Saturday, June 11, 2005

For the sake of Rosemary

A year or so ago, I had a student, Rosemary (not real name), who did something that left me flatfooted, and not knowing how to respond. I want to put out some of my thoughts, and see if you all can give me feedback to more fully respond to her.

Rosemary came to my class, and it became apparent that she was a Christian. A bit reluctant to talk much about it, and a slightly older (mid-20s) returning student, but within the mainstream of a young Southern California committed Christian.

She came to me towards the end of the semester with a serious family matter that meant that she could not complete all the projects for the class, and wanted to see how we could work things out. In the midst of this meeting, I asked her how I could be praying for her, and she let me know that she was walking away from Christianity. Well now. We talked a bit about things, but then later, through emails, I asked her why she left the faith, and her response stunned me into nonresponse.

She said that she knew Christianity was true, but life was easier, and she was happier not being a Christian.

I didn't know how to respond, because I was all ready to be Mr. Apologetics! Defender of the Faith! and this was not an issue of Truth, but of Heart. I am of the last full generation of modernists, where truth is acknowledged as absolute, and arguments of faith center around logical merits, and objective truth. This was all about personal perception, and I was left unprepared.

I have pondered this off and on for over a year now, and here is what I would now like to say to Rosemary (if it isn't too late):
I am sorry for what you have experienced, and what the church has burdened you with. You have been given a hard yoke, and a heavy burden, when Jesus has promised us just the opposite: "My yoke is easy, and My burden light" (Matthew 11:30)
I say this because how could the news that God loves you dearly, has forgiven you - for everything - and wants to spend eternity with you - even if no one else shows up - how could that be hard? How could that make you sad?
It doesn't, of course.
What does is what the rest of us dump on each other in our efforts to "train up" fellow believers. The freedom of the Gospel was, and always will be scandalous. How dare we not earn our salvation, right?
It all comes down to a bunch of "yes, but" things: Forgiven? Yes, but now you have to do ________ if you're really serious about this. You fill in the blank. I'm sure we could all make a good case for whatever we would put in there, but the bottom line for me always comes back to the yoke. Is it easy? Is the burden light? If not, something is wrong.
I really believe this, and let me give an extreme example to prove the rule.
Did Mother Teresa think her yoke was hard? Her burden heavy?
No. Go read "Something Beautiful for God" to find out for yourself.
Would I find it hard? Absolutely. I'm a wuss.
The point is, God chose, and equipped her for that work, and with the Holy Spirit empowering her, it was all joy.
God chooses each of us for different works, different tasks, different gifts (I think I read somewhere about a toe not being an eye, etc....).
So, Rosemary, if you can still remember the times when you felt God's love, God's forgiveness, and God's power, know that it's still there for you. Tell the burdeners and yokers to go lift themselves, and leave you alone.
I leave you with one last image. Go and read the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15: 11-32). The key thing: the father (God) rushes out to meet and re-accept the son (us) before the son can do anything to earn it, just turning back his heart was enough.

God is so much more lavishingly loving and forgiving than we are.

Shame on us.


Jessica 12:46 PM, June 11, 2005  

"God is so much more lavishingly loving and forgiving than we are.
Shame on us."

So true...I hope though that each Christian will strive to become more like God and forgive and love more!

AuntieJeanne 1:21 PM, June 12, 2005  

Hi Steve,

I'm actually responding to your comment on my blog about acupuncture. I think it's great your sister is an acupuncturist. Maybe you could speak to her about those headaches you have. I've heard acupuncture is good for that. I've gone twice now and I'm really happy with the results so far. I'm keeping a detailed journal of my experiences and will be posting them on my blog when the time is right. God Bless.

coco 10:24 PM, June 13, 2005  

Steve -- You know now whenever it says "Coco," it's me, Tracey from Worship Naked. I can't change that stupid Coco thing!

Anyway, wow, I wouldn't have known what to say to Rosemary either, right in that moment. And I'm sure in my panic, I wouldn't think to pray for the Holy Spirit to give me the words.

There are always those burdens people place on us that we insist on trying to carry ourselves. We just don't give them over to the Lord to take His burden instead. We then become caught up in the heaviest burden --"the burden of the self," I believe Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it.

Anonymous 10:27 AM, June 14, 2005  

i have been in rosemary's shoes (to the extent that i understand what she is going through or the decisions she is making)

maybe the things you say to her will make a difference in her heart, but it is likely that she will only hear them from the distance of her defiance toward God. pray for her. i believe you still have to speak the truth and thereby show your love for her, but standing in the gap for her will be a sure way to touch her heart. i only know from my own experience, but i believe it to be true.

and don't forget that God's grasp is tenacious. can you imagine letting go of a child just because they said they didn't like you anymore, or didn't want what you have... if God persues her she stands a good chance of being caught.

what a great teacher to have - more students should be so blessed to have a teacher that cares for their ultimate well being.

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