If you ask someone getting ready to change churches why they’re doing it, somewhere in the conversation they will likely bring up the idea of life. They’re looking for more life.
Everyone’s looking for life.
The small Burmese family who sold their daughter into the prostitution industry so they could afford to make it through their days without starving to death is looking for life.
The single mom who bore 16 children since her youth as the result of rape is looking for life.
The homeless man who doesn’t know where he’ll sleep tonight is looking for life.
The 29-year-old lady raised in a conservative Mennonite church, yet unmarried and never asked out and still invited to join the “youth,” is looking for life.
The older traditional couple who has watched all five kids leave their tradition is looking for life.
The people going to those churches that don’t allow instruments and spontaneous clapping during worship are looking for life.
The people attending mega-churches led by celebrity pastors yet feeling entirely disengaged from the community at large are looking for life.
Any time one asks anybody what they’re looking for, life is going to be one of the things they mention. But what on earth are we talking about when we say we want life?
What is life?
If you ask me, it seems like a catch-all for anything we don’t like about our current circumstance.
The preacher’s coming down a little too hard on your favorite style of music? He lacks life.
Your parents not supportive of your new relationship because the Mr. doesn’t seem to have the same values as they do? They lack life.
Not allowed to clap or sing or pray for healing in your church services? Your church lacks life.
Too much focus on dress and lifestyle and not enough focus on God’s love? The place lacks life.
It comes across this way. We use it when we’re disgruntled, disenchanted, wanting change. When something becomes too stagnant — too stale — it needs life.
But what if we’re actually looking for something deeper?
What if the feelings and tensions we feel at the surface — too focused on externals, not allowed to use instruments, too robotic, not kind enough — are actually pricking at something much deeper in our souls that we don’t have the words to describe . . . so we use the word life?
What do we actually mean when we say we want life?
Is it really just as shallow as wanting to be able to do whatever we want? I mean really, we all know that’s antithetical to call of Christ, right? The Gospel — following Christ — is all about no longer living for ourselves (2 Cor. 5:15). We only get Jesus by first denying ourselves (Matt. 16:24). Surely when we say we want life we’re not actually saying we want what feels good — are we?
Let me throw some words at you and see if they resonate:
Feeling as though you are there for me when I’m at my worst, and knowing I am there for you when you’re at your worst.
Seeing in others and experiencing in myself gospel transformation in our lives that leads us to not need a list of rules to commit ourselves to when we become members of the same local church.
Holistic worship that comes from the heart. It’s full. It’s unpredictable. Mysterious. Yet, not put on or for the purpose of impressing others with our gifts.
An environment where I can confess sin that I’m struggling with and people will truly bear it with me (Gal. 6:2), not condemning me or holding me at arm’s length, while also nudging me toward holiness (Matt. 5:48).
Sensing that I can confess actual sin, and not just the fact that I was impatient with my children or missed my hour of Bible reading all month, and not be met with indifferent silence — the kind that suggests no one else struggles with what I just confessed.
A community of people who don’t ask me how I’m doing only when external things change, but ask from a place of deep sincerity every time we meet.
Am I right? Does this better define what we mean by life?
Asher Witmer is a husband, father and writer living with his family in Los Angeles and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies at Eternity Bible College in Simi, Calif. He recently published his first book, Live Free: Making Sense of Male Sexuality. This is the fourth post in a series about when faith gets turned upside-down at asherwitmer.com, where this post first appeared.
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