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by Sarah Brooks
If you were to Google stock photos of Good Christian Teenagers, my high school yearbook picture would show up. I was the World’s Best.
Someone needs a volunteer for the mission trip? Camp? Retreat? Bible study? Prayer team? Small group? Sign me up.
There’s a new ministry? It’s called Ignite? Elevate? Revolution? Engage? Impact? I’ll be there.
I grew up in a church culture unlike my parents’.
My parents’ generation was all about the do-do-do. They had to do enough to be saved (or not do enough to stay saved). They studied the Bible to keep all the rules.
My generation, on the other hand, swung whole-heartedly to the it’s-been-done, come-as-you-are culture. The rules weren’t important, so we didn’t study the Bible.
And – first off – is there not some middle ground here?
Secondly, can you really swing too much in the direction of grace? No.
H o w e v e r . (And this is a big however.)
The grace I knew and learned was cheap. It didn’t cost me anything.
To clarify, grace really is free. To anyone, any time. That’s the scandal of the Christian faith.
But our response to grace is not.
Following Jesus is quite costly.
True discipleship costs us our pride. And reputation. And control. And security. And comfort.
All of which I hadn’t given up and didn’t realize until I got to college.
Combine the newfound freedom of adulthood, the different religions and worldviews I was encountering, an alarm that didn’t set itself on Sundays, and…well…my comfortably shallow faith didn’t hold up well. Like a $2 umbrella in a monsoon.
I was flipped inside out and sideways, unable to right myself. I didn’t know how to bend the spokes of my foundation back into position; it felt permanently distorted.
What I did know was that my “Jesus is my buddy” meme-like faith wasn’t cutting it anymore.
I eventually walked away, too overwhelmed and unmotivated to figure it out.
By the time I graduated, I was in a rough place spiritually and I. didn’t. care.
Apathy is such an effective tool for Satan. He throws meaningless periphery at us until we become passionate in the distractions, providing the cover he needs to sneak in and steal our motivation to fight for what really matters.
This was me. Far more passionate about finding the perfect apartment than rebuilding my own foundation.
Also me, though, was a new bride moving to her husband’s hometown.
So – as all Good Southern People do – I started going back to church. I didn’t want to; I wanted to save face.
Slowly, week after week, I began to see Jesus clearly. Feel his presence tangibly.
I saw him in people whose lives were different because of their faith. People who were refreshingly weird.
People whose authentic imperfection revealed an identity in something bigger than themselves.
People who asked hard questions. Who loved me both as I was and enough not to leave me there.
People who spoke and loved and spent and grieved and hoped differently because of Jesus.
The thing is, I heard about Jesus my whole life. I liked what he offered, too. Free grace! I’m all about a good bargain.
But unlike a bargain sweater, bargain faith sucks. It doesn’t satisfy. (And do we want it too, really? Do we want to devote our lives to a small, off-brand God?)
No, the freedom and hope and newness that Christ offers comes only when grace takes root.
When the cross becomes less like a charm on a necklace, more like the sacrifice we pattern our lives after.
If I could go back and tell myself – or anyone in that season – anything, I would say:
Look for the real Jesus.
Not the nice one who gives us nice, big, holy goosebumps once a week; the powerful one who defeated death. The one who was brutally tortured and murdered for you and for me. The one whose sacrifice demands a response.
It is this Jesus that I have chosen to follow, and it was the crumbling of my faith that led me to him.
It wasn’t until I let go of his cheap substitute – the one that allowed me to be me, wholly unscathed and comfortably selfish – that I began to see what true, redemptive, transformative, gospel power was.
(And I can assure you: transformed me is WAY more charming than regular me. Regular me is insufferable.)
If you are done with the cultish fluffiness of church, same.
If you are done with Christian hypocrisy, same.
You can be done with those, but don’t be done with Jesus. (Funny how the two don’t always go hand in hand.)
Don’t stop looking for him. He’s there. Working in and through people all around you.
And he has never stopped looking for you.
Sarah is another ACU alumnus who I am so glad contributed to this series! I’ve been following Sarah’s writing for a while. In fact, I realized as I was reading her post that our paths didn’t seem to cross much in college and I’ve really gotten to know her through her writing, in our post-college years. She is funny and smart and engaging and keeps it real–something I appreciate so so much. Sarah, we’ve should’ve hung out more in our ACU days. Check out Sarah’s blog today where she is hosting a giveaway for English Lessons!
Sarah Brooks is a mom of three young boys by day and blogger, speaker, and social media advocate by night and at nap time. She is passionate about faith, raising tiny humans, and mentoring teenagers, all of which she writes about – in no particular order – at lifeasoflate.com. She, her husband, and their brood of gentlemen call Fort Worth, TX home.