I told myself for a long time that I didn't want to be like that. They were too "Amish". I wanted to be able to relate to people who weren't Christian. I wanted to be a "real" Christian, who can live in the world, relate to people with real life problems, and yet still follow Christ. I might swear. I might drink. I might say and do things that would shock those kind of Christians. And so I looked down my nose at them, while claiming they were looking down their nose at me. I almost enjoyed it.
The truth is that, well, there was sometimes a grain of truth to these things I felt toward certain groups of Christians and families like that. Sometimes they couldn't relate to the rampant number of single mothers in this little town, for example, living on food-stamps in subsidized housing. Sometimes they couldn't relate to adults stuck in abusive marriages, and sometimes they gave some pretty terrible (though I'm sure well-meaning) advice. Sometimes they were a bit too... Amish... and didn't see how the motif of their ministry unnecessarily alienated people who could really benefit from what they had to offer, otherwise.
But that wasn't the whole truth, not by a long shot. The truth was that I didn't give a lot of these people a fair chance. The truth was that I was hurt and angry at God because, at that time, my family was falling apart and all the formula for Christian headship in the home and Christian marriage and family worship couldn't save it. I felt alienated and ashamed because, well, I couldn't be like them... or at least I couldn't have the perception of what they had that I built up in my mind. I was angry at God, broken, and envious.
But God has seen fit to be merciful to me and redeem my family. I am now remarried to an amazing wife and I have two more children for a much bigger, and fuller family. My children have a wonderful example, and I have big shoes to fill to be a godly husband and father. I am learning, and I have a lot to learn, but I am supremely thankful. Times have changed, and although there are still challenges, I am awestruck and humbled by how things have turned around.
I will always have an aversion to what I perceive as legalistic leanings. I will always have that (if I may be so bold) Luther-like outlook that wants to challenge anything that undermines the Gospel. But... and this is a big "but"... my tune has changed. I may never completely fit in to either camp, and I think that is how it goes when you strive to live out the Gospel -you will offend the religious and alienate the irreligious, but I am learning to not allow "those" kind of Christians -whoever they are, whether they are real or an image created in my mind- be an obstacle to me following Jesus more faithfully.
I am now learning that I don't want to be one of another kind of Christian... the kind who holds Jesus at arms' length in order to hold onto my own pride, refusing to humble myself before Him, picking and choosing what I will and will not follow in my life. I don't want to be the kind of Christian who uses Jesus like a get-out-of-hell-free card but doesn't actually care about His love and headship in my life. I don't want to be the kind of Christian who uses the mistakes of other Christians, or even how their success in life makes me feel about myself, as an excuse for not picking up the mantle, following Christ, and building friendships with people who want the same. I should allow nobody and no thing to interfere with that.
As I let go of my envy and pride and hurt, and as I allow myself to let people in that I would not have let in previously, I see that many of "those" kind of Christian are actually not what I thought at all. They are just people. They have their sins. They fall down, and they get up. They are people trying to do the right thing by Christ, trying to do what is right in their marriage and in their family. They have more hardships and struggles than I knew of, and they seek to still remain faithful during those times. I admire that, and really... it's the same heart I've always had.
I'm at a time in life where things are changing, and some of that is hard, but I am thankful for it. I'm finally allowing myself to listen to that part of me that cringes when I see loved ones who claim to love Jesus not take Him seriously. I don't judge them... I love them. But I can't follow that.
I went to a funeral the other day, and it helped cement in a lot of things that have been brewing in my heart for the past year.
It says in Ecclesiastes 7:2...
"It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart."
Short translation: at a funeral, you see what life is really all about and are wise to pay attention to it; at a part, you don't.
This has given me pause to think about what I want my life to mean and count for. I look at my life, and if the Lord were to take me in a few years I don't want to be remembered just as a dad who was funny, as a guy who went through a lot of hard things, or as a dude who says ridiculous and hysterical things when he's had too much to drink. That may be all fine and well, but it's not enough.
I want to be remembered as a guy who loved and pointed his family to Christ. I want to be remembered as a faithful husband who loved his wife and gave himself for her. I want to be remembered as a guy who -by God's grace- built a lasting legacy of faith that goes through the generations. I want to be remembered as a guy who, because of his experiences, really can relate to all people. I want to be remembered for the Christ in me, not for the world in me. The former lasts, the latter does not. That is the kind of Christian -the kind of person- that I want to be. God help me.