I became a Christian because I was told God loved me and had a “wonderful plan” for my life. I envisioned a delightful marriage. Obedient children. A comfortable income. Manageable bills. Minimal pain. A meaningful existence.
Most of God’s plan for me has been revealed— who I’d marry, how many children we’d have, where we’d live, what life would look like and feel like.
Marriage is sometimes delightful, sometimes miserable. My children obey when they are happy, fed, and well-rested. Income is comfortable unless something breaks unexpectedly (the car, roof, pipes). Bills are manageable as long as I stay off Amazon.com and stick to my list at the grocery store. Pain used to be minimal but is increasing as my father’s Alzheimer’s Disease progresses.
“Wonderful” is an overstatement.
Now that I’m over the rainbow, Christianity is turning out to be about something else: my sins. (I feel like the victim of a bait-and-switch business scheme. Why haven't I walked away by now?)
I justify all of my sins some of the time, and some of my sins all the time. I have learned to accommodate my shortcomings for so long that I don’t even recognize many of them as sins anymore. Judging others, for example, and discontentment.
Confession is an exasperating and humiliating exercise. I avoid it as long as I can. When I do get around to it, it feels futile, because I know I’m always only dealing with the top one or two of an endless list. It’s like spotting a mouse that managed to sneak into your house. One mouse equals one hundred more. It’s just a matter of time before they find their way in.
With this attitude, who would subscribe to my faith? I was much more winsome—happy, optimistic, attractive—when I believed Christianity was about how to realize God’s wonderful plan for my life (and yours). Now I am solemn and serious, the way I imagine a person feels after receiving a donated liver. Someone had to die so that I could live.
If I were an unbeliever, I would not be attracted to me. I would be attracted to…Joel Osteen. Rick Warren. Joyce Meyer. They are all poster children for the kind of Christianity I thought I signed up for.
I have to admit: I have always been more interested in happiness than in salvation. Without the incentive of a “wonderful plan”, I have little desire for God.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism declares that the meaning of life is to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever” (Question 1). The catechism is probably right. But honestly, I don’t get it.
Clearly, I cannot and should not “incarnate the Gospel”. Jesus must—and does—speak for himself.