NOTE: This piece was written about three years ago during a dark time in my life…

I keep thinking about cigarettes, worship music, and the thief on the cross. I don’t know that I really have anything together as a “Christian.” I always hoped and wanted to be one of those followers of Christ who just outwardly have things together. “They” say that those types of Christians have their own struggles too. You know, I love Jesus. I really do. I know I need a Savior…
I have done all the things good Christians do, like Bible college and missions trips and youth group. In my heart I know that not drinking or cussing or divorcing or cheating or lying are not the only things that makes one a good follower of Christ. I know that being in ministry is not the mark of a successful walk with God. But maybe religion has created an artificial picture of what good Christianity looks like. Sort of like the airbrushed digitally enhanced photos of models that no one can ever live up to because they just aren’t real, people. All the best we do is worthless without love anyway.
I can’t keep things together for long. I try hard and I succeed for awhile. I do well for a year or two. I walk into churches and worship and know the Bible and people trust me but after awhile I fall down in rather outwardly obvious ways. Nope, I’m not one of those people who struggles with internalizing anger or that sort of silent secretive sin. I’m the type that shows up on my former roommate’s doorstep (the one who kicked me out…) after 14 drinks at 4 am…Of course, that incident was many few years ago, but I have other examples.
Maybe I can blame it on a complicated genetic defect I have called phenylketonuria. It causes me to act extremely irrationally and impulsively when I have too much protein. Then again, maybe it is also just plain old sin.
I’m wandering somewhere on my spiritual journey right now. I know God is real and Jesus is my Savior and that the Bible is true. That’s about all I know today. I know God is there because I know that His power is perfected in my weakness. That’s what God says. Jesus saved the thief on the cross next to Him…a man who may not have done a damn good thing in his life. The man was saved at the last minute because he recognized who Jesus was. That’s all he ever did. No ministry, no church services, maybe nothing in his life that would ever cause anyone to respect him.
A few weeks ago, I was upset and hurt about something. It was late at night and I sat outside my apartment with a pack of cigarettes. (To clarify, I’m not a smoker–I was just that upset). My ipod was also with me. So I sat out there in the dark worshipping Jesus and smoking. Yes, both at the same time. And I felt the presence of God there for the first time in a long time. I felt Him letting me know everything was going to be ok. Maybe that’s all this is….just falling on Jesus completely and utterly in the midst of our mistakes.
The Bible is full of prostitutes and liars and cheaters and adulterers and thieves and murderers that were called people of faith. Sometimes in the church we pretend we are better than them. But we are not. We ARE them, just covered by God’s grace. I don’t have any answers. But neither does religion. And neither does anyone who pretends we can ever do this on our own. I will probably keep falling until the day I see Jesus. All I can do is pray that His grace helps me live out of the hope that one day I will.