light 2

This excerpt comes from Chapter 1 in the book.

I recently came across a short quote attributed to G.K. Chesterton: “A man knocking on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” Although my knuckles did not knock on brothel doors, I was looking, searching for something, or someone. And whenever I head toward the idols of my life today, I’m haunted by the fact that I’m simply longing for something more than what I’ve yet grasped.

Paul, himself, laid this out for the philosophers of Athens in his day:

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ (Acts 17:26–28, emphasis added)

Brothels, pornography, drugs, popularity, food, self-cutting, films, books, friends, video games, perfected theology, shopping, work, rag- ing anger—they and many others are readily utilized to numb the pain. Just one more hit; just one more night with a girl; just one more night of mind-numbing movies and video games; just one more well-understood doctrine. Whatever will ease the pain! Whatever will push down the rage!

However, they only mask a cry from deep within our gut. That “place” right around where our stomach lies. But we know it’s not our stomach. I’m going to turn to those things if they’ll help. At least I won’t have to deal with life for a few moments. And I’ve noticed that I don’t like to be called out while in the midst of the pain-numbing activity. To compare me to a ravenous bear in those moments would fall well short.

How does one become so angry, so self-centered, so controlling, so desperate, so rebellious, so alone? But that’s where I was. That’s where we’ve all been at one point or another to some degree. And many of us have been there multiple times. The layers that lie over our sin-thickened hearts pile up, constantly streaming new layers on a regular basis. At that point, if you remove the layers, you’ll find something surprisingly revolting at your core.

However, there’s still a deeper cry, even deeper than all the muck. As E. Stanley Jones reminds us, we have become “naturalized in unnatural sin.”[1] God did not create us to be this way. We’ve been lied to if we believe this is natural.

So we cry: I want something! Give me something! Because this life of rock ‘n’ roll, sex, and drugs doesn’t seem to be helping. This life of shopping, food, work, perfect theology [or enter in any addiction] is not working. I’m drowning and I’m only getting angrier, nastier, filthier, darker, deeper. I’m tired of all this.

The great Augustine put it this way centuries ago: “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”[2]

That’s what happened the last week of January 1997 as I sat in a chapel service during my final semester of high school. A man whose family had been Iranian refugees in the 1970s was now a youth evangelist. Somehow he was there on that wooden stage, speaking to our student body. He stood telling his story, all the while making us laugh. His story simply made “sense” like no other story I had previously heard. It’s not that I had never darkened the doors of a local church in my life. My mother made a new year’s resolution when I was eight that we, as a family, would attend the church down the road at least one Sunday a month (up from a few times a year). We ended up going just about every week, while also joining other activities and groups. But nothing ever made sense until that week in early 1997.

Rest invaded rage.

Light invaded darkness.

Love invaded hate.

Healing invaded sickness.

Life invaded death.

Wholeness invaded brokenness.

Forgiveness invaded a mess.

#storyofchange

————————

[1] Jones, The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person, 64.

[2] Augustine, Confessions, 1.1.1