I got fed up. I was in the ministry for about five years before I was done. That final year, which I lovingly refer to as the Year of Hell, shredded me down to my component parts.
Burned out isn’t the word for what I was.
I didn’t lose my relationship with God, (Just because some of God’s people can be jerks doesn’t mean He is) but anything that smacked of commercial Christianity made me throw up a little in my mouth. Over the years, I would try a little Christian radio or read a few pages of a Christian book, but I would always end up curling my lip at the sick feeling I got, then flipping off the station (sometimes literally) or closing the book in disgust.
LET ME EXPLAIN:
Now, I know that some of you have never had a beef with the Church, and you may be having a hard time understanding what I’m talking about. I’ll try to explain it this way:
I love pudding,
but not the skin.
And I feel like a lot of what Christians say and write and sing has a skin on it. There’s a plastic veneer that we call authenticity. It’s what we’ve decided holiness looks, smells, and acts like because we can’t quite grasp the real thing. At least that’s what it’s like when I do it.
THE GOOD PART…
I got where I couldn’t emotionally or mentally stand to be around it. But before this turns into the sad tale of a soul-hurt ginger, let me tell you something good that came out of all that.
I lost all my heroes.
Having grown up in the church, surrounded by pastors and Christians and having certain speakers and teachers and musicians shoved in my face as standards of truth, justice, and the American Way, I came back into the mainstream not knowing many of the faces or names (or, thankfully, the christianese… Apparently, we’re big on making much of Jesus these days.) that seem so popular among some.
They had their big platforms and their nice haircuts and thousands of Twitter followers, but they might as well have been my second grade bus driver for all I knew of them. It was disconcerting at first—I went back into this world with some of my old habits—as I was looking for voices to follow.
But then I realized something nice:
Everyone was on equal ground.
Nobody was my mini-Jesus.
Nobody held sway over me, preaching down from their studio located in beautiful downtown Mount Sinai. I had no preconceived ideas about them. All I had were their words, and what they did. Both of which are easy to see on the web these days.
Some of them are easy to dismiss. If you’re overly political or every other word is about this sinner’s agenda, or that sinner corrupting our nation, I don’t need you in my ear holes. But others are harder to discern (You like how I used that oh-so-holy word?). But that’s always been the case. Finding good teachers is like dating in a way. There are some obvious nut-jobs that you will most certainly do well to stay away from, but then there are the seemingly normal ones that only explode into insanity weeks or months after you’ve been seeing one another.
So, there are a few people I’m watching right now.
I’m seeing who I can trust in this strange new (again) landscape. I just may not be watching them for what you think. Some of you are doing that thing where you nod slowly with your eyes closed because you think I’m talking about how important it is to watch our words and actions because of our (aaand here comes another super-spiritual word) witness. But that’s not what I’m talking about at all. I don’t care if he (or she) has a beer with his Shake Shack burger, or smokes a pipe because of their LOTR obsession.
I don’t care about their sin, I care about their repentance.
We’re always tripping over our own feet in one way or another. We all have our sins—some are just more obvious than others. I’d much rather have honest sinners than mask-wearing, self-righteous know-it-all’s any day of the week.
I want brothers and sisters that are aware that they aren’t better than anyone else, nor are they anyone’s master.
I want people who’d rather give their time and love to people who can’t further their career rather than pander to those who can.
But I sure as heck don’t want any more heroes.
Heroes are for comic books. Christian teachers I will sit at the feet of will just as quickly wash mine. They will openly struggle. They will honestly doubt…
Because they’ll also be human. And they won’t hide that junk (They’ll try not to, anyway), because seeing their mistakes is important. In short, they will be what all Christians should be—so shocked by grace that we can do nothing but utter our thankfulness in front of the rest of the world—telling them all about our true Hero.