Filed under: Christianity, God, Grace, Jesus, Lent, Prayer, Religion, Revival, Shekinah Glory, Spirituality, thoughts
As I stood in line to enter the civic auditorium with my parents, I noticed a second line snaking toward a small folding table. Behind it were two young women. One woman took checks and cash, placing them by denomination into a small metal cash box. The other woman handed out tapes and records. I was ten years old and we were standing in line to see a particular singing evangelist.
As we sat down in the theater chairs, they swiveled in a way that made my butt slide down deeply until it almost touched the floor. I was excited, this was Nebraska after all. The only concerts that we could expect to see were the acts who signed up to perform at the annual State Fair. Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Statler Brothers and Kenny Rogers (I think you can see a theme here) were the acts of my youth. So, anytime there was a concert that my parents were willing to attend I was more than interested.
Someone from the local radio station came out from behind the curtain and welcomed us. He said that it was his distinct pleasure to introduce us that evening to a man of God. As the curtains began to seperate a band played and out bounded a man in a sequence suit.
“Hello Lincoln, How are you tonight?” he said and pulled a guitar pick out of his jacket pocket.
For the next 45 minutes we bathed in gospel rockabilly. This man had been part of a legendary gospel harmonizing group, but had broken away to do solo work. Now, he had a television program which allowed him to travel around the country singing and preaching. As the sky outside darkened the sequence sparkled under the spotlight. After his brief set it was time to move into the preaching portion of the show.
Tonight’s message was on Pontius Pilate. I was completely transfixed upon the large black Bible that seemed to drip out of his hand. As sweat dripped from that forehead, it followed his long sideburns to his chin. The message was on being careful to confess all of our sins. Laying his Bible on the podium he moved to stage left. Pretending to wash his hands in a basin he proclaimed, “Pilate washed his hands of Jesus. Make sure that you do not turn your back on Jesus or he will wash his hands of you!”
Then he launched into a description of hell that rivaled Dante. I could imagine the torture and violence that would be perpetually inflicted on me if I ever made it to that place. It was one of the most frightening things I had ever heard. Then there was an altar call. He returned to his guitar as the band played softly. I did not go forward that night, but I had gone forward before. I would go forward many more times in my young life to rededicate my life to Christ. Yet, the thing that left with me that evenin was the comment: “He will wash his hands of you!”
I was sure from that point on that I would never be good enough for God. With this evangelist and so many preachers that followed it was easy to fall out of God’s good grace. Even though I heard that Jesus loved me I was sure that he was angry and hateful. I could imagine him on the cross crying out, “Brian, Brian why have you forsaken me?” Now I know that was a particular theology of my holiness background, but at the time it seemed like the only message of Christianity. I was troubled. I would have marathon prayer sessions, begging God not to damn me for some missed sin. Still I knew that it was no use. There would always be something that I missed.
It was somewhere during that time that I took notice of Peter’s dilemma. He had denied knowing God in the most strong language he could muster. Yet, he was still accepted. After reading the scriptures again, I realized that the characters of the Bible I had idealized were flawed and imperfect. I believed that even with my flaws God might accept me.
However, this was not enough. I still became overwhelmed with my sense of inadequacy in the face of an infinite creator. I left the church, but soon came back. I rejected the fundamentalist/holiness beliefs of my youth, but still they were deeply woven in my psyche. I even tried to convince myself that I no longer believed in anything at all.
That was when someone told me that nothing that I believed would work unless I began to love myself, and I knew he was right. The concept was as old as the golden rule. I needed self love to begin to see the divine. This certainly has not been an easy process. It has taken a lot of support, prayer, and turning to help others. It has not been easy, but the rewards are great. One reward that I have found is knowing that I am accepted. I had to kill that old hateful Jesus and resurrect a new one that wants me to be content myself. I know that new Jesus wouldn’t want me to participate in a Christianity which is harmful to anyone, especially myself. An angry Jesus is just not Good News. The good news that I have discovered is that I am accepted by the divine this moment, just as I am.
So, Good Friday to everyone! At the end of Lent I hope to see more grace and treat others with the same overwhelming amount of mercy which has been lavished on my life.
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