I wrote this to a new friend. My plan was that as soon as I was finished I would then write my next Shoveletter. As I was writing the last couple lines I realized that THIS was the next Shoveletter. Jeff, thank you for your refreshing honesty in your communication with me for it is people like you who keep me stimulated to address very real concerns in our miraculous life in Christ!!
At the end of my first semester in my sophomore year I sat down in the hallway between classes and wrote these words:
Plenty to do, but nothing is done, I'm too busy now . . . oh, I gotta run
I can't look around, must keep on the ball, I cannot look back 'cause I don't wanna fall
The clock on the wall it keeps up the beat, but somehow it seems I am losing my feet
Oh, where will it all end? Where will it all end?
Sounds like confusion, huh? Yeah, it was ... but I am glad for the confusion of that part of my life. The real tragedy would be to forget it, for as Trinity told Neo (in the movie, Matrix): "You've been down that road before and you know where it leads." I've seen that road come up so many times since then. I'm only glad that I have learned to recognize it before I find myself too far down it each time. :)
I've been in that place you described with the JW's (Jehovah's Witnesses). :) You know, you figure if you can just get them to understand certain doctrines and verses from a proper perspective then they'll get it. But ... there you are with these trained professionals who ALREADY know most of what you're going to tell them. Oh, yeah, you become very aware that they have studied the same things you have so you try to come up with some clinchers that maybe they haven't heard before.
You know what I think? Well, I'm gonna tell you anyway! :) I think we've been trained to listen for the wrong stuff. We're trying to find that ONE proof that will break through so we concentrate on the argument instead of the fact that this is SIMPLY a person who is caught up in human reasoning and confusion JUST LIKE WE HAVE BEEN MOST OF OUR LIVES. I think we study apologetics mostly to keep ourselves convinced that we're right and their wrong. Don't get me wrong ... I love a lot of the stuff I learned from the study, but I have realized that it was mostly for ME and that I just wanted others to sense that same confidence I gained from it. I didn't understand it when THEY didn't, but then I didn't understand that they weren't listening for it. How could they? They were the missionaries sent to convert ME and they were trying their best to win me over by their superior arguments. In THEIR studies they spent time specifically geared toward breaking through tough cases like you and me!! haha! How ironic.
We've been given the mind of Christ, and yet we're trained to listen with the ears of logic.
You know what I discovered? After MANY encounters, much like you have described, I came to realize that I was missing the simplicity of life and freedom. I came to see that THEY were just like ME: Struggling, trying to please God, hoping to win a victory, desirous to take news back to their peers that they won over one of those hard core people. But as the reality of Christ began to give me confidence in a totally different way I was able to really listen to such people as being filled with the same kind of agendas as the rest of humanity ... the same kind of agendas I knew and understood.
They are hurting. They are empty. They have found an official way to justify themselves. They have found a logical, understandable way to approach this mysterious God. They have found a format where they can excel and be recognized by their peers and their teachers. They have found a religion that seems to answer what their parents' religion couldn't answer. Etc, etc.
I learned to listen to their words without getting thrown off by the pretense of their claims. And once I began to hear that, they began to sound like everybody else INSIDE or OUTSIDE of the religious system. They sounded like the people I worked with in my secular jobs ... and like the people in my family ... and like the people in my church ... and like ME. They wanted me to be impressed by their achievements; they wanted me to be intimidated by the group they represented, they wanted to persuade me by the power of their words. And I have known and followed after those same agendas.
This is EXACTLY where Christ is different from anything and everything we have come to know in this world. We needed to be saved from OURSELVES ... and that is what everybody else needs (No, no, not to be saved from ME, but from themselves! haha!). Just remember the bondage you have seen in your own life and know that the guy in front of you is afflicted with the same things. Don't let his words distract you from the reality, but listen to those words with the ears of one who has been made alive. Don't be surprised when you begin to hear grown men and women sound exactly like children playing games like Hide and Seek, King of the Hill and My Dog's Bigger than Your Dog!
And when you hear this are you going to try to convince the person that his failure or success in life has to do with his faulty understanding of the rules of those games? Or are you going to be able to relate in describing the freedom of being released from your own games and agendas through the cross of Christ?