Wednesday, January 7, 2009

On Being Good . . . and Letting Others Know the Difference

When coming of age as a teen, a friend of mine struggled with the faith passed onto her by her mother and her desire to just be herself. She was made to feel uncomfortable with desiring the few simple pleasures enjoyed in a small southern town. If she went to the movies with me, she had to lie to her mother about it. It caused her to finally rebel and throw out the beliefs that I had hungered for my non-Christian family to embrace. But I felt bad about the strife between her and her mother and she had a strange jealousy for mine. Of course, I had no rules or boundaries, could stay up as late as I wanted, see a movie, be it bloody or sensual. But I secretly yearned for the healthy boundaries that my mentally ill parents could never pass on.

There was a young man our age who hung out with us and saw our spiritual struggles as something he was glad to avoid. He said to my friend one day, “You’re never going to be good, so you might as well give up.” But that is how he viewed the faith of my friend as well as my newly embraced faith, as a list of dos and don’ts handed to us by a religious establishment. He was right, because that was how religion was perceived by us too so that’s how our lives were read by others. But my precious friend thought that there was something special about me because I didn’t worry about whether or not I could be good. While she struggled with guilt I struggled with believing God really loved me. I grew up avoiding abuse, learning the codified language I needed to survive. Being good was my salvation. But in the end it was not enough to sustain my rootless faith into adulthood. I was headed for a train wreck and didn’t know it. But just as bad, the friends who we might have influenced as teens wanted nothing to do with our spiritual journeys. Our Christology had little do with Christ. We could have been Muslims for all of our striving to “be perfect.”

I’ve tried many different methods for conveying my faith. I’ve been bold and aggressive, trying to throw faith over people like the "man's" harness thrown over me. I’ve used the post-modern method, becoming so much like others that my testimony was without any savor or substance. But when I finally found that Christ-central surrender, I was finally able to bear fruit and see that first person come to Christ through my influence, a person who is still living for the Lord today.

Ravi Zacharias explains this balance in “The Wisdom to Distinguish,” a CT article this week about faith in the workplace. He’s very comfortable with his boundaries because he is very comfortable with his oneness in Christ. It’s the kind of comfort I’ve found I’d never want to live without again.

“For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.”
Psalm 149:4