When I was a baby Christian I thought that maturity would look like almost anything other than my daily living experience up to that point. Am I alone? I don’t think so.
Recently I sat with a person who wanted to meet with me (at his therapist’s suggestion) to talk about why he had dropped out of church. I felt such a connection to his experience and mused at the wildly different conclusions we came to as a result of our early life encounters with God’s people. He has chosen to reject all things spiritual; I ended up a pastor!
Our shared issue was one of misguided expectations. I am not sure that anyone told me that the life of believer was supposed to have the same effects as a lobotomy, but I sure thought it. I believed that faithful people, even me, would learn how to do the right things and much like winning at a slot machine - eureka! - blessings would flow.
What would be the opposite of blessings? Curses.
What did I think curses looked like? Conflict. Broken relationships. Kids with “issues.” Marital strife. Financial struggles. Disappointments. Losing. Betrayal.
In other words - life. All the things I had on my mostly unconscious but detailed list of things God would protect me and mine from are, in reality, things that happen in life - with or without conscious contact with a power greater than ourselves.
One issue that was a chronic problem for me related to my expectations about life. Honestly, today they seem more like fantasies. I expected Pete and I to never disagree. I believed that if I behaved, God wouldn’t smite me. The problem is that I categorized unpleasantness as smiting when in truth, it was just life doing what it does. My expectations had the potential to rob me of the gifts that a spiritual life can provide.
With all those crazy thoughts how in the HECK did I end up a pastor? That’s a long story, but an essential element of it was that I figured out that I was looking at things all wrong. I’ll be focusing on issues that have been particular stumbling blocks for me as I tried to figure out how to be a person of faith in the hopes that something might be helpful to someone in the process. Bottom line: we must be constantly willing to evaluate our spiritual beliefs and assumptions about how we will experience life as a faithful person.