No blogger would be complete if not for the inspiration of other, more talented bloggers. This post spurted forth from exactly that sort of inspiration. Addie Zierman is brilliantly promoting her upcoming memoir When We Were On Fire with a ‘synchroblog‘ regarding the title’s subject matter. It may not communicate with the same skill as Addie’s new book, but here is my contribution to the discussion.
I recently celebrated yet another birthday, marking my seventh year as a ‘twenty-something,’ so I suppose it is high time for some reflection that rarely makes its way into written word. It also marks my twelfth year as a committed Christ follower—so we will see how that affects said reflection. In order to give some focus to this piece, the reflection will revolve around when I was ‘on fire’ for God.
Since being a Christian, I have been through three distinct life stages: high school, college, and post-college. I attended a public high school, went to Moody Bible Institute for college, and am now doing post-bac online courses at a community college. Interestingly enough, I reflect back on my high school days more than on my college ones, both in terms of fond memories and in terms of my zeal for God.
Not that college was to the contrary; it was an amazing experience filled with friends, joy, biblical understanding, prayer, life lessons, and marriage! Yet, when I reflect on the stories frequently brought to memory or on times I felt closest to God and most challenged in my spiritual growth, my high school years still win out.
Even more interestingly, my faith in high school still suffered from innocent ignorance of all the Bible had to offer in terms of theology and guidance for daily living as well as a lack of experience in apologetics. Yet those years enjoyed the most engaging conversations, the most outreach to non-Christian friends, the most fervor for God’s kingdom. Why would this be lacking after accomplishing a Bible degree? Why would my extra years of experience somehow diminish my engagement?
My first inclination is to use my years of experience as a crutch. I have grown up and no longer have a mere ‘faith like a child.’ My perceptions have matured and I have developed more realistic expectations about faith and life in general. Luckily, my second inclination is to reject my first inclination as a cop-out. My third inclination is to spiritualize my situation and find camaraderie with the Pharisees. Now I can understand their draw toward legalism, their rationale for compartmentalizing the dynamic truths of God into neat and tidy chunks that sound great on first impression, but are only useful for making excuses for the lack of a true relationship with our Lord.
And that is just it. My years of experience have only developed my ability to make excuses, to find loopholes in the system that allow my inner laziness to spread its fat girth out on the couch. No wonder Jesus has no more room to stand beside me! Thus, my fourth inclination that berates me for my excuses also invites me back to the innocence of pre-inclinations, to a time before I felt entitled to revel in my spiritual understanding, to a time before I thought I had my faith all figured out, to a time when I simply loved Jesus because He first loved me and I could do nothing else but proclaim that truth.
During my high school years I didn’t understand the significance of inerrancy, know the five points of TULIP, or realize the archetypal significance of the book of Leviticus. What did I know? I knew that God went through a whole lot of trouble to make sure I was redeemed and I had significance and that it was Jesus who made it happen.
Now, in my post-college stage, the trick is to make sure I integrate the knowledge I gleaned from college with the fire I had in high school; to understand that no matter how much I have learned about the Bible, theology, and Christian living, true spirituality is realizing I have never left square one. Was was square one (the ‘pre-inclination’ stage)? Oh yes! The admission that I need a savior, and so does everyone else.
When we were on fire, we were humble before God and desired for others to enjoy the mercy of that realization as well. Hopefully, as we get older, we can use our experience to be more intentional and creative with that desire, rather than use the experience to fabricate more complicated excuses to avoid it.