My Story, Part Two
Jesus once told a story that has gotten a bit distorted over the history of the church. See if you recognize it as I tell it. There once was a man who had two sons that hated him and wished he was dead. One hated him by taking money from the father and going nuts. The other hated the father by staying at home and expecting rewards from the father, rather than just loving the father. But somehow, the Father forgives them both and the elder brother resents it.
Recognize the story? It’s the Prodigal son story told as it really was meant to be heard. Everyone has always focused on the screw up younger brother, who takes the money, gets wasted and loves too many chicks. But, such a reading of this parable is only half of the story. Notice, if you ever get a chance to read it, how half of the parable is focused on the older brother, his pride, his arrogance, his refusal to love and forgive his younger brother and even worse, resentment of his father. The father who debased himself by running after a younger brother who had disgraced the father. For further mediations on this, read Tim Keller’s amazing book, The Prodigal God.
In high school, I was that older brother. Even as I write this now, my cheeks are flushed with shame at some of the stunts I pulled to get attention. I used Jesus to get my teachers and peers to think I was something special (I went to a private christian school). I used Jesus to get girls to like me and get a little laying on of hands and speaking in tongues. I used Jesus to condemn sinners, preaching in chapel, badgering my classmates and basically doing everything a modern day pharisee would do. I didn’t listen to any “secular” rock music (except U2, which was always a bit daring for me), I went to Christian music festivals and listened to romantic love songs to Jesus, ala “Faith Plus One”. The Mandy Moore character in “Saved”? That was me.
But under it, I covered a gnawing sense of doubt that I was full of it and Jesus was full of it. I knew I was a sham, so I mistakenly thought maybe everything I believed was a sham. That people just used Jesus in the same way I did. No one was to blame for this. Not the enviroment I grew up in. Not my parents (who always tried to teach me to give grace to people). It was only me. And I knew it.
And after a few life failures (that would take too long to explain), I was a pretty broken person by the time I found my way to Chattanooga, Tennessee and Lookout Mountain at Covenant College. A beautiful place to go to school, with mountain sunrises and sunsets. And, I was among educated Christians for the first time in my life. It was in that atmosphere that God transformed me from my failure through a time where I questioned EVERYTHING.
Part Three will be tomorrow. I’m thinking this will be a four part thing, so I hope it’s remotely interesting to everyone. I would also invite you all to share your stories in posts. I think everyone would get stuff out of everyone else’s story.