No, the reason was that I was teetering on the line of being spiritually bankrupt. Writing an Easter play was the thing God used to open my eyes to how much I had once loved spending time in the Word, the Story, and how I had now become a "nice Pharisee". I don't mean that I'm being judgmental of anyone or what have you - I mean I'm walking around with this stupid "pastor" title and feeling completely ridiculous. And it's not spiritual warfare, not in my case. It's that I've been so focused on pleasing humanity (even if it's Christians, I still care more about what they think than what God thinks) that I've lost sight of my own faith.
And then all my old ways of thinking kick me in the gut - anger, cynicism, envy, pride, self-righteousness, lust of the eyes, paranoia, laughing whispers.
There's a strange part of me that rejoices when a believer who's struggled with the Faith decides to call it quits and leaves it. I rejoice because I see that as God's mercy, taking them on a (sometimes long) journey to re-discover Him, or perhaps find Him truly for the first time. I hold that hope for every one of my friends who are presently on such a path. No fear, no "tsk tsk" or shaking of my head. Rather, thank God that He is pursuing them enough to send them away, to let them go. That they might come to Him in a year, or a decade, with a story that is truly their own.
But you know what's dangerous? Quiet spiritual bankruptcy. Here's the thing. I know what I'm capable of. I am a master of the mask. I am an emulator. If I speak with you for more than five minutes, I will begin to shape my external persona around yours, or seek to compliment it somehow. It's not intentional - it's just what I do. This doesn't mean I will just agree with you, but your mannerisms, your smile, your laugh, I'll start to wear them. And then, just like muscle memory, I'll pick it up in a flash when I see you. I have a different smile and laugh for almost every one of my friends. Not intentional, that's just what I do.
I could teeter on this line and probably never completely collapse. It's a scary thought, but it's a reality. If I'm not intentionally pursuing Christ myself, I can just go through the motions, and even feel it genuinely when I'm around others who are in His presence. But that is not enough for me.
And that's a terrifying place to be, when you stop and think about. Because if I'm that good at balancing, then no one ever has to really know. And I can keep putting on the show. And nothing changes. Stagnation. A still... slow... death.
Thankfully, in the midst of it all, God's Voice still shakes through me like a powerful wind. And He did so Tuesday night. He asked me if I hungered for the Word. I stopped, listened, and felt it. Almost physically, in my belly. A hunger. Pain. A need to consume. And I needed to hold it. A touch screen wouldn't do it. I needed to hold the pages.
It still felt like cheating to ask my Dad to just "have" the Book. But as I looked at the email I typed out and sent, I saw the words I heard from God - "Pay if you will, ask if you want." And it hit me. If I paid for the book, it would be my will pushing forward, as always. And if I couldn't humble myself enough to ask for something I truly couldn't afford, how much did I really want this anyway? That I'd rather swipe a credit card than ask for grace?
Do I even understand the Gospel?
But I asked. And I received. That Bible was on my office desk the following morning. This is what my earthly father, acting as my Heavenly Father's ambassador, wrote on the first page.
"Two things. First, don't make this book an idol. Focus on the Word, not the pages."
"Second, I'm not interested in your 'discipline' and your 'study'. Just be present with the story. Stay in the story. Swim leisurely. No reading plans for you, no benchmarks or goals to hit. Don't chug it. Take a sip every day, and like fine wine, hold it over your taste buds before swallowing. Savor it."
My sip this morning was short, but rich, and I've been holding it over my tongue all day. No deadlines, no pressure - just presence with His grace.
Thank You, Lord. (And thank you, Dad!)