Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Honestly Dilemma

I'm faced with a real dilemma. You see . . . early this week the pastor of my church sent me an e-mail asking me to give a testimony as part of the main service in a few weeks. I know why she did it. I've been a member of this church for almost two years, yet many people hardly know my name. The main reason is that I'm not very involved. The reason that I'm not involved is two-fold, maybe tri-fold.  The first reason is that every time I start getting involved with a church, I find myself in the same bs. That's too complicated to explain here.  Maybe this church is different, but I'm too afraid to find out. The second reason is that my wife goes to a different church so it makes it hard to to a lot of things with this church. I will add one more reason and that is because I'm so busy with work.

As I've started thinking about what I'm going to say, I immediately find myself at a mighty bifurcation. It is like being on a knife-edge ridge or a continental divide.  Down one side is where you put together a sweet presentation that would meet all the expectations of any congregation. You know, a place where you were bad and then Jesus came into your life, through a miracle occurrence of course, and things have been bliss since then.

I could write such a testimony, but 90% of it would have to be embellishment or even right out lies.

My testimony is messy. It is up and down.  The worst sins I ever knew were learned at church. The worst sins ever done to me . . . weren't done by some Hell's Angel gang . . . but by the most (self-proclaimed) godly people I ever knew. That's what makes it messy.

The other parts that make it messy is knowing that a big chunk of my Christian life was spent in a masquerade ball, where we all wore masks and faked everything.  So this is where the dilemma comes in. If I were to ask my pastor if I should be honest, I'm sure she would say, "Of course you should be." But I also know, if I allow the water drop to run down the honesty side that when I'm done, some people will be mumbling . . . "now that was a strange story."  I know for certain this is one of those areas that my wife would insist that I tell a sweet story and keep away from any "controversy."

So what do I do?

I'm not talking about sharing gross details or a long convoluted story . . . but just skimming the facts.

The last time I was asked to share my spiritual journey was at an "All church camp-out" and it was just after we had returned from the mission field. I had just gone through a time of a terrible situation. I was seriously depressed and uncertain of God's existence anymore. I would never have offered to share my story but it happened spontaneously.  A crowd of about fifty were sitting around a huge bonfire and the pastor, who was trying his best to speak great spiritual words, was fizzling out. So he turned to me and asked me to share about our experience.

I was really hurting at the time. I didn't get into any details. I simply shared facts. We did x, y, z.  Our boss did a, b and c. Then we came home. I'm confused and depressed right now.  The silence around the campfire could be cut with a dull machete.  No one knew what to say . . . they just stared into the fire speechless.  I had the feeling that the pastor was very embarrassed for us and regretted his impromptu invitation.  In a few minutes a chubby kid near the fire roasting his marshmallow for his 5th s'more accidently farted really loud.  To which many of the adults reacted in anger . . . "Jaaaaason! Good Heavens!"  If it hadn't been for the boy breaking the wind . . . I mean ice, we may still be sitting there 20 years later, frozen in total Christian-social awkwardness.

That was our home church and that was the only time anyone asked us about our hellish experience. It was never brought up again.  Soon after that we moved away . . . trying to start over in a new city were no one knew us. It was better to be completely alone, than to be with friends where you couldn't ever mention the most important things in your life . . . your ever present struggle.

So this is the dilemma screaming at me . . . tell the honest, messy story of my spiritual journey, or fabricate the Jesus Cliche one, which would make every one smile?  I hate being in the center of social awkwardness but I hate dishonestly even more. 

I've thought before what would I do if I found out I had a year to live. Part of me would want to try and achieve 100% honestly. I try now but still live at the 30th floor (of a 100 floor building where the ground it absolute truth).  But I would be offensive and ugly and have no friends. I'm not speaking of being cruel.  I wouldn't be telling fat people they are fat (which they already know) or dumb people they are dumb. But I would try to speak totally honestly in what I think.  "I know that you think that God choose Mitt to run for president, I think Mitt choose Mitt and he is manipulating Christians to win their vote.  Obama is doing the same to other special interest groups." Things like that would really piss people off at me . . . even if I were dying.

I digress.

I will mention one more tangential issue before I close.  As I was climbing the mountain last week I had some downloaded books and music to try and distract my mind from the terror.  One book, oddly was about anxiety.  It is the book, The Monkey Mind Chronicles. So here are my thoughts (and I'm on the last chapter).  The book is brilliantly written and researched by Daniel Smith. It is raunchy in places . . . but it is worth the read, especially if you suffer from anxiety. But I was amazed at his writing ability in the same way I'm amazed at the work of a water-color artist.


NormalDiedWithMax - A Moms Journey of Grief said...

As a grieving parent, I also have a "messy" testimony and have experienced several of the reactions you describe. Your words really hit me - "It was better to be completely alone, than to be with friends where you couldn't ever mention the most important things in your life . . . your ever present struggle." - I've often thought that, but want to fight for my lifelong friends in spite of their failings during my crisis. I hope you will allow yourself to be honest. Some out there will breathe a big sigh of relief and say "I thought I was the only one, THANK GOD I'm not".

jmj said...

All I can say is I'm so sorry about your loss of Max. As a parent, I can't imagine it. I've had a few moments in my life when I thought that I had, or was loosing a child . . . though those moments were so brief. Yet, that shadowy taste of what you must live every day, was overwhelming. May God grant you the grace to breath and to wake up in the morning and somehow go on.

Anonymous said...

I think you should opt out.

Dana said...

I agree with anon; that was my first thought on reading the post. You don't have to go into all the gory details; just that you appreciate being asked and are still grieving some things and don't feel up to it right now.


jmj said...

So I wrote out my story in a one page narrative and sent it to my pastor. She thought it was great just the way it was. I'm still praying and thinking about it. I will decide in a couple of days.

AACCW said...

I can relate to the "everyone was speechless" part. For the longest time I was very confused as to why people in church seemed to shy away from talking about suffering or pain. Now I know it's because they feel the need to put up an "everything is great because I'm a Christian" mask.

And Normal, I can relate because I pretty much coped with having four miscarriages by myself. Only others who suffered a similar loss were able to console me.