It’s not an exaggeration when I say that I practically grew up in a church.
I went to a private Christian daycare and elementary school, and spent between 8 and 10 hours a day there. It was also a Baptist church. We never had homework on Wednesdays so that we could go to Wednesday church services, and we had Bible class along with math and history classes. That’s really just to say that I could quote the Bible long before it ever meant anything personal to me. I am very appreciative of my parents efforts to instill those good old Christian morals and values in me, and I am thankful for them.
But at the same time, church always kind of scared me a little. I used to think that God was like the Lincoln Memorial in DC, he just sat on this big throne looking down at everything, and that he was usually disappointed in me. I heard more sermons about fire and brimstone than about love or grace. I tried to do the right things out of fear of hell.
Enter Young Life. I went to club because it was fun and I liked the people there, and because I liked the Young Life leaders and thought it was cool that they brought tacos for us on Tuesdays. I went to Windy Gap because my friends were going and it sounded fun. And it was. So much fun. And the food was amazing. But that weekend at Windy Gap in 2006 was the first time I heard that God wanted to have a relationship with me and that he cared about me specifically, as a person, and wanted to know me and love me. It was the first time I heard grace taught in a way that made sense to my fifteen-year-old self. Sin, God-with-skin-on (thanks Dru Darby), and the Cross were presented to me in a totally radical way that changed the way I viewed God and Jesus and the whole confusing three-in-one thing. That weekend was the first time anyone ever told me that it didn’t matter what I did, what God really cared about was the condition of my heart. And that totally rocked my world. So I kept going to Young Life, went to Sharptop Cove, became a Young Life leader in college, did Summer Staff at Frontier, and spent countless hours praying for kids at Young Life club across the globe. All because I hope that some lost fifteen-year-olds will finally make sense of what God has to offer them.
This isn’t a plug for Young Life. There are countless other Christian organizations out there who change people’s lives daily, some are even churches (This is a little funny, we can joke, right?). I think that everyone has their own personal vision of God that is shaped by their relationship with him and with other people. The way you love other people is often reflective of the way you think that God loves you. My relationship with God is right for me, but that’s not to say it should be the same for you. There’s no cookie cutter way to be a “good Christian”. And if you’re trying to be a “good Christian”, I think you’re missing the point. God doesn’t care what you do or about your sins or all of your flaws and shortcomings. He cares about the condition of your heart and whether you let his love and grace fill your life.
Megan and I like to say, “love God and do what you want”. That’s not the same as, “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll, but it’s okay because I go to church”. (It’s important to not get these things confused). We say “love God and do what you want” in that order because it’s important. If you’re loving God, in community with him and accepting of his grace, then what you do will be a natural outpouring of his love onto the people around you. So don’t write rules for how to live your life, no do’s and don’ts for Christians. Focus on the grace that is bigger than sin.
For the record, I’m no preacher. I needed this today, because sometimes I lose focus and get caught up in silly things like how to install more RAM in my computer and what kind of birthday cake Joe is making me. I’ve found that I can never remind myself of grace too often. I’m programmed to be selfish, so I have to choose to be conscious of grace and love. So think about grace today, and what it means to you.