“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
The way some Christians live their lives is a far cry from the peace and rest that Jesus talks about. Of course, if they really believe in Hell, then this should really be the consequence of that belief: a frantic, endless struggle to get those people ‘saved’ who would otherwise be candidates for the furnace of Hell.
Here’s a great piece by Jeff Turner, whose work I quote a lot on my blog. In it, he talks about how his struggles in this arena eventually led him to a place of peace and rest like Jesus describes:
I’m halfway to 72 (36).
I was a Pastor for 12 of those 36 years, and have been seriously attempting Christianity for about 23 of those 36 years.
For right around three years, I prayed 8-12 hours a day, and began and failed more forty day fasts than probably anyone else on the planet. I preached hellfire, brimstone, and, due to the strictness of God and extreme lostness of man, a mostly empty heaven. I “prophesied” until my face was covered in perspiration and my neck veins resembled tree roots. For more than a few years, I would toss and turn at night if I had not “preached” to at least one “unbeliever” that day, and would finally succumb to sleep only after being thoroughly exhausted by my guilty conscience. I’ve passed out enough tracts to paper the Great Wall of China, and spent a child’s lifetime awake, “petitioning heaven” at all night prayer vigils.
What I mean to say is, I gave extreme Christianity my best go. Not to sound arrogant, but I would be so bold as to say that I’ve only ever met a handful of people who were as intense as I was, and who actually backed up their intensity with actions.
I hit a wall.
I realized that what I was attempting was impossible.
Christianity, that is. None of us can or will ever do it.
And so, more than ten years ago now, I learned that I could not become “like God.” But it was then that it dawned on me that I didn’t need to. God, in Jesus, has become what I am. He has exalted it (what I am) to the highest place, changed the rules of the game, and called the humanity which I was attempting to escape “like Him.” Therefore, when I simply am what I am, I am what he is. Since what I am has been glorified through the incarnation and ascension, to be me is to be like God.
Interestingly enough, once I understood this, all those virtues I tried so hard to attain seemed to appear in my life naturally. The more I knew I did not need to be anyone but myself, the more I naturally rose above some of the not-so-good aspects of my personality.
That’s just the way it works.
Call it Grace, or call it Frank for all I care. It works. When you realize you suck at Christianity, and stop trying to be a Christian, the more the nature of the Christ you adore will be diffused through your life.
We suck at this. So stop trying, and you’ll succeed.