Real Life (The Most Difficult Thing I’ve Ever Written)

this is my life previewI think that one of the things that turns people off to Christianity and church is the fact that many times we as Christians can come off as fake to them. Or maybe a better word than fake is surface.

We seem like we have our problems solved. We are good. Life is good. All is good.

When, in reality we are dying inside. We are hurting. We are broken. We suffer from the same things that everyone suffers through. Doubt. Worry. Depression. Addiction. Dysfunctional families. Broken marriages. Debt. Everything.

But we are afraid to mention it because we have to perfect. Because we are Christian. And that charade gets exhausting.

Something happens, though, when we get real as Christians. It makes us human. And it shows that we aren’t better than or holier than thou. We are just real, normal folks, who have met an awesome Savior.

I’ve struggled recently with real life. And I really don’t want to share my story. I really don’t. I shared it Sunday in church, and to be honest with you, it kind of left me in a bad place.

It left me questioning the things that I know to be true. The things I’ve built my life upon. I don’t want to share it, and frankly I’ve avoided people because I don’t want to talk about.

But I know I need to, because when we share our story, we can help someone else.

If you aren’t familiar with my story, you can read more about it here or here, but the long story short is that my biological father murdered my mother right before I turned two years old.

So, in my life, I’ve been able to tell my story in a variety of places, always talking about how God can take something bad and make something good out of it. God has guided my life and brought me to this place in my life. The power of God is not that He stops bad things from happening but that He uses all things for good.

And I talk about forgiveness. How I’d learned to forgive my biological father. The role that my grandmother played in teaching me forgiveness. And how I truly believed I had forgiven him.

Until this Christmas. When he wrote me a letter. First time he’d contacted me in many, many years.

I wanted to pretend it didn’t happen.  I wanted to ignore it.  I wanted to just go about my merry way.  But I couldn’t.  Too many things came flooding in.  Too many things that I pushed down, and don’t want to talk about.

But I have to.

I and I fell into a hate-filled rage. I don’t know what hatred really feels like, but I guess how I felt at that moment is what it feels like.

I became so angry. I was confused. I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted to get away.

I wanted to change my son’s name because my son is named after me, and my biological father named me. And I wanted nothing of him to have anything, anything to do with my family.

It sickened me that my son had a name that was attached to him.

I questioned the very beliefs that I hold so dear. My entire life and ministry has been built on mercy and forgiveness. But now all I felt was rage. How could I be a preacher, much less a Christian feeling like this?

Is everything that I’ve held dear and true wrong?

I literally did not know what I wanted to do. I gave the card to my wife and I told her not let it into our house. He had put money in the card I and I told her to throw it away, don’t even give it our children. I didn’t want them to receive any benefit from him.

I wanted to run as far away as humanly possible. I was angry and I was fully of hurt.

And I still am.

But here’s the thing. As much as I want to give into that hatred, as much as I really wanted to, I just can’t. I can’t. It will destroy me. It will.

It will destroy my family. It will.

It will destroy my ministry. It will.

I can’t do it. Because nothing good comes out of hate. I’ve been confronted with my brokenness in a way that I honestly thought I’d never be. And I struggled through it. Still am.

But God is good. Even when life is hard. We choose right, because the wrong will destroy.

We choose grace, because it’s the only answer.

Hate destroys. It does. I understand that. And now, I’ve felt it. And I cannot and will not choose that path.

Because life is too precious.

I don’t know where you are in life, but I know, even if you question it, even if you doubt it, even if you don’t want to believe it, God is good.

And he loves you.

Don’t give into hate. Don’t give into the darkness. Choose the path of grace and hope and belief. I know it’s hard.

But you can do it. And I can do it. Through God’s grace, we can do it.

If you’d like to hear the message I preached where I talked about this experience you can click here.

The Hard Right

One of the things that I’ve been blessed by as the pastor of Asbury has been the number of military men and women that I’ve been blessed enough to serve as their pastor.

And one of the common refrains I’ve heard from comes from making choices about what to do in leadership. What decision should they make. What road should they choose? What path should they walk down? I’ve heard them over and over again say these words – always choose the hard right over the easy wrong.

What does that mean? Always do what’s right even if it’s the harder option. Sometimes (most times) what is easiest isn’t always right.

What does that have to do with scripture? Listen to what Jesus tells the disciples today in John 6: 66-69:

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

follow-JESUS1The disciples had heard Jesus teach some really hard truths. They had heard Him say some things that were really, really hard for them to believe. They didn’t know if they could be faithful.

Maybe they should turn back. Maybe they should go home. Maybe they should walk away.

That would be easier.

So, Jesus asks, would they leave too. And Peter says Lord, where can we go? You have life. You are life. You are truth. Where could we go?

Quitting would have been easy. But it would have been wrong.

Choosing to follow Jesus, even into the hard places, would be hard. But, it would be right.

They choose the hard right, over the easy wrong.

So must we today. We must choose to follow Jesus, no matter where He leads us. Because no matter how hard it may look, it will be right. It will be life. It will be hope. It will be purpose.

It will be right.

Today, follow Jesus wherever He leads, no matter how hard it looks. Because it is the path to life. And following him, no matter how hard i is, is always right.

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