indian Territory” and “Traditional Values Worldview”

I give this album a 5/5, but not that my opinion matters.

Decide for yourself. You can purchase it on Amazon, Itunes, and Bandcamp.

For more info on Levi the Poet and his projects and tours, please go to LevithePoet.net.

Prone to Wander (Wrecked)

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)

I was listening to Christian radio today, which isn’t a usual thing for me as I’ve never been much of a listener of any type of radio. As I listened to a few songs, I recalled why I don’t listen to large amounts of new worship music. All of these songs sound the same, I thought to myself. And it wasn’t just the repetitious melodies I’d heard a hundred times, it was the words themselves. So many of the lines were cut right out of one song and pasted right into another.

This isn’t a criticism of Christian music, though I’m sure many can be made. And why wouldn’t these songs be the same? On some level, they are all from the same source material. Taking my experience today, and thinking of all the worship songs I know, I realized that the landscape of CCM (contemporary Christian music) that is not watered down to suit such a broad demographic of people is consistent in one thing: boldly asking God to ruin us.

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I remember shortly after I got my first car. It had been a stressful weekend, with both my Dad and my grandma sent to the hospital. So I decided to go visit them, by myself.

As I pulled onto I-85, I was overwhelmed with anxiety and wasn’t paying attention and this big truck barreled into the lane I was trying to get in. I swerved to miss him, spinning across three lanes of traffic in my small Ford Taurus.

Dizzy and horrified at the crunch I’d just heard, I stumbled out of the car on wobbling legs. Somehow, I’d avoided hitting any other car and landed safely against the guardrail in a cloud of dust and broken pieces of my bumpers. Both of them. 

Maybe I didn’t know it then, but in those moments, God was beginning the process of breaking me, of wrecking me like I wrecked my car. 

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I realize that in postmodern Christian circles, it has become fashionable to make statements like that. I can’t tell you how many times while I was in college I heard phrases like:

“Wreck me, God!” 

“Tear me apart, Jesus.” 

“God, come break our hearts for what breaks Yours.” 

Christians like that language because it jolts us out of our preconceived notions of who God is and what he’s doing in the world around us. It takes us out of our familiarity with the faith that many of us grew up with. I remember hearing those exact words in college many times, and I remember saying them myself.

And, as much as I have, in the past, tried to disassociate with clichés associated with the emergent church as well as the traditional church, there is a truth about God and a truth about ourselves that cuts deeply into the heart of what those musicians are trying to say.

See, often we pray bold prayers and sing bold songs and ask God to turn everything that we have done, will do, and everything that we are on its head. We ask him to search us and know us and illuminate our wickedness and help us to repent of our sins and follow him “in the way everlasting.”

But do we, frail humans, really want that?

Do I want to be wrecked?

If I answer honestly, the answer is a deep and resounding no.

Do I need to be?

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My head was still spinning. My vision was still blurry and I could just barely make out two people shaped blobs walking toward me. As they got closer, I could hear them asking if I was okay. They’d seen the car spinning into the guardrail and called the police to come help. Their accents were thick and German, so I didn’t catch everything they said. But they did say that they would pray for me. And then they got back in their car and left. 

I fumbled for my phone and pressed in the number for my Mom. Through tears, I told her what happened and she told me to stay calm. Stay calm? Stay calm? My 16 year old  self had a finely tuned script for his own melodrama conveniently stashed in his back pocket for such an occasion. And calm was the last thing on his mind!

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Luckily for me, my belief in a God who gives us what we need, rather than what we want overrules my imperfections and lack of trust. But I cannot honestly say it doesn’t sting to pray bold prayers like that. And I cannot honestly say that it is my natural inclination to do so.

Naturally, I am prone to seek my own good above everyone else’s.

I am prone to make surrender a worst-case scenario.

I am prone to forget that when God “wrecks” me, it will hurt. It will be uncomfortable. It will not always present itself in the most convenient times of my life. But, in the end. It will be worth it.

So what I pray for those who sing the songs I heard on the radio today, and for all of those who sing them in church or in their cars or wherever else, is that they would truly think about those words.

Am I truly believing God will sometimes use me in ways that might run counter to my deepest wants? Am I really admitting that what I desire doesn’t always matter most? Am I, though it may be uncomfortable, really ready to boldly ask God to give me what I need, rather than what I want?

And most importantly, is Christ himself central to who I am as an individual? So much so that if everything I had were ripped away, could I still sing bold declarations of his love and faithfulness? Would I still trust him then?

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So, obviously, I survived. I drove that car through my first or second year of college, bumpers on the verge of falling off and all. It survived. I survived. God was faithful. God is faithful. And that experience taught me a lot about not only mortality, but about trusting him despite the frailty of my life. About how we’re not promised tomorrow. About living every day to make Christ known above all else. 

That was seven years ago, and I am not done learning those lessons. May I give God the glory for every rescue, every victory. And I will boldly shout that Jesus is the only desirable thing in me. May he be the one thing I desire. The one thing in this life I will always trust. My confidence and my life.

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11-impact!

Because even when I am faithless, he is faithful.

ΑΩ