Under the Microscope: The Fallacy Of Christian Niceness

LUDICROUSNESS OF FAITH

Humility is one of the main attributes of Christianity, one which gives the believer the ability to swallow their insignificance in this vast universe, while simultaneously drawing courage and purpose from the Spirit who spoke the universe into existence. Humility also changes the way we receive the Word of God: Learning of Jesus from the Bible either draws solid faith into the absence of hope, or its extreme claims become the items of religious caricature. Put differently, when people hear of Jesus, they either take Him seriously, or their shock in light of His story forces their logic to consume the lies of the world to make sense of what appears to be the ludicrousness of faith. 

 CHRISTIANITY AND NICENESS

One word in the English language which seems overused in describing the Christian character is “nice.” In this article, I would like to explicate the value of Christianity and its influence on the attitude of the believer, as well as why this should not be confused or mistaken with the correlation of faith. While niceness is a positive attribute, it does not add any measure of extraordinary depth to Christianity; rather, Christianity interjects authenticity into the character of niceness—insofar that our attitude isn’t a mirror of self-merit, but a reflection of the light of faith within. Let me explain.

TRANSCENDENT JOY

Receiving good news from a friend often brings momentary periods of joy through the conduit of empathy; however, this sensation lacks the effervescent joy we can find in Christ since earthly joy does not transcend reality. Furthermore, if we are to consider the notion of realities, we would be wise to also consider the way earthly joy inevitably foreshadows something rare and ecstatic: The high hope of a better world without pain or death or tears—Heaven. Sadly, the doubt of disbelief cloaks the mind and obscures this hope under the rigidity of logic. 

In this light, we can recognize how each of our ephemeral circumstances, whether or not they stimulate joy—are not transcendent of life’s circumstances, and therefore they do not inspire us to have hope beyond this moment. While happiness is as transient as joy is steadfast, earthly joy is like happiness in that it does not gain momentum from any eternality; only faith in Jesus commands the interior walls of belief to leap into the ‘beyond’ from limitation, revealing a more splendent joy as connected to our spirit. 

THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Our spirit, once faith has been embraced through grace, no longer witnesses the self without first gazing through the love and provision of Christ. While we still desire pleasure and comfort, this short-sighted viewpoint is overseen by the wisdom of trusting in Jesus. Being encompassed by faith reinstates through the spirit our deeper and more intrinsic desire for a purposeful eternity: Hope in Christ not only answers our search and desire for this, it also heals the broken pieces of who we are from the wake of the destruction of our sin through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

THE “SMILE” OF NICENESS THROUGH FAITH

In this way, the joy of a Christian stems from their faith, not through an act they’ve carried out or a mood they’re in. Because of this, the expression of joyfulness, which is sometimes mistaken as its own entity—is more or less described as “nice,” in the sense that joy is commonly expressed through a smile and cheeriness. I love to smile at people because I know a genuine smile communicates an effective and positive message, but it isn’t to say, “I’m smiling because I’m Christian!” This reasoning would be so spiritually forced as to be histrionic. If belief in Jesus means, “We smile because we’re Christian,” then faith is simply an act of the will while hope is a mood enhancer. But this isn’t true. Faith in Jesus is rooted in the soul, where desire for meaning and purpose can only be satisfied and fulfilled by the living essence of the transcendent (namely, the Holy Spirit). Why is that? Because we were created by a God who lives outside of the ephemeralness of time and space and sin, and it is to His home to which we are invited.

NOT AN ACT OF THE WILL 

Why is it important for people to understand why niceness needn’t be directly attributed to faith in Christ? The reason is this: If we say we’re smiling because we’re Christian, then we give glory to religion rather than the Lord. In other words, we’re saying, “I’m joyful because I am a Christian,” rather than, “I am joyful because I live in the hope of Jesus Christ.” When we give credit to the belief, we redirect the mind to the act of the will (performance-based religion) rather than the gift from God (grace, and an intimate, personal relationship). In doing this, we give the impression that in order to be Christian, one must smile and “act” nice. This is precisely the fallacy which must be eradicated from the spiritual conversation and effaced from our hearts if we are to understand—and be transformed by—the authenticity of the spirit of Christianity.

EFFECTING THE SPIRIT

To be clear, niceness is not the thought pattern by which a believer operates; rather, faith is the conduit through which we breathe, desire, and move. If it is not through faith, then it is through selfishness/narcissism. Faith is not chosen, it is received through God’s gift of grace. The attitude and character of the reborn spirit are not circumstantial or ephemeral, but influenced by an eternality far beyond that of any association with the body or mind. Simply put, the Holy Spirit does not require our body to work properly in order for its power to be efficient; the Holy Spirit works through the spirit, not the flesh.

Transcendent joy is our new mentality and perspective, our very lifestyle, in fact—not merely a circumstantial event caused by external factors. From this, what we can take away is that niceness is only a single, minute facet of the natural response of our spirit to transcendent joy, not nearly an act of false banality derived of faith in Jesus. 

AN AUTHENTIC SMILE OF HOPE

When others see me smile, they tell me that it is genuine and authentic, and that is true. I do not smile because I’m Christian—I smile because I have hope for a life beyond this world. Another hope of mine is that others will find my smile contagious and grow curious. I’m always open to strangers asking me if I’m Christian (which has happened several times), because I’m always hoping they’ll see that there’s more behind this smile than the excuse of niceness. There is a Truth and a promise that we’re called to receive, and in receiving it, the consequent joy is invigorating to the extent that a smile (niceness) is merely a small courtesy of expression; an external indication, more or less, of such a gift received in the soul deep inside.

JOYFUL INTENTION

While I have emphasized at length the significance of a smile, this is obviously not the only expression of joy (and happiness/niceness), but one of many. My intent here was to use the smile as an example which others commonly recognize. Furthermore, I have witnessed churchgoers whose smile/attitude disintegrates as soon as their face turns a few degrees from mine, which comes across as incredibly forced. This is not authenticity as its best, for it is the absence of grace at work. Niceness is not only unnecessary with regards to those who believe niceness is solely an attitude associated with Christianity; many times it also has the power to propitiate the fallacy that faith in Christ enforces a fake persona in order to pursue. Quite oppositely, receiving Jesus begins at a much deeper level of the spirit, where niceness is merely a constituent of a much larger whole: JOY. Christians do not have to smile, but we do because we find hope and joy in Jesus.

In the late, respected words of St. Francis of Assisi: 

Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words.”

My point and message is not that we become silent Christ-followers, but to point out how our actions speak loudly—especially to unbelievers when our actions contradict the words of our mouthes. Christian joy builds the desire to be more generous with our time; the openness even to being silent with those who are suffering and merely seeking the presence of someone who cares. These are expressions which we, as Christ-followers, have joyful reason to believe beyond the fallacy of coerced spiritual niceness, are the moments which matter most. 

LET’S CONNECT

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Impression

Sharing Jesus With the World

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NIV)

How purposefully do we live when we don’t know or understand the love, grace, joy, and hope of Jesus Christ? 

When I hear others explain that they think people need to mind their own business, respectively, and not talk about faith or Jesus, I hear the calmness in their voice—their composure in choosing to walk through life in question and agnosticism. I lived as an agnostic and as an unbeliever for most of my life, so I understand this philosophy all too well.

Even while an atheist, I claimed myself to be a “good man” because I did “good things”. But, good things according to who? How did I know whether or not anything I did was actually “good”? How would I connect what I thought of as good to the concept of living a purposeful life if I was the one defining ‘good’ and ‘purposeful’? When we define these terms for ourselves, we live half-heartedly. Why? How else can we live when we don’t know who we serve?

We all serve someone or something, whether we admit to it or not. We serve idols when we become addicted to drugs, sex/pornography, alcohol, or even technology (spending hours on end looking through social media or texting, even when we’re in the presence of close friends), among others. How do we serve idols? By prioritizing them ahead of ourselves and others. We put our health in jeopardy when we spend hours on our phone when we could be sleeping. We jeopardize our minds when we watch lifeless TV shows that exploit promiscuous sex, gratuitous violence, and profane language. We jeopardize relationships when we’re so busy giving our time to our idols that we lose time to spend with loved ones. Ultimately, what does all of this have to do with Jesus? —When we don’t have Jesus, we fill ourselves up to the brim with the world.

The world is as close to Heaven as Heaven gets for an unbeliever because for the unbeliever, there is no Heaven. It doesn’t exist. When that is the case, not only is there no need for Jesus, there’s a deeper need to fulfill all the areas of our lives left unfulfilled and unattended to without faith in a Lord who provides for all of our needs. People under the illusion that a life of worldly pleasures is a fulfilled life have never met pure joy face-to-face. Joy in Christ feels radiant; permanent as it extends beyond mood or situation. Joy is a mentality and it is as ubiquitous as oxygen. Faithlessness gives us something to choke on like second-hand smoke: Not knowing the answers to anything we want to understand but refuse to question will only lead us to suffocate on the lies and manipulations of a world huffing and puffing the pollution of idols and addictions until these lies are met with the unconditional love found in faith in Jesus Christ. When we find unconditional love, there is no need to turn back. Faith in Jesus Christ paves the road to relationship, community, fulfillment, joy, hope, and teamwork; all the opposite characteristics of a life of idolatry, addiction, and the trap of indulgence: Isolation, shame, loneliness, solidarity, a lack of joy, and the assumption that the hope of today is found in the transience of self-pleasure.

Truly, how would others know about Jesus if His name was never mentioned? How viable is the argument for keeping silent the name of Jesus around those who don’t believe out of “respect for their choices”? I genuinely believe the people who attempt to stay away from Jesus’s name have had traumatic experiences with people who claim to be Christian but who never declared Jesus as Lord in their heart. For these people, Christianity carries a connotative, nearly indelible sting—regardless of whether or not they are okay with others believing in Christ as Lord. For those in this category who grew up with adults claiming the faith without any visible, noticeable life changes, Christianity has become the bruised image of something meant to be miraculous, but ultimately appearing to be damaged, ambiguous, and questionably detrimental. Christianity without joy and hope is not Christianity.

Claiming Christ as Lord and then having a temper tantrum over menial things proves a lack of control, and a lack of surrender to God. When we authentically surrender ourselves to Jesus, we are able to release the weight of our worries and stresses from our shoulders because we believe it is not us who has control over the solutions to our problems, but Jesus. Do you question whether or not your mom or dad—who fed you every day during childhood—had your best in mind? Like this, we don’t question God’s capabilities when we acknowledge His power in creating the universe and our planets, especially Earth, since it is the one planet capable of sustaining intelligent life. Because of this, our faith trains us to understand that if we can trust in God, we won’t need to be afraid of not having control over everything. This fearless response enables us to release our worries to Him, and in turn, this trust matures us spiritually as we stop depending on ourselves and start living in the hope of a caring, loving, trustworthy God named Jesus.

For those who did not experience any peer/parent/role model with an authentic life-altering change through faith, this may damage the picture of what faith looks like, but it does not change what Jesus is actually capable of doing. Remember, Jesus works in a softened, contrite heart, desiring His invitation to be loved and remade. Jesus cannot work in a hardened heart because we are given free will. A hardened heart says “No, I don’t need you, Jesus—You’re not my Lord,” and Jesus will not force us. He sends disciples (Matthew 28:19) to spread the word of His testimony, but He never forces us to believe.

From this, what we can take is that when no one speaks about Jesus, there is so little chance to find hope and joy in His perfect love for us. Additionally, there is hardly a means of changing our perspective that worldly, transient pleasures are life’s only purpose. And what a sad, disappointing culmination to life that would be with the atrocities that occur every day; like terrorism, sex trafficking, and homelessness. How do we look at life with these realities and think that self-indulgence is the purpose? 

Readers, I want to urge you to consider what these words mean for you and for others you know. Most of you who read this may not be unbelievers, but I’m sure you know several people who are. Let this be a reminder of the power of Jesus’s name, and that keeping quiet about Him is not “respecting others’ privacy”; being quiet is taking away others’ chance to know that there is a God who lives, and He came in the flesh to bless us with eternal life through Jesus, and Jesus wants us to experience life to the full (John 10:10). If we keep quiet, how can we make disciples of nations? How can we change others’ lives if we only point to ourselves, or to idols? How can we be a role model when our best impression is rooted in narcissism? How can we live purposefully when we only serve the world, and the world is only looking in the mirror and not to the hope of tomorrow? 

If you like what you’ve read here, please follow my blog and pass word along. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog 2017, Twitter at LPBlog2017, Instagram at LPBlog2017, Pinterest at Lance Price Blog 2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone you think would benefit, and feel free to write in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!! May God bless you all!!

 

Transformed From Within: How We Are Meant To Live

Life is precious. Every breath is significant as any one of those breaths could be our last. That is an exhilarating truth; both an invitation to truly live, and a heeding not to do anything less.

Would you miss the sound of wind rustling through the trees if it stopped? What about the cool, slow ripples through the water of a pond? Feeling the tender, fragile petals of a beautiful flower on the pores of your skin? These preponderances of life are the delicate and ubiquitous complements to existence, and reminders that we are still alive; yet so few of us pause in appreciation of these details, as if they have little or no value.

These examples aren’t all there is of course, God also provided human relationships—the closest relational bond we can have to that of experiencing relationship with God Himself (because we are made in His image).

There are people in this world who are gifted (through time and practice, intention, and humility/surrender of the self to God) at making the best of every situation; pleasant or unpleasant; ideal or less preferred. Oppositely, there are others who dwell in the negative aspects of the same situations, adhering to hedonistic downtime as a means of an escape from the Hell that is life at times of adversity.

For the unbeliever, life on Earth is Heaven since this is as close to an idyllic life as one gets when they deny the existence of Heaven—the promised eternal home for believers of Christ who live changed lives; loving on those who hate them, forgiving those who hurt them, putting God before themselves, and living selflessly in the name of Jesus—denying the world its offer of transient hedonism in exchange for our eternal soul. Under the closed eyelids of the unbeliever, Jesus and the Bible are the most conflicting, confusing message of love, miracle, testimony, and intimacy in the history of humankind.

Furthermore, for many the unbeliever, to believe in Jesus as Lord and to follow Him as such is to relinquish the freedom to live autonomously, and, therefore, to lose the ability to enjoy life. The implementation following this deliberation of disbelief is distorted in two ways that I want to mention. The first, as Timothy Keller intuitively writes in his book, The Reason For God:

This oversimplifies, however. Freedom cannot be defined in strictly negative terms, as the absence of confinement and constraint. In fact, in many cases, confinement and constraint is actually a means to liberation.
If you have a musical aptitude, you may give yourself to practice, practice, practice the piano for years. This is a restriction, a limit on your freedom. There are many other things you won’t be able to do with the time you invest in practicing. If you have the talent, however, the discipline and imitation will unleash your ability that would otherwise go untapped. What have you done? You’ve deliberately lost your freedom to engage in some things in order to release yourself to a richer kind of freedom to accomplish other things
.”

We may choose to allocate our time practicing disbelief, but the freedom that we lose in that is the assurance of eternity; sacrificing the peace in knowing every moment is purposefully spent preparing for the promise of Heaven. Without deliberation aimed in the direction of an eternity permeated with unconditional love and infinite peace and joy, one’s life culminates in deprecation; disappointed that all our Earthly endeavors lead to the dilapidation of time, the ultimate degradation of egocentrism in a world indulging itself with fanatics commercializing humanity’s greatest weaknesses for the admission of our humility, and the downfall of pride in a world seeking purpose while castigating the desire for meaning in life beyond emotionless copulation, soulless entertainment, and the disparaging lies of media and politics.

Yes, believers choose to give up their freedom—in exchange for not living a life full of constant disappointments and without reassurances for any kind of turnaround or comeback. When we believe the comeback to this life is the promise of an eternal home where there is no pain, death, suffering, wickedness, sin, tears, or disappointments—there isn’t much to consider or think about—it’s pretty black and white: Why choose a life of disbelief when following Jesus not only changes our eternal home, but also encourages us to live more fully here and now? Belief in Jesus is entirely incomplete if one believes that faith in Jesus only means “You get eternity in Heaven” without rebirthing their soul in this very moment. Believing in an eternity in Heaven is spiritually lustful when we take the gold without thanking the Miner; living our lives fully believing we are going to Heaven should change more than just where we believe we’ll go when we die: It relieves us of the disappointment of believing everything that happens between now and then is purposelessness in that everything we experience while on Earth is only for here and now. The eternal promise of the Bible is the exact opposite: Everything we do here and now matters in that it leads us directly to where we go next. In other words, if every word we speak, every action we take and decision we make leads us towards Heaven, would we not want those words, actions, and choices to be the very best in the name of the King who provided their route? If not, can we authentically admit that we have faith in what’s to come, or just lust in the idea of receiving what we do not deserve? This question leads me to the second distortion of implementing disbelief: We sometimes think that believing we’ll go to Heaven is the end of the story of belief; but entering Heaven isn’t even the beginning. 

Make no mistake, Heaven is not anything we earned, nor anything we deserve, rather—it is what we are given freely through the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus Christ sacrificing His life for ours on the cross. Heaven isn’t about what we do on Earth, it’s about what Jesus did on the cross. Let me repeat that for emphasis: Going to Heaven has literally nothing to do with anything we could ever do on Earth (as if to prove our worth to God), it has everything to do with Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. This isn’t about shaming us for His death—He chose to die for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to pay the eternal price for ourselves. That is the relief and hope of believing in Christ; not that we get a free life living in sin and then expect Heaven—NO—the hope of Christ is that as a byproduct of having faith in Jesus as Lord, we have hope in what’s to come because of what Jesus did in our place. This isn’t some kind of eternal freebie, it’s a life-changing grace and alteration of our soul substance. Before we have Christ, we are lost in our sin; selfishness, greed, lust, gluttony, pride, etc. When we accept Christ, we become aware of our sin (like Adam and Eve after they ate fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and became aware of their nakedness with shame (Genesis 3:7).), we realize that sin is wrong, we pause in reflection of how we can better ourselves by surrendering to the will of our loving God—who, by the way, literally clothed Adam and Eve Himself right after they had sinned (Genesis 3:21). What kind of God rebukes the sin but loves the sinner all the same? This one does; the God of the Bible.

Do we live our lives in thankfulness that a God like this loves us so much that He came and died for us in the flesh so that we wouldn’t have to pay for desiring lust, gluttony, idols, obsessions, blasphemy, stealing, and killing (among the others)? Not that we live perfect lives, no, but do we live transformed lives? Different than before? Refined by gratefulness, thanksgiving, submissiveness to God, surrender of our will and our desires? That is Christianity; that is rebirth.

When we awake one more time, are we aware of how much godly beauty is in this world, or do we take it for granted? Are we aware that every breath is given to us? When we aren’t suffocating for air, that is a blessing. That is a gift from God. Every time. Do we spend our lives thanking Him for these gifts, or do we spend time taking them for granted and splurging ourselves? This kind of lifestyle is like (in the most rudimentary, basic sense) a parent, after carefully and lovingly baking a batch of delicious, savory chocolate chip cookies, and watching their child stuff the cookies in their mouth and leave without so much as a smile or “thank you”. The parent still loves their child, and I imagine the parent would still want to make more cookies for their child just because they want to see their child take pleasure from what they know their child enjoys, but—where does that leave the state of the heart of the child? Will they go into life expecting everyone to treat them with such consideration and love without thanking them for their generosity and selflessness? If they don’t, and they die one day in that state of their soul, should they be judged as “normal” (“like everyone else”), or as selfish and hedonistic? Does that kind of soul know God? Are they transformed and living a life in thanks for the gifts they are given, in effect leading others towards the same God of love?

How would the parent feel, ultimately, every time they make cookies and the child just walks away after taking everything? Hurt, maybe? How do we expect God to feel when we ignore Him, reject Him, and live carelessly when we get what we want? And yet, a life of closed-minded disbelief does not lead us to a selfless life of purpose, but to a life of meaningless gain and purposeless suffering. Even those who give in the “name of love” do so without giving credit to anyone but themselves; even their “selflessness” is rooted in narcissism. Without giving credit to God, how do we thank the Giver of life?

I urge you to consider these thoughts and, if you’re truly living a selfless life in the name of Jesus, I commend you and urge you to continue shining your light towards Jesus so others will continue to notice that you’re different from anyone else they know for a specific reason. You aren’t the way you are “just because”. The love we give comes from Jesus, or it is meaninglessly selfish. Which kind of love do we want to share; selfish or selfless? How do you define what is selfish and what is selfless? Perhaps this will change your definition of what living in faith means when compared to “living in peace but without God”.

My hope and prayer is that this article opens your eyes to the way God loves us all, and how the way we live our lives impacts not only God’s reception of our thankfulness, but others’ witnessing of His love through our lifestyle and decision-making. The way we treat others matters for this exact reason, and the way we respond to this truth ultimately defines our view of faith, the authentic transformation that comes with that faith (or lack thereof), and finally, the way we lead ourselves to our eternal future— in hope or in fear/ignorance. Where are you today? I pray you find Jesus today, and that you come to accept His grace, mercy, love, and promise of hope in His resurrection from the dead. He did not stay dead—He came back to life, and that is why we all must live a life of worship, thanksgiving and praise; implementing a life of gratitude in the name above all names: JESUS.

Oversight

God Is In Control

All of my hope, all of my faith, all of my trust, and all of my purpose is in Christ, and Christ alone. Where is yours?

When I look at the world today, I have pity—but not fear. I am constantly reminded of the reasons why I know we are called to be the light in the darkness. Here is what I remember—this is what keeps me inspired. May the following words inspire you and nudge you towards the hope of what is to come when you place everything you are in Christ.

There is no status or title in heaven:

“The last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16).

On Earth, we will have trouble (pain, suffering, affliction, death):

“But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Our lives are like a mist (James 4:14). Constantly, I am noticing how fast time flies for me each day, as if life has become a race to the finish. But I am unafraid, because:

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

“What if I can’t accomplish my personal life goals?” “What if I never get married?”  “What happens if the world ends before I get what I want?” :

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:17)

What is most important to you right now? I spent too many years of my life living selfishly, lustfully, ignorantly, naively, and purposelessly. Life is too short for this kind of lifestyle. There is so much room for love; what’s better, there is so much room for Jesus—if you look at the news and the country right now, Jesus fits right in. He didn’t come to Earth when all was calm and happy. Jesus understands life when everything seems upside down; that’s how He spent the last 12 hours of his Earthly life. But that didn’t end His story, and our story doesn’t end with fear.

In the end, what doesn’t matter is who is in charge on Earth. Ultimately, God is charge, even if we can’t experience His full glory yet. And it matters not what people say; God will have the final say. It doesn’t matter how we die; what matters is how we live. It doesn’t matter if people reject us; God constantly invites us back to our relationship with Him. He loves us at full capacity, 24/7, and He never tires of loving us more than we can take.

Be lifted high today, there is nothing to be afraid of. No matter how life looks on the outside, everything is under control behind the scenes. Keep praying, keep reaching out and loving people no matter what the world is doing or saying. Keep forgiving those who hurt you and keep loving those who despise you for finding joy in the love of Jesus. Keep shining your hope and faith into the world, and keep moving forward. Keep going, keep going, KEEP GOING! There no God but one, no King but one in charge. Let this truth lift your spirits and calm your heart. Jesus is alive, and He is going to come back. Until that time, be ready. Love Him with every fiber of your being, and show your love for God to others by giving your time to those in need; listening and not sabotaging; loving and not judging; helping and not harming; praying and not complaining. People need godly love, and when we love others with a godly love, they can tell the difference.

Will you be that difference in the world today? Jesus is calling us to make way for His return. Open your hearts, ears, and mouths, praising God with joyfulness. There is nothing to fear! This is a new day, and God is in control. Everything is going to be alright! In Jesus name!

Overworked

Soaring with Him Ministries

Faith, Fairy Tales, & Our Ultimate Reality

Just as the broken heart takes time to heal, the lost soul takes time to acknowledge the light; understanding that the light even existed in order to believe it was ever in darkness.

When we live a certain way for long enough, sometimes we tend to believe our perspective encompasses all others’ reality. Put differently, some people tend to believe their reality is the one everyone sees and lives inside of. Because of this, we argue over perspectives because we believe ours so earnestly. 

One of the perspectives we have are made up of the concept of spirituality and the soul. An atheist’s perspective is that there is no God, no soul, no Heaven or Hell; no such thing as sin and, for that matter—no need for redemption. Since these factors don’t add up, they don’t make a lot of sense to the unbeliever, whose disbelief stunts open-mindedness and leads to a nihilistic viewpoint, rendering everything as pointless and ultimately culminating in death. With nothing further to look forward to or anything to put their hope in, they live passionless lives and argue over the idea of a loving God because, to the unbeliever, death and meaninglessness make more sense for human life without a soul. This is their reality.

One of the many arguments of the atheist, following the derivations of disbelief, is that the perspective of those who have faith have become believers by the process of convincing themselves of an unnatural reality— that basically, after we tell ourselves enough times that we believe in Jesus, that eventually we just feel convinced by our own words; like a spiritual mantra to rev up our spirit. Many believe that once you repeat something (whether an action or a phrase), it becomes habitual the way anything does through repetition; like a child learning to speak by consistently repeating syllables until words are correctly articulated. Similar to speech and children, adults also develop habits. In this case, our spiritual “articulations” might be considered our strength of faith—since this particular articulation requires faith in order to believe it even exists. The question then becomes: How is teaching someone to have faith different from teaching someone how to put on clothes, chew and swallow; rinse, dry, and repeat? Let’s take a step back to view the bigger picture, and discover the difference together.

Outwardly, learning to speak or to wash dishes can be as mechanical as it is physical; repetition teaches the body, and the movement eventually gains momentum, the rhythmic motion guiding the continuity more than the thinking brain. Eventually, the new reality for the young child is that their speech has become as natural as it is for adults. Of course, by that time, this “new” reality for the children as been the reality for adults for many years. This “advanced” ability of adults to speak has become their reality. 

Unlike the mechanical repetition of an activity like learning to speak, spirituality is not developed by the any repetitive motion of our arms or hands (apart from expressing worship and praise), but with the desire of our heart and soul. How can we train what we cannot touch or see? What kind of push is needed to start the rhythm for the momentum of spirituality? 

The push of spirituality is the desire for which reason alone cannot explain nor be understood by empiricism or pragmatism; an intense desire which is grasped by the soul’s indisputable need for and search of purpose. The soul is an eternality transcending beyond the physical threshold of pain and suffering, of life and death, and when we recognize and acknowledge this reality of the soul for its truth, we will discover that the desire of the soul is the foundation of our purpose, laid in place by the love of Christ before we were even born. To break this down, the push we yearn for—we might call it the “articulation of faith”—can only be found by the heart after it is willing to recognize how worldly remedies (like Band-Aids on a hemorrhage; sex, drugs, alcohol, food, obsessions, addictions— all in the face of circumstantial pain in life) only mitigate our pain without extirpating the source of trauma (the cause of initial pain) with forgiveness, surrender, and restoration. Basically, when we realize what we’ve already tried doesn’t work, we will dig deeper for answers; the deeper we dig, the closer to the truth of the soul we get.

From our soul spawns desire, longings beyond mere food and shelter. We long for something more meaningful and transcendent of our daily rituals. These desires come to us in the earliest shell of childhood where our most precocious dreams of conquering the world and living happily ever after are developed. As adults, we refer to this world of “happily-ever-after” as a fairy tale, and we tend to label a child as naive or innocent for believing in such a la-la land. Why? Fairy tales are typically based in a reality without pain, suffering, malady, or death, are they not? They bring to life for the child what is in their mind, but also, I believe, what is in their soul.

For the boy, fairy tales are his means of transforming into a knight in shining armor, saving the damsel in distress, conquering the world, and changing life forever. For the girl, the story may be finding prince charming, being swept off her feet, and living of life of bliss and harmony. Are these “fictitious” realities not based from the desires of a child’s heart and soul? They truly desire these tales of fantasy. So what is this story, this place, of fairy tales in a child’s mind?

Let’s take a small step back to understand. Of the many fantasies of a child’s mind, relationship is rudimentary but prominent. For the child, the image of relationship isn’t imbued with sexuality or romance, not until years later. However, what becomes of a child’s imagination with regard to relationship later on will vary depending on the direction of those thoughts as influenced from outside sources along the way. Marriage and romance is, and always has been intended to remind us of our intimacy with God; the marriage of Jesus and the church. For the child-becoming adolescent in a non-Christian home where belief in Jesus isn’t talked about, read about, or encouraged—the marriage relationship becomes a fantasy of selfish infatuation; the seed to the desire for pornography, promiscuous sex, and other distortions are planted with or without awareness of such a convolution of true intimacy.

However, when these tales are completed with the pursuit of Christ in our hearts, this relationship is molded not only around our relationship with Christ, but to the place of bliss and harmony described in child-like fairy tales manifests as a new reality, inspired by Jesus Himself as an actual, physical place called Heaven in the Bible (Rev. 21:4, John 14:2, 1 Corin. 2:9, Rev. 22:1-5, Luke 12:33-34, Rev. 21:22-27, Rev. 21: 1-5, and more—). When we leave Jesus out of our reality, our fairy tales of “love and romance” eventually drown in the ocean of lust and infatuation” (reference my article: “Lust: The Darkest Lie About Love“); but when we desire Jesus, our desire for relationship is not founded in lust, but in unconditionally loving another person through our love for Jesus. Reiterated, these fairy tales which start out with the child-like perspective of what romantic relationships represent, eventually mature and parallel our desire for the Lord, complemented by (but not replacing) marriage to a significant other (For more on the desires of the heart, please find two great reads in John Eldredge’s Wild At Heart, as well and John and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating).

If we have faith in Heaven, and if we can recognize our desires are rooted in Heaven, then what comes next is that our soul originates in Heaven. Would it not follow-suit that these “child-like” fairy tales stem directly from the desire for this place where we were created?

See, the promises of Jesus Christ culminate in a world without fear, pain, suffering, shame, death, or tears. Does this not sound like that of a fairy tale? Furthermore, Jesus Himself told us that we must be like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 18:3). For me, this includes the ability of a child to see past the darknesses of this world and to hope for something greater. Is this not what Christ-followers believe in when they accept Jesus as Lord and experience the joy of desiring Heaven on Earth? Does that mean we believe in a fairy tale (fictitious realties), or a tangible, Heavenly reality barely comprehensible to that of the human mind? 

To connect the dots, the difference between teaching the practice of learning to speak (or even brushing their teeth, cleaning the dishes, etc.), and the significance of having faith in God obviously extends beyond the mechanics of physicality and breaches into the metaphysical nature of spirituality; more specifically, the nature of desiring what we cannot touch, but what we can sense, desire, and come to understand through time, experience, and belief. Put more simply, the difference lies in the desires of the soul. In one example the soul is held captive in the stubbornness of illogical disbelief (raised without the invitation to know Christ), and in the other it is extended ever so slowly from skepticism until entirely entrenched in the flood of peace and the ever-transforming nature of faith. 

Let’s be open with each other. Do we want to believe in a reality that is inching closer on the eve of Jesus’s Second Coming—inspiring us to experience a hope this world is incapable of offering? I do. My Christ-following friends do. But I also know many, many people who view the story of Jesus and scoff as if considering the idea of the tooth fairy. I understand that scoff very well. When I disbelieved, I scoffed at everything spiritual. I also scoffed at my deprecation in not having a passion for life; in not feeling or sensing a purpose in my life. I didn’t even want to live. Without any passion, life was meaningless—again, like nihilism. For me, passion is commensurate with faith, because without faith, our endeavors—passions, desires, goals—are rooted in narcissism, where purpose dies and selfishness suffocates the meaning of friendship, community, intimacy, and purpose. In order to live like this, we would have to accept the stubbornness of adulthood while forgetting the open-mindedness of maturity. In this way, I would say children are in fact more mature than adults in that they are able to place hope where others search for a reason to doubt; children find light where others refuse to seek what lies beyond the darkness—into the reality of Jesus’s love for us. 

Where are you today? Do you believe faith in Jesus and life in Heaven is more of a fairy tale than a reality that is possible when declaring Jesus as Lord in your heart? If you don’t believe that this is a possible reality, what is holding you back from wanting to believe in such an inspiring place, and the possibility of living there forever? How does the picture of living in Heaven impact the way you view pain, life, and death on Earth? How does knowing that Jesus died and rose for you so you could live a changed, shameless life impact the way you view His commands to love God, others, and ourselves through our words and actions? How do you think your purpose is affected by these commands? How does all of this play back to your soul and the way you feel towards your life?

My hope is that this article helps you to see that you must desire faith to find purpose in Jesus, and that repetition doesn’t teach faith as it does the method of practices such as washing dishes, brushing our teeth, or learning to speak. Faith requires us to desire the pursuit of our God-given purpose, and our pursuit requires us to believe in a soul, because without our soul, our “purposes” are rooted in narcissism. In realizing this, we can choose to change our ways and live selflessly in the name of Jesus, impacting others’ lives for the best in Jesus’s name; or continue to live the same lives, allowing others to see us the same way they see the rest of the world. So, do you want to make difference, or just fit in? All of these choices draw us back to whether or not we believe in our soul purpose. I hope you join me in passionately pursuing Jesus, aiming to change the world with His love running through our veins, emanating through our thoughts, words, actions, desires, and adventures. There is so much to be done.

Where does your faith look like today? 

If you like what you’ve read here, and you would like to read more, please follow my blog and pass word along. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please share this with anyone, and feel free to write in the comments below–I would love to hear from you! May God bless you!!

Invitation

Niceness and Vices: What Lies Underneath

When genuine Christ-followers (those who live authentically different lives after declaring Christ as Lord) meet me, they recognize my faith and smile at my joy. When unbelievers meet me (atheists/agnostics, and those only attaching a religious title to their unchanged lives and hearts), they’re taken aback by my joy, curious about what lies underneath. I’ve been told that I seem nice, and I can sense others want to dig deeper to know why I am the way I am. One man even asked me, “So do you have any vices?” After years of meeting a large diversity of people of various religious beliefs and faith-based backgrounds, I’ve come to understand these people looking for vices are either trying to 1.) Prove that I have a weakness underneath all the smiling, and 2.) Compare levels of shame, proving how much better or worse they are compared to me. Since I used to be an unbeliever, I empathize with their position. But since I am now a believer in Jesus Christ, I can’t leave this unaddressed. There is a deep misunderstanding about this concept of “niceness and vices”. I want strip away the misconceptions and divulge the main reality.

When everything is said and done, it all comes down to shame.

Shame lives as subtly as it does explicitly. You can find it in addicts just as you can find it in the countenance of a single mother or father whose spouse has possibly given themselves over to drugs, or other selfish pursuits (whether it be alcohol, gambling, or even an affair). Some single parents carry the shock of defeat in their eyes, ashamed for having found themselves in such a precarious position and perplexed that such a storm has seemingly destroyed the same life that seemed so idyllic. This shame is relatable, but it is but one of many manipulations of reality dropped on us like bombs from the enemy.

If shame has the power to roll us into our grave, why do we smear it all over our hearts? Sometimes we live masochistically, thinking the feeling of shame is the appropriate punishment for a wrong we’ve committed. Too often we live in a reality where either everything is our fault, or one major thing is—which, in turn, makes everything else seem to point back to us (at some point or another), proving us punish-worthy. Shame in this example seems justifiable—BUT—justifiable according to who? Us? Do we ever slow down enough to catch ourselves trying to play God? More importantly, what kind of God do we believe we’re playing?

I’ll return to this. But first: “Do you have any vices?”

Yes, of course I have vices. We all do. I’ve been writing about my past in placing women ahead of God, lusting after them following the trauma of my parents’ divorce when I was 11. I’m not proud of this, but this ugly truth doesn’t define my life. That isn’t me dismissing my sin; that is surrendering my past to the birth of a new lifestyle in Christ. If anything, this blemish in my history is more evidence of God’s love— insofar that He has been helping me to turn my life around by changing my perspectives, views, and thoughts towards women in ways that I hadn’t even tried to when I was an unbeliever. When others try to compare their shame, I feel sympathy for them: “Wouldn’t you rather believe in a God of love than of a God of impending doom?” are my thoughts. Others who want to find the weak spot, where I give in and admit that I have a weakness—honestly, you don’t have to dig far; I became Christian because I was so flawed that I was desperate for a Lord who could save me from myself. Even though I may be considered nice, that doesn’t mean I’m hiding; it means I don’t have a reason to hang my head in self-deprecation. Jesus was waiting for me when I opened the door of my reclusive house of shame and secrets. When I invited Him in, everything changed.

Along with God’s direct intervention are His gifts to me: Christian friends who support me, who care about me and who lift me up in prayer, listening to me and not judging me. That is the body of Christ I’m talking about—the church itself.

Until I finally accepted Christ, the shame I felt was dark, heavy, and without a remedy–the shame itself acted like a teeter-totter: I would feel the shame without having the capacity to justify it anymore than the capacity to fully condemn it. I had no Biblical framework. Basically, it was my view versus the view of the world. When you argue with the world, you get several billion voices, and the numbing effect of such a castigating cacophony would eventually run anyone numb and stale inside. For me, turning to lust was opening the bottle of liquor for the alcoholic.

Shame, in this case at the time, didn’t make as much sense because, along with society’s castigations to consider, I was judging myself with a worldly morality (I’ll touch more on this later in this post). Soon after accepting Jesus as Lord, the shame finally began making more sense from the perspective of moral obligation, wherein the shame flooded through me from a deeper spiritual place (my belief in hurting my relationship with God), tearing me apart. I came to understand, from God’s point of view, the unbearable disconnect of lust (God, who made woman in His image too, shared with me His love for women, helping me see how detrimental lust really is), and the reason why lust is a sin and not just a frowned upon blemish (or dismissed as a commonplace excuse for dirty jokes) in the eyes of society.

As a believer of Christ, I do not believe shame is the intended punishment for my life or anyone’s life—that is a lie of the enemy. The difference between that lie and the truth of God is found in the argument of the source of morality. The unbelieving world tries to define morality for itself, defining good and bad as it sees fit, each person judging another for having a different point view, completely ignoring the source of morality–God–therefore misunderstanding its His authority which draws the line between good and bad, right and wrong—for us. To see morality from this angle, shame is a lie man takes from the enemy’s hands and feeds himself—this isn’t of God. A contrite heart, ready to apologize and surrender the specific area of selfishness which we are struggling with (to God)—that is of God. That is what we feel when we humble ourselves enough to admit that we’ve disconnected ourselves from God. A contrite heart and shame are not compatible; one is of the world, the other is our way back to God.

What kind of God is this?

Above, I brought up the question of what kind of God we try to play when we repudiate ourselves with shame. To answer our question about God, let’s consider something. What did God do when He found us choosing the world over Him? He came in the flesh through Christ and died for us—a death that was our punishment for sin—so that we wouldn’t have to be punished; if we surrender our lives to Christ and receive the love of His sacrifice in our hearts. Does that sound like a God who wants us to feel shame, or a God who wants us to feel loved?

See, for me, the punishment for my lustful past isn’t shame—it’s what Jesus did on the cross. For others’ vices, whether it be anger, gluttony, drugs, etc.–the punishment is the same thing. How does this make you feel, knowing someone else took your place, taking your punishment away from you so you could live a better life? Personally, this feeds me hope. My future looks and feels hopeful in Jesus because I have been forgiven, and because I’m not standing in the middle of my sin, waiting to do it again. I’m fighting my battles with the support of community as encouraged in the Bible, and I’ve formed healthier habits to replace old habitual patterns; such as reading more frequently, talking with friends about Jesus and the things which make me passionate, sharing Jesus’s love with them by giving them encouragement and praying for them; listening to worship music, not watching sexualized TV shows; practicing the art of talking from a place of love to each person I interact with, and being productive with healthy chores around my apartment when I’m alone—all things that lead me to a healthy relationship between myself and Christ, and also a newfound respect for women which I didn’t have earlier in my life. Do I battle shame still? Of course! But it doesn’t define me, and it isn’t the basis for what drives me in life. God inspires me, Jesus gives me hope and love, and these gifts have been changing my life in a visible, noticeable way to others around me.

I’m “nice” because not only do I believe in treating others the way I want to be treated, but I believe even more so in Jesus’s command to love others as God first loves us. I choose to be nice because I want others to know Jesus through their interactions with me. I am nice because I want others to know there’s someone (one of many) in this world taking their faith seriously—intending to be a light leading to Christ in a world that can be so corrupted and cruel.

Now, why have I been open and vulnerable about stating my vices and the battles I fight alongside trusted Christian friends? I know my blog articles can be seen by the world, so why would I be so personal? I’ve explained why before, and I’ll explain it again: Truly, my life isn’t my own. My life is God’s, and I want others to read my articles because my only intention in writing is to bring others to Jesus through the truth of my story. I want you to know, no matter what past you have, Jesus’s love for you is infinitely greater than your darkest sin. I believe this for my sins as well. My joy and hope come from believing in this truth, which feeds me peace and freedom from not only shame, but also from living in banality and monotony. Sharing my story is but a means of hopefully opening a way for you to see that you are not alone, and that God is good.

From another point of view of mine, every moment of my life leads me to the reason I exist (and the reason why everyone exists, if we would accept it as truth): Life with Jesus in Heaven. Beyond sharing my story and seeing others recognize how they, too, are loved by God through Jesus Christ through my words and actions, nothing else matters as much to me. I extend myself to others in hopes that they will feel the warm love of God through the inspiration of Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf. This isn’t about being nice, this is about sharing my hope with others; the very hope which inspires me to live my life and share my story with people I’ve never even met, all in the hopes of encouraging them to live their life differently—and in so doing—allow God to transform them from the inside, consequently effecting others’ lives in the process. What could be better than helping others learning to see what I see and feel what I feel in order to live a more fulfilling life in Christ?

On yet another note, I’m single. This is only relevant in regards to the truth that whether or not I get married before I die doesn’t matter to me as much as impassioning others with the zeal to know Jesus. It would be nice, marriage, but what is more important is bringing people to Jesus? I have life goals—yes, of course—but in the center of my personal goals is being close to God through Jesus. If that isn’t there, nothing else falls into place, nor does anything make any sense. There’s no explanation for our lives, our challenges, our successes or failures beyond the love of Christ. Jesus works through our best moments just as he does our worst defeats. I write this paragraph for those of you who want marriage as deeply as the way I have. Marriage has been my most significant dream, but I’ve been willing to surrender that—especially since it became something of an idol for me—to the love of God, in faith that if His will is for me to marry, He will provide the right woman, and if His will is for me to remain single, I accept the glorious life of praising His name. That choice is a win-win. I want to extend this humility to you, readers, who dream of marriage, to let go of clinging to this world and remember Jesus created marriage to remind us of Him; not to replace Him.

I cannot impact people’s lives by being nice “just because”. That is an empty, uninspiring basis for acting in any way. Is it nice to have someone do something just because—okay, sure. But how much more powerful is it for someone to actually believe in Jesus so strongly that when they ask, pleasantly surprised to a selfless gesture of yours, “Why did you do that?”, you can answer, “Because Jesus loves you, and He wanted you to know.” Personally, that would catch me off guard, but ultimately the encounter would humble me because that’s exactly my perspective. I don’t do what I do “just because” anymore—that no longer holds any weight for me. It’s not enough. If Jesus is not at the center of the reasons why I do anything I do, then it would make just as much sense if next time I didn’t do anything nice, helpful, thoughtful, or selfless. “Just because” simply doesn’t explain niceness because someone could just as ruthlessly kill “just because”. We cannot immediately associate ‘just because’ with some neutral sense of good if with the same words we can associate unspeakable evil and cruelty.

All that matters to me is that others know the way I speak and act is grounded in my faith. I don’t have another reason to be who I am beyond Jesus; there’s just no reason to be this way without Him. Basically, I have just as much reason to be a thoughtless punk as I do a thoughtful Samaritan if I don’t declare Christ as Lord in my heart. There is honestly no viable argument for secular morality because morality cannot be based on an emotional whim and retain a firm foundation. Innate morality (a secularist view of our worldly, situational, and emotional sense of what is good or bad, right or wrong), as it is many times referred, is ungrounded on anything infallible. Moral obligation however, is bound by God, and indelibly written in the Bible. That is also why being nice “just because” is a dangerous game of contradiction. For the rest of the world, it’s “I guess I just got lucky, catching you at a good time,” whereas the Christ-follower has something deeper and more promising than the fluctuating emotions on a good day. Even the sacrificial “I’ll do this because I know it’s the right thing to do” undermines itself on the same level as ‘just because’ since there isn’t a baseline reason beyond sentiment for such an act; selfless or not.

In the Christian mind, we have everything to look forward to; everything we do, think, speak, and act upon takes us one step closer to being in the presence of our Lord for eternity. There is no greater hope than this to inspire us to transcend mere niceness and extend mercy, compassion, forgiveness, love, and selflessness. This is the basis for unconditional love; that forgiveness and love wouldn’t be searched for by us, but given to others from us as an overflow from Christ. We are loved and forgiven by Christ’s through the shedding of His blood on the cross. In accepting this life-changing sacrifice from Jesus, we love others, knowing this promises us eternal life beyond Earth. Everything on Earth pales in comparison; including Earthly pain, heartache, suffering, confusion, trauma, sickness, and yes–even death. When we see the depraved colors of death diluted by the bright light of Jesus’s love for humanity, and we find ourselves in a state of peace unlike anything we can imagine— that’s because what we’re experiencing is a glimpse of something literally out of this world: We’re experiencing a glimpse of Heaven, the location for which our soul is intended. We were created for Heaven, despite how so many of us live our lives as if we believe our lives only end here—and when we can see how our life here is just a bridge to get there, it truly changes the perspective of life while we live it.

Coming full circle, that is the basis for my niceness, which isn’t merely niceness as it is joy in the Lord for giving me hope, even in death. I fear nothing, not even telling the world my ugliest secret so they understand God can remove anything to help us make more room for loving Him through everything in our lives. He can remove addictions of any kind, habits of any depravity, mistakes and sins of all depths and levels–if we would surrender ourselves to Him, pick up our cross (release our shame and our Earthly desires into His mighty hands) and follow Him in all our ways. One of those ways, for me, is releasing myself through my blog, that you might know God’s love through my testimony; that you may know men like me are not merely nice, but that we are joyful in our faith—impacted and encouraged that we don’t have to cling to our sins of the past—that we can cling to the love of Christ as Lord of our lives, loving everyone through Him until we draw our last breath, inhaling our first in the glorious Kingdom of Heaven.

Be encouraged, readers! You are loved by the God of all creation, and He doesn’t want you living in shame, He wants you living in the freedom of His love; freedom to love others whole-heartedly through the confidence and faith in His love for you. He died for you because He loves you that much. He rose again to prove that He wasn’t only man, but God Incarnate. What will you do with this Truth? What will you do with this testimony? How does this change your life, and your very reality? How will you move forward knowing someone—God Himself—wants to know you and lead you through this life, and all you have to do is ask Him to? Have faith, readers, and be steady, knowing He is God. There is nothing to fear; not gossip, not bad news, not a lost job or relationship breakup. There is nothing more important than knowing how loved you are by Jesus. This world will let you down time and time again. No matter where you travel to, the world’s corruption follows; but not without the love and God following to remind you that there’s hope. Which one you heed more will determine the way you live your life, and how you explain your kindness, your niceness, and how much or how little shame you will feel based on the world’s censuring eyes or God’s loving embrace. I encourage you to pray over this and wait for God’s reply. It may come faster than you think, or in a way you don’t expect. I hope you will do this for your own sake, that you may know the Lord, His love, and His promises for you. There is no one like our God!

Unseen

Finding Miracles At Our Breaking Point

We all need someone to look up to; a role model, an inspiration, someone to emulate and challenge us to be better versions of ourselves. While I was very little, my role models were characters from movies from TV shows. At around 5-7 years old, I was drawn to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; their vigilance in fighting crime and standing up for the innocent, especially in their turtle-form, was appealing and entertaining. Later, my role model became none other than Superman himself. He continued to be my hero for many years because he represented the desire of humanity for peace, justice, and the American way; fighting injustice without killing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admiring characters like this—characters with larger-than-life stories. As humans, we want to connect with something beyond ourselves because we need that inspiration to do what we believe transcends human nature; to live into a higher calling. Why else do we consider these characters “larger than life”?

After I discovered the person of Jesus in my life (in the form of the Holy Spirit in my heart), He became my role model. I had a perspective shift in what it means to live “larger than life”. To me, the best way to summarize what larger than life looks like to me now is through the lens of humility, healing, and surrender. Let me draw you a picture.

Before I accepted Christ, life for me was all about lusting after women, idolizing music and movies, and writing poems in the middle of the night when my dad and step-siblings were asleep. I didn’t feel any sort of purpose in life, and the things inspiring me to live were the songs of bands like Korn, Linkin Park, and Marilyn Manson. They validated my anger towards the pain of my parents’ divorce, and towards the confusion and hurt behind experiencing my parents’ response to their divorce—and not understanding either of their responses at that time. I was exposed to depression from multiple family members suffering from it, without even knowing that’s what I was being exposed to; the malady of which took me into the bathroom tub full of water and the temptation to stop breathing underneath. My purpose in life was defined by music telling me that my anger was legitimate and empowering, that my hurt was deep, and that both were real. Those were the messages I didn’t feel coming from people around me during those times when everything I’d come to know and feel safe with dissipated overnight. God allowed trauma to grab me from behind, but He allowed it knowing what the aftermath would become.

See, I witnessed my parents experiencing their own divorce. My dad grew quiet and uninvolved with me, I didn’t know what to make of it then; I was hurting too, and perplexed. Looking back, I can only imagine the pain he was going through after so many years of marriage. I witnessed my dad experience a pain I’d never seen him feel before, not to mention the death of his parents only weeks before Christmas the same year of the divorce. Mom was experiencing her own depression, and everything happening around us took a toll on our relationship. Our family seemed to be crawling through Hell, and I couldn’t make sense of a loving God inside of that devastating mess. Atheism wasn’t a vague, foreign idea to me after all of that. These thoughts covered me with water in that tub, more than once, when I tried to convince myself not to be afraid to stop breathing when the water pressure was too high. I was afraid because I was alone. Not only in the bathroom, but in my life. I didn’t feel like I had anyone who saw me, and I was desperate for an answer to save me from my self-deprecation and hate.

Years later, after exhaustive amounts of time spent in this deteriorating mentality, I was not only desperate for a reason to be alive, but for the reason why I was desperate. I found it intriguing in such a morbid way that I wouldn’t kill myself and yet I kept asking myself what life was really for.

What was all the darkness trying to tell me? Why were Korn’s songs so important to me—so validating? Why did trying to drown make me feel like something was being balanced in the world—as if trading my presumed worthless existence for the more worthy existence of everyone else—and why did I, even to the slightest of a degree, want a reason to believe that that might not be true…. as the air in my lungs was collapsing, and I had to choose to come up for air or choke on gallons of water imploding on me.

Was Jesus speaking through to me even though I wasn’t listening yet? Did the silence in my heart have anything to do with the hope that kept me alive, even though I rejected His goodness as a fallacy for so many years? Did the fact that I stayed alive despite multiple attempts to die have anything to do with the miraculous power that He had over my surroundings; encouraging me, even at bare minimum, that there was something worth living for? How can I, looking back, not acknowledge Jesus at work in a life not believing, surrendering, loving, or reaching out for the Lord who was trying to show me He was really there all along? How can I not say that wasn’t the intervention of a LOVING Supreme Being who knows me better than I know myself? See, Jesus knows I enjoy water, and He knows I enjoy the quiet because I find it peaceful. When I found myself trying to drown myself in both, He met me, even though I couldn’t feel Him or hear Him at the time—and He took me from death by feeding me even the slightest reason to keep going, even if it was just the music and vindication I received from listening to rock songs and writing poems.

I understand everyone has their own story of adversity, struggle, trauma, crisis, and pain. We all do. I have mine, and I’ve shared a chunk of my story so that you can understand that I don’t speak of anything I haven’t experienced myself. I experienced the desire to die as the main focus of my life for several agonizing years. I’ve also experienced choosing narcissism over Christ, trying to get what I want just for me—and hedonism was a disappointment through that as well. Self-satisfaction is no reason to live at all. All that living for pleasure ever did was tire me out and make me want to die. You may think that perhaps I didn’t find the right kind of pleasure. I disagree. For instance, the argument for sex is invalid. For about 15 years of my life, I’ve heard from countless people about meaningless, promiscuous sex, about how much fun it is, but how unsatisfying, and therefore unfulfilling it is. They admit how having sex with someone you love is much more satisfying, but wisdom will tell you that it’s nothing to live for.

For another instance, those who would concede to the argument of the pleasure of drugs as a good reason to live—the high from drugs has the same effect; if anything, people lose brain cells from drugs, as well as concentration, time, and the ability to prioritize. Drug addicts continuing their lifestyle without any desire to change ignore the truth that their addiction only obscures their reason for doing drugs: To hide from pain. Sure, some do it for fun because they feel they have nothing better to do. That’s my point: There IS something better to do! There is so much… and I was drowning myself in a tub because I couldn’t see it, either. 

To give you a more recent picture of my life, today I see women as treasures of the living God, and relationships as complements of what God allows into our lives when we treat them as gifts from Him, and not invitations of the devil to throw our souls away. Though my history distorts relationships because of my traumas, I seek the Lord and pursue the way He views women, fighting my past with faith in Jesus as my guide to healthy boundaries. I still deeply appreciate music, but I intentionally incorporate worship music to balance out my propensity for rock music, and the rock music I enjoy does not glorify the devil, nor degrade or convolute the concept of God. My writing continues on and off this blog; I write songs once in a while, but I enjoy writing these articles in hopes of inspiring others like you to look beyond disbelief and darkness, seeking answers to your life’s purpose, ranging deeper than you could imagine.

Truly, I understand atheism and disbelief like the back of my hand. But I’d rather adhere to knowing Jesus as the center of my heart. Now that I know why He came, what He was, is, and will always be about—He worthy of all of my time, all of my thoughts, desires, and hopes. If you haven’t gotten to that point of your life, I empathize with your dissension; there is no judgment here. I spent the majority of my life being spoiled and not giving any glory or credit to Jesus: I’m one of the people who don’t want to spend another day without surrender and humbleness. I want you to know I didn’t find Jesus in the tub that day, but it was because I hadn’t chosen to see Him yet; not because He wasn’t there. I don’t believe that. What I believe, because of what I experienced—is that the second Jesus knew I was ready with a softened heart, He flooded Himself into my life; and I’ve been different ever since. There was a lot of learning and growth to do, and there still is, but compared to the days of my crisis and family trauma, I’m light-years away. I write this to you so you’ll know you’re not alone in your pain. You’re not alone in your situation. God sees you and wants to help you, but He won’t come into a closed heart. He won’t because that’s your choice to let Him in or keep Him out. 

My prayer is that you would find peace, even in your pain. That you would find forgiveness for those who have hurt you, and peace even inside of all the trouble you’re facing. When I say Jesus really is the light of the world, I don’t mean for that to sound cliché. He is the “light in the darkness” because He is the hope in a world crumbling at the feet of sin and corruption. He is the reason I keep going, and I pray He will be yours. When you can’t feel His closeness, I pray you would seek Him by name; the name above all other names. There is no one like Him, the One who saves us from ourselves each and every day. I believe in His love, even when I’m too rigid in my shame to receive it from Him. May you find it in yourself to seek Him at all costs, above all the rest of your priorities in life; may you find Him in your heart, and once you do, may you never look away—may you never move back. I pray you would let Him transform you from the broken soul you have now to one of restoration, peace, completion, humility, and strength from above.

As an atheist for most of my life, I never found any satisfaction in anything of this world. Often I reminisce just to look over the differences in my life since I accepted Christ, and every time I do, I realize how blind I was when I was closed off from Jesus. I understand it all happened in its own timing according to God’s will. He knew how long I’d need to accept Him, but He didn’t push harder than He knew He should. I chose Him when I was done trying to find pleasure in narcissism. After I exhausted myself of trying to find meaning in this world, I realized there was nothing to find, and what I did find was never, ever enough.

Jesus’s love, and the hope which comes from His resurrection, brings me more satisfaction than anything this world has to offer. When people talk about parties, alcohol, sex jokes, vacations, or time to just “to do nothing”, I pity for them; despite understanding their desire for a break (Jesus Himself commands us to heed the Sabbath for rest), I always find myself quiet so as not to offend people who brag about worldly pleasures. If people ask me my opinion, I honestly tell them I’d rather read or watch a movie than to go partying. I already know there is nothing meaningful in this world besides faith in Christ. 

My rigidity to faith in Christ was not at all different from unbelievers’ rigidity to Jesus today, but some people hang onto theirs for longer. One of the differences between me and other unbelievers is that I got tired more quickly. I hope you won’t wait long before you let Him in to give you a more satisfying purpose. He is always waiting, always ready to give us all we need. We only need turn ourselves to Him with humility and surrender, and He is ready to embrace us. He was never gone, we just weren’t looking. 

Let us “look” today, let us try to strive in a world more and more confused by its own contradictions with the hope of Christ expressed through our words and actions. May God bless you as you choose to search for Him and may you recognize His goodness, even in your pain. He loves you, and He desperately wants you to choose Him, as He is a jealous God. But He won’t make you. You have a choice. 

If you resonate with what you’ve read here and you’d like to read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to share this with anyone you think would benefit, and if you’d like, please write in the comments below and share a thought, a prayer request–I would love to hear from you! God bless you!!

Gone