I used to find Christianity exhausting.
I even found some of my Christian friends exhausting.
Worse than that, I was probably the most exhausting person of them all. With a Bible degree and a Master of Divinity in progress, I was building an arsenal of knowledge. I use a military metaphor here on purpose.
Nevertheless, my motivations were at least partially good.
I wanted to know for myself and for the sake of others which parts of Christianity were important and which parts needed to be dropped.
Why were people so worked up over only using The King James Version?
Why did some Christians oppose Billy Graham?
Is rock music with a pounding drum beat wrong?
Will the earth end with a fiery tribulation and massive bloodshed?
Those were just my “starter” questions. I had plenty of others that came up along the way:
The sovereignty of God, the nature of salvation, the role of the Holy Spirit, the roles of men and women in marriage, the role of women in the church, and the reliability of the Bible, just to name a few.
Let’s just say that there were times in my life when I didn’t know how to have a “light” conversation. I didn’t have time to read novels. I had to figure things out about God.
As I started to learn things, I picked up another skill. I started to draw boundaries and erect fences. People who agreed with me were in. People who disagreed were out. Needless to say, preserving my version of Christianity demanded attacking all who disagreed.
Most importantly, I knew that I was RIGHT. And my entire approach to Christianity revolved around having the facts straight.
If I didn’t get my description of the atonement precisely right, if I misunderstood the role of Israel, if I didn’t precisely understand the Holy Spirit, and if I didn’t believe everything in the Bible was precisely recorded and easily understood by anyone committed to interpreting it literally, my faith would fall apart.
In other words, I had THE ANSWERS to these major Christian doctrines, and my “faith” only worked if my answers all lined up and were preserved.
If my answers failed, then the whole system came crashing down. I lived in constant fear of this happening, and my defensiveness hinted that all was not well.
I had faith, but I’m not sure what my faith was in.
I would have told you I had faith in Jesus, but I didn’t. I had faith in my doctrines about Jesus. If you didn’t agree, then I would either school you in them so that you could be either saved just like me or banished outside the bounds of my version of Christian orthodoxy.
I was exhausted … and exhausting.
Everything about my faith back then was defensive. I used words like protect, defend, guard and keep to describe my faith.
My faith wasn’t something I used. I didn’t see faithfulness as obedient action. Faithfulness was sticking to my doctrinal script, believing the same things I’d learned and holding onto them no matter what.
The Lord is at work redeeming and sanctifying a people for Himself.