You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. – Jer. 29:13
This week, I’ve been interviewing teenagers on their views about God, Jesus, and heaven. Yesterday, I posted a small part of one of those interviews on Facebook. That conversation, in particular, is more illuminating than anything I could write for you today. So here’s the rest of it:
“I spent the majority of my childhood in Africa, my parents were missionaries, and my mom ran a clinic for women and children with HIV/AIDS. I grew up in a very religious home, both of my parents being raised in Baptist households.
You would understand that with this background, I would be very keen to live in line with these set religious views, and devoted to Christianity. And believe me, I was. In my earlier childhood years, my faith in God was strong. However, after several events, that changed quite drastically. Then after, I grew up living in a disconnect from God. I can’t quite find words to describe the relationship, it wasn’t that I didn’t believe in him, I just felt like there was a thick glass lens between us that blocked my ability to fully grasp or know him, but yet taunted me with the idea of it. Even then I attended church every Sunday and read my Children’s Bible routinely. I told my parents that I was ready to accept Christ as my Savior, despite my uncertainty, not only in order to appease their apparent desires for me to, but also because I was jealous in a way of those who were able to devote their life and faith to something, and see it change their lives so powerfully. However, the underlying problem still remained, and continues to.
To tell the honest truth, no matter how much I have tried to believe, there still lies that doubt that floats around inside of my head, haunting me. I see these kids who are so adamant with their beliefs. It’s like they have something that I don’t, and no matter how hard I try to achieve it, I never can. And for them it is so effortless, and in many cases, they hardly even stick to it. How can they believe when they aren’t willing to follow the rules half as much as I am?
God feels distant in my life, and the more I try to pursue him, the more displaced he becomes. However, at times when I did feel close to him, he seemed like an adult I strove to impress. Not that he was shallow, but that I wasn’t deserving of his attention.
I think what it takes to get into heaven is a true belief in God, and a relationship or dedication to living your life for him. This is one of the hardest parts of the situation for me, as I feel like I am missing out on one of the key parts of getting into heaven, even if I try so desperately to have relationship.
In the past few months, I’ve stopped going to church. I found that as I was attending church, I was growing more and more cynical. I didn’t like the thoughts that were filling my head and the person I felt like I was becoming. I felt like I needed to distance myself, at least for a short time and really get a grasp on what I believe, sort everything out in my head. I have definitely not blocked myself out from God, and am open to any sort of messages he may be trying to send me, but I feel like if I have dedicated 7-8 years trying to achieve this ‘impossible goal’ then maybe I should just stop looking, and it will come to me.”
I’m not glad for Ben’s discontent in relationship with God, but I am glad for his authenticity. I think that if more people were that vulnerable before God, then Christianity would look much different today. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years talking and writing about “owning your faith.” That’s exactly what Ben has been pursuing. He has figured out that it is not okay to piggyback ride on another person’s faith, and he’s bold enough to say that either Jesus is worth nothing, or He is worth everything. Jeremiah 29:13 gives me confidence that Ben will one day conclude the latter.
To really know and follow Jesus, we need less of someone else’s walk with Him and more of our own. That’s a hard thing for most people. Most of us grow up with a set of beliefs and traditions kind of handed to us, and we simply follow in that same path, often without question or personal decision. That works in every other kind of religion. It doesn’t work in relationship with Christ. The truth is, one day I’m going to die, and then it won’t matter one bit what kind of church I attended, what my mom and dad believed about God, what kind of worship style I preferred, what David Platt and Francis Chan books I read, whether or not I did Beth Moore’s Bible studies, or even what rules I followed. On the day that I stand before God, the only thing that will matter is what I did with Jesus.