My son got a ton of toys for his birthday this year… I mean a TON!!! One of the presents I got him was a little figurine set, similar to Little People, but it was a Christian version. It was the “Jesus Walks on Water” set. It had a boat, Peter and of course, Jesus.
I smiled when he opened it because he knew right away who it was… he said, “I got Jesus for my birthday!” with great expression and excitement. I felt so proud that I had taught my son who Jesus was. I asked him if he would like me to tell him the story that went with it. I was sure my little angel whom I had obviously taught so well about respecting Jesus our Lord and Savior, would quickly kneel before me with doe eyes and say, “Yes mommy, please tell me the story!” But that’s not what happened. He tossed Peter, the boat and even Jesus aside and said, “No. Can I open another present?” (humbling dagger-in-the-heart moment). He didn’t even ask who gave it to him.
Later, he was playing with the figurines, trying to get Jesus to fit inside the small boat, but his feet were too big. The only one that fit in the boat was Peter. Brett came to me troubled.
Brett said, “Mommy, why doesn’t Jesus fit in the boat?”
AH HA!!!! This was my chance! I said, “Peter is supposed to be in the boat. Why don’t we sit down and I’ll tell you the story, then you will understand.”
He looked up at me and said, “Nope. I don’t want you to tell me the story,” then quickly ran off, leaving Jesus on the kitchen counter.
Agh… another humbling dagger-in-the-heart moment for mommy.
A little while later he was playing with the figurines again, still trying to make Jesus fit in the very same boat but, of course, he didn’t fit. He got frustrated and called for me. In a whiny, frustrated tone he said, “Why doesn’t Jesus fit in the boat?”
More humbled about my superior Jesus teaching skills, I said, “Jesus isn’t supposed to be in the boat, if you let me tell you the story, I think it will make sense.”
He rejected me a third time with the same whining, frustrated tone, “No, I don’t want to know the story.”
I finished our conversation about it with this, “Okay Brett, when you’re ready to hear the story, let me know… and… stop whining please.”
While making Brett’s specially ordered birthday dinner, tacos and broccoli, it occurred to me that many of us Christians do the very same thing my son had done. We view our Christianity sort of like a toy. It is one of many gifts we have been given yet we don’t ever really think about who it was that gave it to us. We get it out every once in awhile (every week or two) to tinker with it then about an hour later when we’ve lost interest, we put it back in the toy closet. In addition, it looks kind of cool on the outside and we sort of have an idea what it’s all about, but when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of finding out the real story, we slough it off thinking that part is bound to be boring and too much work. We leave it on the shelf satisfied with just knowing what we think we know about it. “Jesus, yeah he was a cool dude with sandals. He had some disciples and he died on a cross. I get presents on his birthday… a bonus.”
Okay, so that may have been a little harsh but you get the picture (BTW, if you’re offended by what you just read, you might need to take a closer look at your own relationship with Jesus – in my experience when I get offended it’s because things hit too close to home).
Because of this attitude, I think we humans tend to try to live segmented lives. We have our holy, Christian life (the one we put on when we go to church for that hour a week or two, then pull it out of the closet for special church events). In that life we are kind and gentle. We don’t drink booze or smoke cigarettes. We carry our Bibles proudly, even if the only time we ever open it is when we flip it quickly to see which page it lands on hoping that will be the answer to our pressing problem. We don’t admit to the awesome rated R movie we saw the night before that was filled with nudity and violence. We don’t talk about how we got put on probation at our job because we cursed out a client (who happened to deserved it). We neglect the fear that our 16 year old daughter might be pregnant or using cocaine because if we don’t think about it, it won’t be true… and oh my, if someone knew… what kind of parent… what kind of Christian would they think I am?
We manage to keep our Christian lives and secular lives completely separate, even if we don’t realize it. At work, we would never tell the boss the reason we can’t come to the company party is that we have Bible Study that night. When the water-cooler talk gets ugly about how the married head of accounting and the IT manager are “getting it on”, we find it easier to throw in our own comments than to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus say?” in this situation. When our kid’s teacher tells us little Johnny was cheating on a test, we defend him and blame the school system for failing. After all, if the teacher had done her job, Johnny wouldn’t need to cheat. This blame game is done in an effort to not admit to ourselves that perhaps we haven’t been involved enough in Johnny’s life lately. When the guy in the red corvette (that we secretly covet) cuts us off in traffic, we quickly flip him the finger that says it all instead of saying a quick arrow prayer of grace and protection for him.
I passionately believe God really wants us to find a way to combine our two lives into one. Many of us may have grown up in a church that taught us we must be ashamed of our sins and problems. We must repent and keep them quiet for God is to be greatly feared! Others of us may have grown up watching Christians play out these two very different lives and called out “HYPOCRITE!” Determined never to be one of “those people,” they consciously choose the secular life because it’s fun and there is no need for guilt. There are so many levels in between that I can’t even fathom it… but that doesn’t change my passion for wanting to draw these two very different lives together and make them one.
While I do feel I am pretty good at living a blended Christian/secular life, I will also be the first one to admit that the type of life I have makes that rather easy. I work from home, we are financially sound, I have a very well-behaved child (and husband) and my connection with God has already been worked on a lot. If I were out in the corporate America working world, struggling to make ends meet, and having battles with my child/spouse or fighting just to survive, I’m not sure I’d do a very good job at it. But I do know what all of that is like. I was once poor, homeless, lonely, troubled, drunk, broke and even after I was married and had security, my life felt empty and desperate. I wasn’t living a God-centered life then though… coincidence???? Even though life is comfortable now, I do have my troubles. I face monsters such as fear, uncertainty and anger everyday. When I call on God, he reassures my soul. The King James Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Comforter.” In my life, that is exactly what He is.
I have a lot of respect for those who are out there in the world, facing the super tough stuff of life like bastard bosses, sinister co-workers, unemployment, terrible debt and unfaithful spouses. I’m sure it can’t be easy to bond the Christian and the “regular” life together as one. But hear this, every Christian…. every single one of us… is just a regular person. Having troubles is more of a reason to embrace Christianity. The reason we are Christian is because our lives are such a mess! Not one of us is perfect, without problems or issues. It’s okay for God’s children to watch R rated movies or to have a late night at the bar complete with a hangover. It’s okay for God’s children to have trouble at work or with their teenage daughter. Guess what… it’s expected!!! God deeply desires for us to find comfort in His loving arms. In addition, as God’s children we should be able to find support, relief and answers to our problems in our church community. If we don’t find that true in our lives, if we feel we need to hide our realness from our Christian life… then maybe it’s time to change the way we think about church or… perhaps it’s time to find a church that better fits our needs.
I urge you to make a step, even if it is a small one, in trying to bond your secular world with your Christian world. Take your Jesus figurine out of the toy bin and ask someone to tell you the story…it’s okay if you’re a Christian and you don’t know it. In fact I dare say that the majority of people who call themselves Christian do not know the full story but they are afraid to admit it. Admitting that might make them look like weak Christians… while in reality it’s the fear and the lack of action that may turn their Christianity southbound. If that’s you, take a leap of faith and ask for the story. I guarantee, someone like me is dying to share it with you! And trust me, I need the practice. One of these days, my son is bound to ask me the real reason Jesus’ feet don’t fit in the boat!