I was so mad, I swore just like Uncle Harry. My uncle Harry used to swear at people who talked about anything Christian. He had been raised as a strict Seventh-Day Adventist, and something had happened when he was a teenager that made him hate Christians. If anybody asked him about it, he would just swear. I liked Uncle Harry. He had cool tattoos and rolled his own cigarettes. I might not have agreed with Uncle Harry, but he was always honest and you knew where he stood. I never told him I liked to pray, read my Bible, and go to church. I was afraid he’d swear at me.
I can’t imagine a life without God. He gives everything meaning and hope and excitement. Uncle Harry made me sad because after he had his first heart attack he got real scared of dying. Since he believed this world is all there is, he didn’t have any hope. When he had his second heart attack he died.
Uncle Harry wasn’t a Christian, but there were certain things he thought that I agreed with. After all, a lot of Christians embarrass me; some just tick me off. Yet this doesn’t mean there aren’t rational and compassionate Christians in the world. There are just a lot of the obnoxious kind, and they seem to get the most press. I once had a pastor who said, “Don’t let my bad example keep you from a good God.” I liked Pastor Fischer. He was kind and listened a lot and loved everybody. Uncle Harry would have liked him. Pastor Fischer would have put his arm around Uncle Harry and said, “Don’t be afraid. God loves you.” Uncle Harry would have sworn a whole lot, but that wouldn’t have stopped Pastor Fischer.
Even as a young child I knew that God loved me, but I didn’t want to be a Christian. I wanted to please God, but Christians and churches freaked me out. So I made a deal with God. I told him that if he would only give me a “five-minute warning” before I was going to die, I would gladly accept him into my heart. In the meantime I would do my best to say my prayers, obey my parents, and not smoke cool, hand-rolled cigarettes like Uncle Harry. I thought God and I had a pretty good deal. I kept my end of the deal, and I thought he would do the same.
About a year later I awoke suddenly in the middle of the night and sat up in terror. I heard a large plane bearing down on our house. It got louder and closer. The noise was deafening. Soon this plane would crash into my bedroom and it would all be over. God was giving me my “five-minute warning.” I quickly slipped out from under my covers, knelt beside my bed, and asked Jesus to forgive my sins. Then I crawled back into bed and waited for the crash.
At that moment the plane flew over my house and faded into the distance. I was alive and I was so mad. On top of that, I was a Christian and I was stuck. It took me a year to forgive God for that one.
Sometimes I still feel uncomfortable with the word Christian. It was once an enlightened word, representing something deep and noble and extremely good. But lately it has become terribly tainted. It’s sad that when people think about Christians, they don’t think positive things. In fact, they often think just the opposite.
Over the years I have tried to be a different type of Christian from those I saw around me as a child. I decided I wouldn’t follow the status quo of the ordinary Christian. I would chart my own course, taking nothing for granted. I would ask a thousand questions, with only my Bible as my compass and my heart as my guide. I have made a lot of mistakes, taken many wrong turns, sinned, said stupid things, hurt others, been judgmental, been hypocritical, been selfish, been dishonest, had a bad attitude, and done a hundred other things that weren’t very healthy. Through it all, however, I’ve loved God and tried to walk with him. On my journey, I’ve attempted to follow Jesus, not churches or clichés or theologies or popular authors—every one of which disappoints me. Jesus has never disappointed me.
Join me on this fascinating and exciting adventure of faith. Please don’t follow me, for I will surely let you down. I used to have a lot of great answers, but many of them now sound hollow. Yet this is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s wonderful. For in place of my cut-and-dried, follow-the-numbers, basically boring faith, I currently see glimpses of glory, which blind and baffle me but leave me energized and desperately yearning for more. So please join me as a fellow traveler and walk beside me as we . . .
• look at God’s creation
• listen for God’s voice
• study God’s Word
• feel God’s heartbeat
• celebrate God’s goodness
• embrace God’s lessons
• wonder at God’s mysteries
• accept God’s ways
• dance with God’s grace
• love with God’s passion
This journey of risking faith is not easy or predictable. If you come with expectations, you will be disappointed. It is full of twists and turns. You never know for sure what is around the next corner. On some days you will laugh with a freedom you never thought possible. On other days you will stand in mind-stretching awe as you peek over the edge of infinity. This journey is not for the faint of heart or for rigid conformists. It is only for those who dream of another world with a provocative, exciting, soul-shaking, absolutely real, passionate, mysterious faith.
This journey to discover the interaction of the physical and spiritual universe is amazing. The journey may also be challenging and lonely, but you will not be alone. Teresa of Avila wrote, “The feeling remains that God is on the journey too.” Teresa of Avila is correct: God is with us. Yet we must step out in faith, for he is not always obvious. Sometimes he is a mere sparkle of light or a whisper on the wind or a tug of the heart. God will always defy expectation and explanation, but he will always be there. So step out and risk, and let the adventure begin.