I’m 28 today.
I know it’s confusing since I made such a big deal about turning Hawaii 5-0 in January. I’m not crazy. Let me explain.
I was “all good” with the first day of Spring, 1984 making its annual rounds but I have to admit that it was also a day that startled me by surprise.
I had just returned from a college retreat sponsored by the church I attended. I was a retreat professional – if there is such a thing. Retreats weren’t new to me; what was new was how God used my arrogance to reveal that I was nothing but externally religious.
The retreat’s theme – they all have them – was “Knowing God”. Sheesh, I thought, don’t really think there’s anything new in that territory for me but what the heck. The retreat even came at a time when I was involved in a structured program designed to teach me how to share my faith.
But something odd began to happen. As I dutifully “wrote my testimony” for an assignment in the program, I became increasingly frustrated. C’mon, I scolded myself. You’re a journalism major. You can write ANYTHING!
Imagine my surprise to learn I had no real faith to share – only the faith I had in myself.
So the weekend – the Knowing God retreat – came and went. I returned on Saturday and house sat for the rest of the weekend for a dear family I knew. They really KNEW God and lived out their faith void of spiritual checklists to measure their holiness.
I placed my Bible on their couch and walked past it continually – unable to bring myself to even pick it up. Suddenly, the Bible and anything I knew about it seemed foreign to me. It was a scary disconnect for all spiritual things familiar in my life.
It frustrated me each time I tried having a conversation with God; I seemed to have justifications for every aspect of my life. Surely I’d say something that would convince HIM to accept ME!
- I had grown up in a home where God was loved, spoken of and taught;
- I knew the order of the books in the Bible;
- I even arose at 4:30 a.m. many mornings during my senior year in college to “get my Bible reading in” before going to class;
- And probably most “importantly,” (think humor, here) I didn’t “smoke or chew or go with guys who do.”
I was in an exhausting place. Then came church on Sunday, a regular staple in my spiritual schedule. But this was no usual worship service. It kept going until mid-afternoon as person after person explained the retreat’s impact on them. And then, the minister to college aged kids wept as he told his story – one of realizing that he, too, had the exterior veneer that said, “Of course, I’m a Christian.” He talked about realizing that he had known ABOUT God, but not actually known Him.
Bingo! Something inside me agreed without hesitation. I could relate because that’s what I had experienced as well. I soon found myself praying and asking God to forgive me for thinking I had sufficiently known Him.
I left the service around 2 p.m. feeling free of the strangling spiritual entanglements I had hidden in my whole life. No longer was I coasting on the faith of my parents or the morality code I lived to uphold. Jesus had made it clear to me that all the “doing” was very, very far from the unfailing love and forgiveness He provides.
My story – my testimony, if you will – was now genuine. It was not created with examples of my efforts, the judgment I had lavishly lathered onto others who didn’t “act like Christians.”
But on the first day of Spring 28 years ago, Jesus freed me from a a superficial spirituality and He became my freedom provider. Spirituality had strangled me but Jesus rescued me so I could really live – now and forever.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” – From The Bible, Book of Second Corinthians, Chapter 3, verse 17
A site I love: utmost.org