My small private Christian high school could be described as decently conservative, maybe overwhelmingly conservative, practicing some of the you-say-a-swear-word-you’re-going-to-hell Christianity and turn-or-burn religion.
Detentions were handed out for saying the word “fart” and don’t even thing about saying “c-r-a-p.”
The Bible was taught as a science book, the key to all knowledge, and evolution was that bad “e”-word.
Bad things don’t just happen because adversity is God’s judgment and punishment for all the times you don’t follow the commandments.
Blessings are handed out to good people, but don’t worry, grace still exists… somewhere.
My sophomore year of high school, I was dating this guy. I would hardly call it dating, but at the time, we labeled it, so I’ll label it now. He went to a different school, but we would see each other at track meets. Between events, we’d leave the track, talk for several minutes, kiss goodbye, and walk back to the track.
Some of my good friends heard what had been going on, and news began to travel. Eventually, it made it to my track coach… some other parents… and some teachers. Sure enough, I became a big target.
Warming up for my district meet, a parent pulls me aside and asks me if we can talk in the bleachers. We sit down, and our conversation begins: “Sean, if you were driving a car, and I knew the bridge ahead of you was out, I would be a fool to not warn you.”
Not exactly what I was expecting, but she continued, “Other parents and teachers are giving me a hard time because they know what you have been doing…”
Caught, and my eyes began to water as I became more disconnected from the conversation, or lack there of. Amongst my anxious staring, foggy eyes, and sorrowful sniffles, I made out, “Sean, God has no reason to bless you.”
Images of my track career going down the drain began flooding my mind, and my please-God-to-get-good-things background began to solidify. Grace had no place because of course, I had to earn grace. I had to work hard enough, and then I would gain God’s favor because God only gives things to the righteous.
I put my shades on to cover my watery, bloodshot eyes and finished my warm-ups. I won four events that day, and I didn’t leave the track with my boyfriend at all.
God blessed me with a place that taught me the key to success: please God and gain the desires of your heart. Why offer your life as it is and allow God’s will to work in your life when you can work to please God yourself and gain self-righteousness?
Grace never really made sense to me there, but that’s all right. One extreme showed me the other extreme, and indecisiveness taught me to look for the median.
Sometimes God meets us where we are, where Christians are too afraid to go, working in the lives of the undeserving:
Saving an adulteress from being stoned,
Embracing a bewildered lost son,
And kickin’ it with the outcasts.
Jesus taught the futility of all people, the lack of ability to do it oneself. Sin is best manifested in the idea of thinking that one can live this life on their own, thinking that everyday can be handled without the presence of God, without the Spirit.
The debt has been paid, and we have been taught to love God and to love others. Too many times have I tried to understand God and save others. I don’t know why it didn’t make sense earlier: love others, embrace them as they are, and let the Spirit take care of the rest. It’s all I can do.