So just the other day the strangest thing happened to me. As my evening was coming to a close I had planned to drive back to Cookeville where I currently live. (Did everyone know this??? I moved to Cookeville; an hour east of Nashville) I needed to fill up on gas so I stopped at the Mapco on 8th Avenue where I always go for fuel when I am in Nashville. I got out of my car only to notice that someone must had absolutely smashed their car into one of the pumps recently. Its mangled appearance was accented by the yellow “crime scene do not cross” tape that was wrapped around it repeatedly. Someone is in trouble……
I grabbed the nearest windshield cleaner I could find and began to scrub the multiple pollen-coated bug corpses that covered the front side of my car. Before I even got to the best part…….using the squeegee……a vehicle pulls up in front of me with the passenger window down.
It was this kid about my age. I knew I had seen his face before and I knew he attended Belmont, but other than that I had no clue what his name was or what he was doing. At first I didn’t quite hear what he said to me……cars were passing by so I took a few steps closer.
"Hey, I do not mean to interrupt or anything…..but I just wanted you to know that you are a good person and that God Loves You"
His words immediately hit me like a steam-roller. It had been so long since I was in a situation where God was the topic; let alone God’s Love…. My first response was to thank him, but after that he continued to ask if he could pray for me, if I had any “prayer requests” per-say. At first I didn’t know whether I should play it off cool or dramatize some of my situation. Possible replies: “Not really man, everything is going pretty well for me right now” “Funny you should ask because my life is absolute shit right now” or anything in between was an option. I thought for a moment and started to give a brief account on what was going on in my life at the moment. My brother is finally back from a tour of Afghanistan. In the last two weeks of my online classes and finals. Currently unsuccessfully looking for a job for about three months.
In all honesty I really didn’t tell him all I could of about what was really going on. In light of the moment I was reluctant to fully share all of my “problems” (and I doubt he would have wanted to hear all of them)
Regardless, before I knew it the car was driving off in the other direction and I was left with an un-squeegeed windshield and a mind full of thought.
The last thing I wanted to feel as a result of this situation was guilt. Guilt for not seeking out God like I used to. Guilt for willingly falling into temptation, sin, and other detrimental activities that a 20 year old can participate in. Guilt for not being honest with myself.
Back at my old church in Pittsburgh I always had a sense that if I wasn’t actively doing something related to God or religion in any given day that I was in the wrong. That feeling of guilt for knowingly acting out of line was synonymous with "not being active in my faith". This became a common line to say when in small groups (youth group) sharing my thoughts and feelings. The obvious answer to why I was doing worse this week was because I wasn’t doing enough for God / praying / reading the bible / staying active in my faith.
Disclaimer: I’m not saying my church falsely teaches kids, religion isn’t simple and neither is youth ministry
This is what pisses me off. The instinctive guilt I had in my brain as the kid drove away was completely uncalled for and unnecessary. I feel this is the case for multiple reasons. There is a clear difference between denying God and believing but not practicing. For someone to make a standard of the typical relationship between man and a higher being and imply that all others should strive to be the same is absolute garbage. The personal relationship someone has with God is their own business (they call it faith for a reason!) and should be judged (or not judged) on their own terms. Religion is not some chutes and ladders game where the bible readers climb to the top and the mistake makers fall to the bottom. To make someone else feel bad on this account completely destroys the concept of fellowship in the church. (or at least the one I grew up to know) Lastly, I really think the last thing God wants to do is to make us feel guilty. Did he plan for this kid to randomly show up asking for prayer requests just to make me feel worse about myself? The answer has got to be no.
Realizing ones’ sins and confessing them is completely different from forgetting to pray often and read the scripture. not being active in my faith (not trying to make excuses here) I feel as though this exact situation was more of a “knock at the door” kind of thing from God in my life. There are still a lot of things in transition for me but it is also quite clear that God is not one of them. I feel as though God has worked through me in many ways and will continue to use me for his greater purpose in upcoming years regardless of if I have prayed nightly or devoutly studied the bible.
It is moments like the other night that remind us….put us in our place that we are not always in control. The few things that we are in control of is our actions, thoughts, and time utilization. Maybe these are the things that “faith” might be referring to. Trusting that one thing will happen in result of another.
Should I feel guilty for not being more faith-filled when I encountered the evangelical person in the car? — No
Could I have been more faith-filled at this point? — Yes
What to take away? — God Loves You
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself" - FDR
I have come to realize that so many people that we come into contact with on a day to day basis, no matter how different, are driven by the same exact thing……..
This is especially true being a college student because I am usually in close contact with people just like me. People at the start of their life’s journey, careers, and families. People who are for all intensive purposes……still trying to figure out this whole “life” “job” “pursuit of happiness” concept. We are taught to go after what we want in hope that one day it might be attained and become a reality.
The opposite of this…… the downside, is the bitter taste of failure.
Whether big or small nobody like to fail, it simply sucks. The idea that you didn’t do well enough, you didn’t set the bar high enough, you did not succeed.
So many of us (including me) are so strongly driven by this fear of failure that our every decision can be made in order to further distance us from this undesired outcome. I find myself guilty of this in more than one situation, monetary, relationships, and education. The blame for this I put on the many ghosts of my past but let’s be honest, who doesn’t have ghosts of their own? Everyone has different experiences, it is what makes us unique.
On the flip side, fear of success can be just as unnerving. Many people (including me, once again) are downright scared of succeeding because of all the heavy responsibility that comes with it. It makes us nervous, it makes us anxious, and it causes us to rather sit on the couch, facebook, vege, you name it……. Why do you think so many college students are probably more confident at procrastinating by the end of four years then their actual degree?
Regardless of the cause, fear is everywhere…..to name a few more:
fear of judgement.fear of connection.fear of oneself.fear of the past.fear of sobriety.fear of change.fear of responsibility. fear of being alone.fear of freedom.fear of oppression.
So what is the solution?
It seems as though the method of fear does not work and only puts roadblocks in our way, creating a viscous cycle. Maybe it is this cycle that we are incorrectly labeling in our heads? Maybe the solution lies in embracing our fears and seeing them in a different light. Things we fear can be accepted and embraced, causing them to loose their controlling power over us. The ups and downs of life seem to occur regardless if you are anticipating them or not. Fearing them or not. Why not expect them, realize that life is a journey….and a very long, tiring, difficult, stressful, fearful one at some points.