Things I’ve Learned or 7 Years Spent Eating My Words

I don’t know what anyone else’s senior year of high school was like but when I was getting ready to cut loose from the bonds of state-funded education I remember there being a lot on my to-do list.  Aside from the monumental decision of which college to go to and how I was going to pay for it there was the business of getting measured for the cap and gown and getting those fantastically goofy and ridiculous senior pictures taken.  Those were especially fun for me because my mom would not let me grow my hair out until those stupid pictures were done so I ended up with this Beatles-esque dome of hair that didn’t go past my ears. I had to look nice for the yearbook, my senior yearbook.  That was something else I had to deal with. Our school wanted us to turn in pictures with a quote that best suited us or how we felt.

I don’t remember what was going through my head but I recall thinking how righteous it would be for me to quote something from the Bible because no one would do that, ever. Seriously. It had to be one of the most original thoughts I have ever had. All these other people who were going to be businessmen and women and engineers and doctors and then there was me. I never fit in when I was in school and I really thought I was okay with that. In fact I was going to show all those robots, posers and fakes who jeered me my entire school career by going to college and getting a high paying job.  I was smarter than all of them for sure because I had lived a life so much unlike theirs.

So, I was charged with coming up with a small blurb  for my senior yearbook and I had decided I wanted something out of the Bible.  Seriously, I could have come up with song lyrics or something because music was my life at that point? I don’t know why I decided to pick something from the scriptures because, at that point, I was a nominal Christian at best and very light in my knowledge of… anything, really. But I was entirely convinced that I would be different just like everything else and so I went on the search for something that would say something about me.  After some digging – and a little help from my mom I think – I settled on 1 Corinthians 13:11.  It’s rendered a little different in the ESV but it’s my Bible o’ choice:

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)

Now see if you can read that through the lens of a very cynical 18 year-old boy flooded with teenage angst. I thought this verse was a great big middle-finger to my classmates because I thought I was just so much more of an adult. I had survived high school with my moral high ground of never having done any drugs, drank any alcohol or even been invited to one of the big parties that supposedly went on when I was sitting in the basement of my best friend’s house playing Super Nintendo Friday nights into the wee hours of the morning.

Looking back, I think God has a perfect sense of humor. I think he had me put that verse down just so I could spend the next 7 years eating those words hard.  I thought I was so extremely grown up at the age of 18.  I thought I was going to hit the world with all the confidence and I was going to show all those people who treated me like I was nothing more than a weird guy who wore black clothes and listened to really weird, loud and heavy music .  Yeah, I’m here to tell you that not a whole lot has changed since then. I turned 25 a few weeks ago and I’m still learning to put this kind of childish, prideful nonsense to the wayside.

Growing up is not something you can just jump into.  I’ve learned that I am not able to snap my fingers and turn myself into an adult. In fact, I’m still trying to get there.  But it’s amazing to see what is different and just how much I have changed in so many and so few years.  Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of this change in myself.  I’ve gone through a lot in just a month that has grown me (and aged me) in great leaps. I can’t count how many times I’ve reacted in ways I didn’t expect and in a very positive ways at that. All of it stems from the work that is being done in me through the very Godly amount of hammering that I’ve had to endure.

I can tell you with great amount of assurance that I  have been humbled severely in the time since I submitted that snippet of scripture to whoever the school. I still feel the pangs of being an outcast in my dealings with people sometimes. But just in the last few days even my mood has been completely different. I’m starting to see after a really long time that all of the garbage that I was tortured by in the last 7 years was all worth it now because I am finally starting to be what I thought I was back before I was even out of high school – an adult.  Granted, I still have my problems and fights with myself but I think I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned that you’re never as grown up as you think you are. You’re always going to have the scripts you’ll import from your past until you learn to overcome them and eventually, by the grace of God you do.  If you’re an outcast, you’re always going to be an outcast in a sense but you have to learn that people are going to treat you how they do based on their perception so this mistreatment they inflict on you may partially be your fault too. I can tell you that all the hell, grief, pain and sorrow will make you into one of the strongest people in the world if you understand there is a purpose to it all and there is an end in mind.  That you don’t know what it is right now cannot be of any consequence. I know Jesus said it best:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34 ESV)

So, what can we gather from all of this? I don’t know, exactly.  I think my biggest point is that God is funny and sometimes he makes us eat our words a letter at a time not to be cruel but to carry out his plan in the course of his time, not ours. Our pride will always get the best of us in the end and irony is one of the hardest things to endure when it’s your life, not some clever plot device in a movie, the fiction we live.  And life cannot be contained within some pithy statement or some mis-quoted Bible verse because God’s word is so much bigger than that and so are the things he has planned.

Finally , I know that I am a work in progress.  And so are you. And it’s amazing to see things come together one piece at a time. Just watch.

A documentary on Hell House… On the Highway to Hell?

Netflix has done it to me again.  I stepped into another pile of bizarre Christian conversion tactics.  Maybe I just missed the bus on this one too, but this one is intriguing to me as well because I never would have thought of this and I consider myself a fairly creative person.

This particular documentary, Hell House, surrounds a Pentacostal church [the speaking in tongues type] twho creates their own little house of horrors for the Halloween season.  The idea is essentially to portray different and dangerous things that, if you’re unrepentant, you would be condemned to hell for.  Then they show an actual portrayal of Hell and what it may be like.  From the very beginning this started to sound dicey to me.  The idea was interesting but is presented in such a way that the people making their way through this Hell House is bombarded.

They start with the planning and the things they were attacking in the process of creating this monstrosity just had me taken aback.  Things I can readily recall involved a child being oppressed by a demon who said he had introduced this person to the occult early on by reading Goosebumps.  I’m sorry, I don’t know about anyone else, but I grew up reading those books and I’m not sure I could pull anything of the occult out of them when I read them at that age.  Then there was your typical Harry Potter bashing, stereotypical AIDS reference for the condemnation of a gay person, a woman bleeding out after a botched abortion, date rape at a rave, drug deals gone terribly wrong… I’m sure you get the idea by now.  They did, however, give a fairly accurate portrayal of Jesus’ response to this in my opinion.  They have people arriving in heaven and they are rejected and turned away by Jesus, who denies knowing them and turns them over to Hell.  The problem is the guy running Hell.  He’s a skinny black clad kid with grease paint that makes him look like a member of Kiss.

So, after traversing the entirety of this house, the groups are brought into a room where they are given the choice to stay where they are or they are given an open door to go through to have people pray for them and help to bring them to Jesus.  Not a bad move, but since it’s completely motivated by fear and there is a total absence of the love of God I guess I have a small problem with their methods.  There is actually a portion of the film where one of the staff members speaks to a very upset kid in a Fear Factory [\m/] t-shirt.  The kid rants that it’s all just stereotypcial Christian bullshit.  I would have to agree, though the staff member does say that, for instance, in the case of the gay kid scene where he dies from AIDS, he rejects Jesus despite a friend’s pleas.  It’s fair, but I would have to agree that the tactics utilized by this particular group of tongue-speaking, God fearing shock-jock thespians are a little overboard if not a lot.

And, besides, if you see their portrayal of Hell, besides a member of the Kiss army running the show, I don’t think it even comes close to what could be described as Hell.  Because this is something very visual, I can’t really give you a full picture so I suggest, if the topic interests you, to check out this piece of work yourself.

My true question I guess, is whether or not I’m just missing weird stuff like this or if it’s because I’m looking.  Are there that many weird people who call themselves children of God and followers of Christ that are that far out there?