Cynicism is not a Spiritual Gift: How I shocked a 24 year old

Looking across the dinner table, 24 year old eyes the diameter of tea cups were staring back at me.  It was at that moment, I realized what I was saying was shocking.  I hadn’t thought it as unbelievable.

We were a table of five IF:Lead2015 women discussing life topics including everything from YouTube videos to politics, and we had even talked about having the sex conversation with your kids.  So how was I to know that books would be the topic that evoked that outlandish look of from someone 14 years my junior?

When I tell you what I said, considering a Christian book review was my last blog post and the fact that this actually is a Christian blog, you might be surprised too.

 

Almost all 26 years of my Christian life, I’ve been cynical about Christian produced writing.  I read almost no Christian books between high school and 2010.

I’m just getting home from a IF:Leadership Conference, and five years ago, I couldn’t have named one single Christian author I would have wanted to listen to, much less read a book by.

This is more shocking knowing that my husband and I have been in ministry for 19 years.  I helped start a church, taught countless Sunday school classes, brainstormed hundreds of crazy ministry ideas with my family, participated in lots of those crazy ideas, led lots of people to Jesus, had amazing church attendance, home schooled my kids, and lived a lifestyle LifeWay would have put a stamp of approval on.  God did all of this in my life.  Glory to God, not me!

You are probably asking, “You’re a Christian, and you’re definitely Beth Moore’s demographic.  Why wouldn’t you read Christian book?”

Well.  I didn’t think there was a Christian author that would “get me” or would be authentic enough to let me “get them.”

I valued action not words.  I wanted someone to put “the rubber to the road” for Christ, and couldn’t imagine someone actually being honest about the world we live in and living for Jesus beyond a “preaching/teaching people who are already Christians” sort of way.

I’d like to say I was one of those “all we need is the Bible” types.  Gosh.  That would actually make sense.

I was wrong.

When is cynicism ever right?

So what changed?

Two things.

One, I lost my little brother in 2010.  That probably made my heart a little softer.

Two, God shoved a book in my face.

Friends kept asking me if I had heard of Jen Hatmaker.  They said, “Her story in interrupted reminds me of the story of your church.”  I filed those references under “yeah, whatever.”

The “yeah, whatever file” also had the book name Radical filed in it.  (I know.  I know.  Forgive me.)  Let me just tell you.  When you are on a bicycle delivering lunches to inner-city children and telling them about Jesus, and some middle-aged white guy leans over and asks you if you’ve read Radical, thoughts go like this:  I helped think of this ministry.  I’m on my bike doing this.  This is my life.  It’s pretty radical.  I don’t need to read the book.  But to the man you just politely say, “No.  I haven’t” because that’s WJWD.

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So back to the second thing that changed my reading habits.  My husband came home from a Christian conference with a free book for me.  I asked, “Is it Jen Hatmaker?”

Guess what?  It was.  What are the chances?

God obviously wanted me to read this book.  The book was Seven, and I read it.

Jen Hatmaker changed my mind about Christian authors.  Then she lead me to IF.

Because I’m radical, (Can I call myself that?  If I ever meet David Platt, I’ll ask him.) I hosted a IF:Local Gathering in my church in 2014 without knowing what it was or who anyone was.

There I was with my friends watching the IF live feed.  Everyone kept asking me, “Who is that?”  My answer, every time.  “I don’t know.”

I didn’t know anyone who wasn’t Jen Hatmaker.

I didn’t know who Ann Voskamp was.  Let that sink in.

(Other than Jen’s book) I hadn’t read any of their books.

Was this good?

No.

Why?

Because the Bible says this:

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 ESV

I was judging Christian community and quenching the Spirit.  I wasn’t testing anything.  How could I hold fast to what was good when I wasn’t letting anything in.

What about you?  Are you in the place I was, where I didn’t see a need for Christian input, cynical about what they could offer?  Are you at the opposite end of the spectrum, where you are reading every Christian book you can get your hands on, but you are not putting your faith into action. (James 2:17 says faith without works is dead.)

Let me encourage you to find your place in Christian community.  Allow input, test everything, and hold fast to what is good.  Allow those good things to give you strength as you venture out into the world and turn your strengthened faith into work.

I love music, and I like to share a song at the end of my blog posts.  This song was playing at the IF:Leadership Conference this week, so it has been stuck in my head.  Also, it starts out, "My cold hearted child."  I feel like that was what my heart was like when I wasn't open to what others had to share about Christ.