(I hear the hot new thing is titling blog posts after lyrics from overplayed DC Talk songs. I can still hear Michael Tait singing it...)
Last night, I read an essay by C.S. Lewis called "A Slip of the Tongue," and it resonated deeply with me. He tells how he once said the wrong thing while praying. I do that all the time, and I thank God that He understands my heart over how much I bumble through the words coming out of my mental mouth. But as Lewis says, what he actually said in his prayer may have been a sort of Freudian slip, like he accidentally said the thing he really meant. He meant to ask God - in far more sophisticated words than I'll use here - to help him get past the temporal, earthly stuff and finally focus on the eternal. At least I think that's what he was trying to say, the words were pretty sophisticated. But what he accidentally asked was that God get him through the eternal stuff so he could finally focus on the temporal. He suspects he might be a little more attached to the temporal kingdom than the eternal one.
Lewis, even as the apparent spiritual giant I think he is, admits to always having this sense of caution in his prayer and his devotions, almost to the point of cutting them short, for fear of committing to something that might be tough to carry out in his "ordinary" life. Once he's done praying, is he really gonna follow through on what He promised God in the moment?
He compares it to going down to the sea (Metaphor time: God is the sea) and not diving in, floating, splashing, and fully enjoying it, but instead staying at the edge to dip his toe in. We're afraid to get too far out there and lose our lifeline to everyday life.
Okay, enough C.S. Lewis paraphrasing.
Even that guy, the great theologian, that smart dude who figured a lot of stuff out, who wrote brilliant books and used sophisticated words... he struggled at times to fully grab onto the eternal kingdom.
It gives me some relief. Because as a missionary, as someone who lives in ministry, you're supposed to have a handful of stuff figured out. You are, aren't you? Surely, if you're going to leave life behind and move somewhere else to help people learn about Jesus, you must at least be following Christ. And yet, I'm pretty sure I'm the one learning about Jesus in all of this.
I know I'm not done with growth and epiphanies. I've had enough of them, sometimes over and over again, and I've seen enough people well beyond my years, older heroes of the faith, confess to discovering things about God, that I know this takes some time.
I'm still working out what it means to truly follow Christ. I see C.S. Lewis talking about lifelines to the shore, to normal everyday life, and I'm convicted because I know that I have them, even when I thought I'd left them. I read him talking about approaching prayer, devotions, time in God's presence with caution, and I'm convicted because I know I'm afraid of where he might ask me to go, or what he might ask me to do or give up or sell, or what higher standard he might have me pursue, if I were fully submissive to him.
I think all of these things, and I'm out here serving him. Not that it makes me feel inadequate but... it kind of does.
After all, we're all inadequate. We all fall short. We're never complete, no matter how old we get, no matter how wise we get... no matter how far we move away to serve Him.
I think the thing is this: Pursuing Christ, following him, is not a one-and-done decision, it is a continual one. Your salvation experience is not the end of your testimony, it's the beginning. We do not make one decision to follow him, we make them all the time. We embrace the nature of following him. We don't abandon our lives once, we do it everyday.
Obligatory link to song with lyrics from title of post, harkening back to 1996: