It was 1994, I was the ripe age of 21, rolling deep in my mini truck, slammed, low-riding, my system blaring Snoop-Dog and Warren G, living the dream in my hometown of Long Beach, CA. I had grown up in the church, my dad was a Baptist pastor, and things seemed to be flowing along; I was having fun, hanging out with my friends, taking trips to Vegas, cruising Hollywood Boulevard, and visiting various clubs in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas. It was in this context that the Lord broke into my life afresh; he brought tough stuff into my life; a season (meaning years) of depression, anxiety, intellectual doubt (of God’s existence); and a host of other things that created a fork in the road for me–really it wasn’t a fork, it was choose life or die; I chose life!
As I began to press into the Lord in new and desperate ways my life began to take on the transformation of Christ; his resurrection power was pulsing through my veins; and I had to share this reality with whoever would listen, wherever they would listen. I started attending church (Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa) almost every day of the week; I committed to reading through the Scriptures over and again, memorizing books of the Bible, and reading whatever I could that I thought would help propel me deeper and further into this fresh new reality of Jesus Christ in my life. What this new reality in my life inculcated, primarily was: Passion and Idealism. When I could move beyond the depths of my intellectual doubt I had such a sense of God’s reality in Jesus Christ that it was palpable; I felt as if I was indestructible. I felt like a superman, like I could walk up to drug dealers on the street and share Jesus, and I did! There was an immediacy to God’s life, as if he was breaking into and around every corner of life and reality. The fact that he was truly the living God, that he truly had risen again from the dead in Jesus Christ, that he was now sitting at the right hand of the Father always living to make intercession, and that he was going to come again (bodily) very soon was blowing my mind. As deep as the lows were that I was experiencing, the highs were as high as heaven itself. In this mix of things I was continuing to read the Bible over and again, it was the lifeblood of my life as I realized it was the only source that connected me to its living reality, to the eternal Word, to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I thought nothing could stop this; it was God’s kingdom in Christ, it was where the action and adventure was; everything else paled in comparison. Life was a battle, a spiritual battle, and I was a soldier living from The Soldier’s victory; I was more than a conqueror, and this world in all of its vainglorious glory had been dealt its final death blow in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I was living on this tide, on this high, a heavenly high.
I thought because of all of this, because I had earned a BA degree and MA degree in biblical studies and theology, because I had been doing all types of ministry (pastoral, evangelistic, teaching, etc.), that my life was flashing before my eyes. I was full of idealism (in 2003) coming out of seminary, yes war torn from much of the spiritual battles I had faced up to that point, but then life continued to happen. I experienced years of unemployment, underemployment, and then I got a terminal cancer. I lived through that, experienced more unemployment, my daughter was almost killed from a freak accident at school, and now I work a job where I can’t even go to church on Sundays (or any days) because of the crazy schedule I have at work.
It is good that my passion, my idealism is not the source of life; indeed, it is good that the source of my passion and idealism aren’t mine at all, but Christ’s. I participate in him no matter what the circumstances of this life bring. His wisdom is that he has penetrated all of these circumstances of life, these apparently mundane and tragic ones, and he has redeemed them; he meets us (and me) in the midst of all of these. His face, the glory of God, shines ever brighter as each day passes by, as the day of his glorious return comes closer and closer to us. Indeed, he comes everyday and every night. This world does not own him, he owns this world; along with a thousand cattle on the hills. I expect to be filled with his passion and idealism for the rest of my life and all of eternity, I hope you do too!