Let me introduce you to my friend Jesus

My first post is a participation in Addie Zierman’s Synchroblog, “When We Were on Fire.” Her memoir of the same title is available as of today.

Click on the image to read more “When We Were On Fire” stories at AddieZierman.com

I came to it a bit late, but that didn’t stop me.

I “got saved” in 1999, right before DC Talk went on hiatus. I never saw them in concert, but that didn’t stop me from wearing a “Jesus Freak” t-shirt or from joining online fan communities.

I was only 9 when I Kissed Dating Goodbye was published, but by the time my peers began dating I knew that the Christian response was to wait.

Even though I was young, I adopted the Christian culture from the 90s with all the fierceness of a new faith. And I was on fire.

My parents didn’t go to church. Their marriage was crumbling and tearing our family apart. Maybe that’s why I threw myself wholeheartedly into this new community of faith. Without any guidance (that I can remember), I stopped listening to my favorite pop station because a DJ said “Oh my God.” From then on, I listened exclusively to Christian music. I started picking up t-shirts from conferences and mission trips, and before long, my entire wardrobe consisted of “evangelistic” shirts. I especially loved the kind that imitated a logo of some product, changed just enough to avoid copyright infringement, like this one.

I found ways to bring Jesus up in just about any conversation (I was Jesus Juking before it was cool). I was the sixth-grade evangelist who took the pastor literally when he said “You need to introduce your friends to Jesus.” As in, I went up to a classmate and said, “I want you to meet my friend, Jesus.” He looked at me like I was crazy and then avoided me the rest of the school year. High school wasn’t much better. I became really concerned about the “eternal destiny” of my friends.  I “listened” to their objections to Christianity and then dutifully went looking for The Answers. I read through books like A Case For Christ and (as much as I could understand) Darwin’s Black Box, so I had the Right response to any argument. But most of all, I prayed. For hours. I had lists of people that God had “burdened” me with, and I poured out my tender little heart on their behalf.

And the thing is…it worked. My passion, my zeal, my sheer stubbornness finally convinced some of my friends to give this whole Jesus thing a try. They went with me to CIY. Two friends were baptized. One “rededicated” her life. At that same conference, I dedicated myself to “vocational ministry.” My heart was soaring. I had never been so on fire, and now my friends were too.

For a while. After a couple of months, the fire died out. They started making excuses for not coming to church. They had deeper questions that weren’t settled by my insistence that they just read the Bible and pray more. They weren’t willing to give up their music or their boyfriends or the other things in their lives that were incompatible with Christian Culture. One by one, they distanced themselves from God, and from me. Suddenly I was alone, and with a deep sense of failure.

The problem with being on fire is that you can get burned.

Hurt and confused, I began to wonder if I had seriously missed the point, and this was utterly terrifying. I literally had no identity outside of Christianity, and an evangelistic Christianity at that. If I was wrong about this, I was wrong about everything. Internally, I was questioning and losing my motivation, but on the outside I was fighting to go through the motions of church, desperately hoping no one would realize that I was no longer on fire.

Over time, I recovered. Slowly, I discovered that real Jesus-following wasn’t performance based. God’s love for me doesn’t depend on how many people I save – as if I was the one who could save them anyway. I found out that the easier your answers are, the shallower your faith is. Trust is in the messy places. I am still trying to understand prayer that treats God neither as Santa Claus nor insurance, but as a father.

I haven’t felt on fire in a long time, and in some ways, I miss it. I miss the simple, brave, confident faith I used to have. But I want something better now. I want a faith that says “yes,” with full awareness of what it will cost. A love that knows what hurt is like and loves anyway. A passion that isn’t a wildfire, but a gentle flame offering light and warmth. A fire that won’t burn out.


8 thoughts on “Let me introduce you to my friend Jesus

  1. I love your last paragraph the most…. I was also one who had lost her identity in Christianity. If we had met in high school, I would have wanted to be your best friend, I’m sure… I, too, want a faith that will stay lit, even in the hard and cold places of lift – especially there… independent of zeal.

    Excellent story – full of truth and love 🙂

  2. I’m so honored that your FIRST BLOG POST EVER was part of this synchroblog. And what a beautiful post. The line that struck me? “They weren’t willing to give up their music or their boyfriends or the other things in their lives that were incompatible with Christian Culture.” Not necessarily incompatible with God or his love or his desire for us…but with the culture that surrounded it. Such a heartbreaking thing. Thanks so much for linking up.

  3. When I saw that you participated in Addie’s synchroblog I thought I should invite you to participate in a monthly synchroblog that I am a part of.

    It’s made up of a home-grown group of bloggers who like to write on topics of post-modern faith & life. This group is open to anyone who is interested in participating. We value respectful conversation and dialogue while honoring our differences. We share links & try to learn from each other.

    Some of the people that originally participated in the synchroblog no longer blog and I am trying to reach out to people like you who are currently passionate about blogging in order to keep our monthly synchroblog relevant and vital.

    If you are interested in joining us you can join the facebook group and receive monthly invitations to the synchroblog. Here is that link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/114506961937378/

    And you can find our website (which you can subscribe to if you want to receive an email when we post the monthly theme announcement/invitation) here: http://synchroblog.wordpress.com/

    (You can see all of the themes that we have covered in the past on our website in order to get an idea of what we do)

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