Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Moving toward -- ?

In an early chapter of his book The Way of the Wild Heart, John Eldredge describes several ways that men react to their fathers. One sample, which closely correlates to mine, was the following: "An evil man. May God deliver me from his legacy."

At a 12-Step recovery meeting I attended earlier tonight, I realized something: I've spent much of the past four decades running from my father. (Never mind that he's been dead for over 15 years.)

In retrospect, that started early. He derided Martin Luther King Jr. because of his commitment to the Christian faith; I became not only a Christian myself but also an admirer of King and supporter of his attitude of nonviolence. He resented the white race; meanwhile, most of my friends are -- and almost all of my dating partners have been -- white. He wanted me to study engineering; when that didn't work out I turned to writing, which displeased him.

But even my conversion, nearly 30 years ago, and subsequent discipleship were driven in large part by not wanting to be like him. I received Christ as Savior and LORD the day after he informed my brother and me that my mother had threatened to leave -- and I knew why. Just over four years later, when she made good on that threat and I moved out with her, I went into counseling and entered 12-step recovery because of a specific situation that showed me that, even though I was a believer, I had not changed sufficiently to be able to live effectively on life's terms. (The Program, based on Alcoholics Anonymous, has actually helped me to be a better Christian.)

Basically, I understood how not to live. But -- what's the alternative?

I think that illustrates one of the problems with the way Christianity is "sold" in this country -- primarily as a way to avoid eternal punishment. While that is certainly a fringe benefit of "salvation," I'm no longer convinced that doing so represents God's intent. He created ancient Israel to separate a people for Himself to live by His law in order to glorify Himself and bless the rest of the world; He sent his Son Jesus for the same ultimate purpose. In other words, His intention was always positive.

That's the challenge that I -- and every serious Christian -- face. When Paul instructs believers to "crucify the flesh," he was referring to the process of suffocation that eventually brought death to a physical body. That said, the "flesh" has to be replaced with something else rather than just killed. Which is why spiritual discipline is so important.

I'm not sure what that means exactly in my present state. I know only that a "negative" view won't help me personally, let alone help to establish the Kingdom of God as far as I have influence. May I -- and we -- live more positively.

No comments: