It's good to hear from you again. :) It sounds as if you've got some heavy duty inner struggles going on, eh? Lots of questions, but all seem to be coming from the same basic place: Am I letting God down like everybody says? Let me just share my gut-level thoughts regarding your questions and fears:
My question for you is this: why does it seem like most of Christianity teaches that the highest aim of our Christian lives is to become vocational ministers? Ryan
Perhaps because most of Christianity grew up under this same perception. Do you realize what this assumes? That most fall short, and that those who become vocational ministers are more spiritually mature. or closer to God.
It may just be the region where I live (Texas) or the circles I am used to running in, but I am quite burdened by the fear that, as [JP] would say, "Wasting my life". I am 25 years old and I recently left a "successful" youth ministry to join the corporate world. Let's just say the transition hasnt been easy. I recently wrote down all the questions I have about the way I feel, and I wonder, where is all this coming from? Here are my questions: -Why do I feel guilty that I dont want to be a missionary or a vocational minister? -Why do I feel as if I am less devoted to Jesus or my faith is weak? -Why do I have a distrust of Christianity but I desire to become more like Christ and know my Bible? -Why do I feel like the only one who feels this way? Does that mean I am running from a calling? -Why do I fear I will waste my life? Is [JP] right? Ryan
Why do I feel guilty that I dont want to be a missionary or a vocational minister?
Why you feel guilty should be quite obvious, for you are afraid they may be right--and therefore, you are wrong--and that you are truly wasting your life. To waste ones life by the failure to pursue or achieve ones purpose is a common theme in the world, especially when the world examines and highlights what it believes that person's true calling to have been. Do you suppose that making similar judgments in "Christianity" somehow rises above the elemental mindset of the world?
The fact that you were successfully on your way to the highest imaginable vocation a Christian can achieve (considering the fact that it was only a "youth ministry") has put your life on display. That most who judge you have not even come close to the level they imagine you as having reached only adds to your inner struggle. I'm sure some really hoped you would "make it", for they perceived themselves as partakers in your success. Others probably find justification in your failure because your success was a judgment against their own sense of failure. Either way, it comes from the same basic premise of what makes a life truly pleasing to God.
Now, if you had merely forsaken the "true path" for your life and fallen back into some kind of obscurity that would have been more understandable than for you to join the corporate world. According to the elemental mindset found in Christianity you have forsaken the pursuit of God and have now embarked upon the pursuit of the world. Why do you feel guilty that you've forsaken the "highest aim" of your life? If you agree with this perception how could you feel anything else? Why do you feel less devoted to Jesus? Because you battle with the possibility that devotion to Jesus equates to a respected title or a qualified position. The same goes for your perception of "weak" faith, for if you had "strong" faith you wouldn't have forsaken your calling. But which calling are we talking about here?
Why do I have a distrust of Christianity but I desire to become more like Christ and know my Bible?
But you DO know, don't you? :) Why wouldn't you have a distrust of this system called "Christianity" that has established its highest aim according to the same principles by which the world judges the purpose of ones true life? Your desire to become more like Christ comes from a reality that is foreign to these principles and objectives and purposes. Including your desire to know your Bible tells me that you know it says something contrary to a system that is supposedly built upon it. Somehow you inwardly know that being like Christ is life itself, and that despite all the Biblical instruction and knowledge in this world that it testifies to a life that is unlike the life you have learned according to a Christian system of theology and teaching.
Why do I feel like the only one who feels this way?
I ask again, how else could you feel? When those you consider peers and leaders speak of Christ and view Bible study as imperative it would seem that there is an agreement when there may not be. For Christ, and the true knowledge of Christ, is not found in words, but in spirit. If Christ is your life it makes no difference how well the facade built upon his name and upon the testimony of his life (aka, the Bible) is constructed. The life within you KNOWS ... it KNOWS. When those around you agree upon the superficial (no matter how deep it appears) and yet the life within you senses a lack of agreement then how else can you feel except alone? In truth, you really are alone in Christ, for it is only alone in him that your true worth is found. True fellowship is found in the common agreement of our absolute aloneness in Christ. A paradox indeed. Once we begin to incorporate another basis upon which our agreement is found we begin to reconstruct the thing that was destroyed in Christ. Rejoice in feeling alone in this! :)
Does that mean I am running from a calling? -Why do I fear I will waste my life? Is [JP] right?
I really don't know much about [JP], but I can tell you that if what he teaches has brought this condemnation in your life then he only preaches condemnation and not Christ. Your fear is only built upon the same principles of the world's "callings" and "purposes" that he preaches. Does it make any difference what a man says or thinks or demands? Is your true life found in pleasing man ... or God? And is God built upon principles or is he true life? You know him.
Why do I feel less of a person because my passion is so generic? Why am I not passionate about anything else besides loving Jesus and loving others?
I love this! Isn't it obvious that the only reason you would feel less of a person is that someone has insisted that you are less of person unless you pursue what he demands is a true person? Generic passion? Is that what the system of man would have you believe? To be passionate about "loving Jesus and loving others" fulfills everything the Law ever demanded, so why is it that the same system that keeps hoping to achieve such a lofty goal want to make you feel less of a person for not meeting their own goals? Don't you see the irony? When those who babble on about the pursuit of God stumble over the miraculous reality of the only life that has ever pursued God it should slap you upside the head with the magnitude of the deception! I mean that in a good way. :)
So, what we're saying here is that a "non-generic" passion is one that is not satisfied with just loving Jesus and others? In other words, a more specific or focused passion somehow transcends such simplicity? hahaha! Doesn't this seem rather ridiculous to you? :) Who would have you believe such rubbish anyhow? Sure, if you were to rejoin the club your passion would be approved by those who belong to and by those who approve of the club. Don't you realize that those who are pursuing their worth according to a system built upon even the words that testify of Christ must validate that system? That validation must somehow be integrated into everything that is put forth so that to accept the "truth" must also include the acceptance of the club's authority. Wow, what a set up!
Does that mean I am supposed to go do missions b/c that is my passion? Shouldnt that be everyone's passion? Everyone cant all be missionaries should they? Who will grow the food? If I become a vocational minister does that mean I am to convince others to become a vocational minister? -Does denying one's self mean to become something I am not? Ryan
Oh, what a tangled web we weave, eh? Do you realize this rationale only makes sense according to the wisdom stolen from the world? It is not of Christ.
I am at a loss and I am tired of all the pressure. As you can probably guess, I received a lot of words from people in the ministry that I am making a mistake and running from a calling. Ryan
Once again, who are you pleasing, man or God? Oh yeah, I know the "people in the ministry" would convince you that you are displeasing God by forsaking your "calling", but when you let the smoke clear you might see that you are only forsaking the calling that has been endorsed by the "people in the ministry". For they NEED you to believe that they are right because it aids their own need to be validated according to the only validation that makes sense. Their validation is built upon words that can be manipulated to keep the illusion that they are doing the right thing. Why else the pressure to comply with them when the true pursuit of God's calling is already within you, and is evident in the simplicity of your "generic" passion?
PS- All this poses a question I am not sure how I can answer, why should anyone become a missionary or vocational minister? Ryan
When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11
When I spoke, thought, and reasoned like a child I didn't understand how it could be anything different. I couldn't see it in myself as I was going through it, even though I had been told countless times that I was acting like a child. :) Funny thing is that having grown up and having children of my own I saw the way of the child in vivid detail. It was painful at times. haha! :) Something that struck me was the manner in which my 3 girls would keep establishing a new club from time to time by which they would include one and reject another. It was all about validation, for each was attempting to validate herself by who she included and who she rejected! It was indeed childish, but guess where they learned such a thing? Yeah, I wonder.
To what then shall I compare the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children who sit in the market place and call to one another, and they say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.' For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, 'He has a demon!' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children. Luke 7:31-35
That last phrase, "Yet wisdom is vindicated by all her children", is not surprisingly misunderstood by those who have established a system of vindication or validation. The rationale of ones system of judgment is vindicated by those who are born of (or adhere to) that system. People may have grown up, but they are still like children who play games of validation. It is all around us. They call out from one corner or another, but we are mostly affected by those we perceive as valid. Until we recognize those of this world as children who call out to us and demand that we dance when they play the flute or weep when they sing a sorrowful song we will find ourselves in turmoil. But that recognition is within you, is it not? :) You have already seen and heard. And you feel alone for a very good reason. Christ.
Thank you for responding to my email. I really just needed to get those lies out of my head and have someone I respected rebuke them. Your words of encouragement have really helped heal some wounds after leaving Youth ministry and freed me from the lies that followed.
Your responses and the almost ridiculousness of my questions (only because they all stem from a false system I was living under) has caused me to really rediscover what truly makes a life pleasing to God. How often I forget the most basic and powerful truth of the Christian life and that is: Christ in me. I forget that God has created me to be me. And He lives inside me affirming the new me. I am still chewing on your responses. I am mostly relieved and somewhat frustrated that I allowed myself to be caught up in such a flawed view of Christianity. I guess I just needed an outside perspective to give me a reality check. Thanks Jim, Ryan