A friend sent me this photo of a journal she saw.
In our defense, this was not taken at a Christian bookstore. This was someone making fun of Christian culture. But, regardless, let’s all swear we will never journal in this.
Today I want to talk about satan’s favorite word. (And yes, I am lowercasing that on purpose. That’s the middle finger of punctuation, and I always give it to the devil.)
In the last few weeks, I’ve been asking audiences I speak to one simple question:
“What do your voices of fear and doubt tell you?”
My new book Start is about figuring out what you’re called to do, and then doing it with the greatest degree of awesome possible.
But a lot of people, including me, get stuck by fear and doubt when they decide to be awesome. Why? Well, fear only bothers you when you do things that matter.
If you choose average, if you give into ordinary, if you decide to rock vanilla right into the grave, fear will give you a free pass.
The moment you decide to do something that matters with your life? Fear awakens from its slumber. It gets loud and chatty.
So I’ve been asking people what their particular voice says.
And there’s one word I keep seeing over and over. I think it’s satan’s favorite word. What is it?
A few weeks ago, I was at a worship service. The worship leader told us that we could sit down after the first song if we wanted to.
We sang the first song and hundreds of people pretended they didn’t want to sit down.
Except for one lone soul.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. Refusing to give into peer pressure, he calmly took his seat. It was the shot heard round the world.
I didn’t get to talk to him, but if I could I would tell him,
“You sir, are my hero.”
Throwing off the shackles of forced standing, this brave gentleman raged against conformity.
No standing for him. No, your vertical tyranny would not claim him this morn. He took a stand against standing.
I wanted to clap or cry, or I don’t even know. I was an emotional wreck, you know. Like you were at the end of The Notebook. So many letters!
Have you ever witnessed this bold move?
Have you ever been in the presence of the courageous few who take a worship leader up on their offer of a seat?
Have you ever breathed this rare air?
Recently I thought to myself, “What topic won’t cause people to be mad at each other in the comments?” And then this one hit me: Science!
There’s something we all agree on. What could go wrong?
Normally, though, I avoid topics like this, but I had an experience that kind of forced my hand.
We were in Mammoth Cave, which is exactly what it sounds like. It is a cave…that is mammoth. Pretty solid name actually.
I was busy trying to convince myself not to be claustrophobic. Oh, we get to go underground and walk beneath millions of tons of earth just waiting to collapse on us? We get to climb deep into the earth while trying not to breath or claw our way out? And we get to pay for that experience? Fantastic!
While I was pep talking myself, though, I heard something that sounded unusual.
There was a mom in front of me talking to her son. Every time the tour guide would say something about the age of the cave, she would quote a verse from Genesis. It was like watching a very religious director’s commentary on a DVD.
The tour guide would say, “An underground stream hollowed this portion out over a period of 12,000 years.” And the mom would whisper to her son:
And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
For the next few minutes, I listened in as the story of Genesis unfolded deep in that cave. Did we do the same with our kids? No. But I have to credit the mom with only whispering it. She wasn’t being disruptive to the tour, just giving her son a chance to hear a different side of the story.
I will say that there have been times when our family will discuss how God is absent at school. We might not quote Genesis in caves, but we will discuss God when my kids have questions while doing their science homework.
How about you? Do you speak into that with your kids? Did your parents ever do that with you?
Sometimes, hope hurts.
It shouldn’t. The phrase “hope hurts” should be an oxymoron, like “Lil Wayne gospel album.” But I promise you, it’s not.
Sometimes, when you’re so deep in a season of hurt, you get used to the bad. You start to think you deserve it. You start to expect it and get comfortable with it and get numb to it. And like a creature that lives so far down on the bottom of the sea, you adapt to it. You cobble together little survival mechanisms that help you get through. You get by.
But hope is tenacious …
Even in the darkest of my days, when I’d journal about suicide and despair, a fragment of hope still bounced about softly in the dryer of my head. (When you’re married with kids and have lots of laundry to do, 42% of your metaphors and analogies become housework flavored.)
There was a problem though. There was a painful obstacle between me and hope. You see, I was so far down the path of hopelessness, I was so lost and selfish and bent on destruction, that I found myself in a terrible lose-lose situation. For example: If people were kind to me, I felt scared because I believed the lie that, if they really knew me, they wouldn’t be kind to me and would be horrified at who I really am. If people were mean to me, I felt hurt because they had been mean to me. Any way I turned simply resulted in more fear and more hurt.
And that is one of sin’s goals. Not simply to remove the good from your life, but to have it actually serve as a weapon of mass destruction.
Have you ever felt that way?
Have you ever felt completely unworthy when someone offers you love?
Have you ever been ashamed of the lies you’re living when someone offers you truth?
Have you ever felt undeserving of something good, because deep down, you believed that person wouldn’t really love you if they knew who you were?
It’s very possible that I’m the only one, and that’s OK. But I do need to tell you about the 9 words in the Bible that changed the way hope felt for me. And they’re 9 words you’ve probably missed just like I did for so many years. Which is why I remixed this post.
I’ve written about this before, but I’m a big fan of “edge verses.” I’m a big fan of looking on the periphery of a scene in the Bible and seeing all the deep truth that often gets hidden amidst a major scene. And, in Luke 22, that certainly happens.
Jesus is on the threshold of getting crucified. He has the last supper with his disciples. He is sharing his thoughts on the father and the concept of serving and ruling. There is a sense of great importance heavy in the air. In the middle of that, he has a short conversation with Simon about how he is going to betray him.
It’s going to happen. Jesus knows this, but he wishes it wasn’t. He says to Simon in Luke 22:31-32:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”
And then, in 9 words, he explains a big part of the reason I thought a mess-up like me ever had a chance at being a Christian.
Jesus tells Simon:
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
That’s it. Those are 9 really simple words, but they demand a second look.
Do you see what Jesus is saying in that first half of the sentence: “And when you have turned back?” He’s saying:
And when you fail.
And when you sin.
And when you blow it and sell me out like a common thief.
And when you literally and physically turn your back on me.
And when you ruin it all.
When you turn back.
That concept is part of why our God is so different than everything we expect. We can turn back. There’s a return. There’s a comeback. There’s a loss and a brokenness and a state of falling, but you can turn back. That door is open. When I read the phrase “And when you have turned back,” I read a loud, wild picture of what grace really looks like.
Then you get to the part that is so easy to miss: The comma. Thank God for the comma, because that’s not how I would have written that sentence.
Mine would have looked more like:
“And when you have turned back, repent for three years before you try to get within a mile of my holiness.”
“And when you have turned back, don’t think for a second you’re qualified to tell other people about me.”
“And when you have turned back, here’s a long list of works you’ll need to do in order to clean yourself of the mistakes you’ve made and the consequences you’ve earned.”
But Christ doesn’t do that! He throws in a comma. He continues the sentence and simply says, “strengthen your brothers.”
Six years ago I ruined my life, but you know what?
God gave me the gift of the comma.
And that’s why I write Stuff Christians Like.
I have turned back. Not once, not twice, but a million times. And now it’s time to strengthen my brothers.
I hope you don’t miss the comma because God wants to give it to you. He wants to give you grace. He wants you to know that when you have turned back, you can still strengthen your brothers.
It’s time to accept the comma of grace.
(This post originally appeared on April 27, 2011)
This is what goes through my head when I notice a typo in the worship music lyrics at church:
“Oh no, oh no, oh no! Look away, look away. Finding a typo in a song at church is like staring at the sun.
Once you see it, it can’t be unseen. Don’t look. Pretend that Hosanna is spelled with two s’s. Hossanna. That makes perfect sense: two n’s and two s’s. They’re friends. They go on adventures in wardrobes.
But they don’t, do they? Deep down, I know they don’t. “Hossanna.” What is that? It sounds like the pet name for two redneck celebrities who are dating. “Hoss Roberts and Anna White, or as you might know them, ‘Hossanna.’”
Hoss. That’s a cowboy’s name. If your parents name you Hoss, then you don’t get to be an accountant when you grow up. At the hospital, they look at a birth certificate, see your name “Hoss,” and hand you a pair of Wranglers. No, not Wranglers: Those are for the gentleman cowboy. They give you Rustlers, Wranglers cousin who might be cooking meth.
Should I tell someone about that typo?
They’ve got two other services. I could spare a lot of people from having a Hoss Attack. That was so awful.
What would Jesus do?
Probably make a whip out of the little bracelets they give you with your kid’s Sunday School number on them. He’d storm the soundbooth and kick over the soundboard.
“How dare you mix the temple with powerpoint!”
That’s what Jesus would do, definitely. Do I have enough time to make a whip? You know what? I don’t. I really don’t.
“Let’s finish this song already Hoss.”
That’s what I think when I notice a typo in a worship song. Have you ever seen one?
Jon Acuff is the New York Times Bestselling author of four books including his most recent, Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average & Do Work that Matters. Read More…