God’s Name is Surprise!

“Forgive me, but I’d like a catchphrase that captures both the responsibility I feel to do good and the freedom I have to get it wrong. Because when I’m feeling stuck, which is kind of a lot, it’s usually because I’m paralyzed by fear of doing the next wrong thing. I need someone to tell me, ‘Do the next most practical thing after careful exploration of the facts, so that even if it turns out to be the wrong thing, at least you can say you made a solid decision based on sound research, and if after a period of evaluation you find out it wasn’t the right thing, then you can try something else. God will handle the rest.”
–The Very Worst Missionary

Christianity is often hard for me, and by that I mean life is often hard for me, since being a Christian is supposedly and understandably a full-time thing. Even sleeping like a Christian is mandatory.

But fundamental to living a flourishing life, a whole, healthy life, is EXPLORING. Deep in a human’s DNA is a desire for a journey, a quest. Why do car commercials take place in the wild, in mountains? All we really need is a vehicle that 90% of the time will be used to get from home to work to home to soccer to Chipotle to home to work, but Ford and Jeep are appealing to (hu)man’s natural need to explore the wild.

It’s no different for worldview/religion. If you go to church regularly or have been passed down a belief system and it stops working for you, congratulations you’ve entered spiritual puberty. Ha. But seriously. If the belief system you’ve been handed down is working for you, and you see no reason to make any changes, then a few things:

1. Great! Carry on with your good, stable life!

2. You may be squashing a spirit that longs to take you into uncharted territory.

3. Is it possible God is calling you to a new place of belief or unbelief?

4. If it doesn’t make you feel alive, if it doesn’t cause your pulse to rise at least sometimes, if it doesn’t inspire you to try new things, if it doesn’t implant in you a sometimes inexplicable desire to sacrifice yourself in big or small ways, maybe it’s not a Christ-y thing.

5. A fundamentally conservative posture towards life (not necessarily politically or theologically) goes against the natural grain of your own human spirit and the God inside you whose middle name is Surprise! In the same way that the universe is expanding, the universe inside you is expanding. God in his gracious freedom has given us the ability to say No Thank You to this natural evolution and growth towards new possibilities, but that means saying yes to stifling. To continue believing the things about God in the same way you did last year or last decade is to lock yourself into the God you believed in when you were four or twelve or twenty-three. But God is more like the mysterious wind than he is like a text to memorize or a list of rules to obey.

Attractive Christianity

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A long time ago in a land far away there were people who believed in God and people who didn’t. The people who didn’t believe in God heard stories about a god in Zion, and they became interested in the activities of this god inside one community’s life, and so they traveled to Israel by choice. Missionaries did not come to them. The people of God were emitting a certain kind of light, an attractive kind of life, and it drew people from darkness.

Missionary activity existed, but it was the life of the community as it embodied the powerful working of a curious Spirit that validated the missionaries’ words.

What does this attractive life look like today? It has to be winsome, curious, seeking, and creative, among other things.

Saved But Not Whole

“What happens when it all becomes about some other life is we end up being very fractured, broken people. I began to discover that you could be a Christian in a nice Christian church and be saved and be singing all the right songs and actually be miserable. And to have anger and rage and people you haven’t forgiven. I discovered it’s possible to be a super-Christian and yet salvation hadn’t even begun to (be) a part of your life. It’s possible to lead a church and to be like a shell of a person. I want to be the kind of person who’s pursuing wholeness and allowing every single area of my life to let the light get shone in, and let God make peace where there wasn’t (peace) before.”  –Rob Bell

“Though today some Christians believe that Jesus came to enable us to escape this creation and live eternally in an otherworldly and heavenly dwelling, such an understanding of salvation would have been entirely foreign to Old Testament prophets, to first-century Jews — and to Jesus himself.  Salvation is not an escape from creational life into “spiritual” existence: it is the restoration of God’s rule over all of creation and all of human life.  Neither is salvation merely the restoration of a personal relationship with God, important as that is.  Salvation goes further: it is the restoration of the whole life of humankind and ultimately of the nonhuman creation as well.  This is the scope of biblical salvation.” —The Drama of Scripture

'Basic Instinct' Author Has Damascus Road Experience

After a lifetime of wild living…

“He felt an overwhelming peace. His heart stopped pounding. His hands stopped twitching. He saw a ‘shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands.'”
–Joe Eszterhas, author, Basic Instinct and new spiritual memoir Crossbearer

Toledo Blade Article: ‘Basic Instinct’ author writes book about faith

‘Basic Instinct’ Author Has Damascus Road Experience

After a lifetime of wild living…

“He felt an overwhelming peace. His heart stopped pounding. His hands stopped twitching. He saw a ‘shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands.'”
–Joe Eszterhas, author, Basic Instinct and new spiritual memoir Crossbearer

Toledo Blade Article: ‘Basic Instinct’ author writes book about faith

Dallas Willard: Jesus’ Message Not Religious

“The strongest impression on my mind has always been the person and teachings of Jesus Christ… I’ve never moved away from the basic project of “knowing Him and making Him known.” This is not a particularly religious project; it’s a human need. It is out of love of my neighbor, as well as love of God that I feel the imperative to do this.

And I believe the way to do it is not by being especially religious in the sense that people would normally understand that, but by just being an honest, open, thoughtful human being living among other human beings, depending on the grace of God.”
— Dallas Willard (source)

Buechner on the Bible

“The Bible is not first of all a book of moral truth. I would call it instead a book of truth about the way life is. Those strange old scriptures present life as having been ordered in a certain way, with certain laws as inextricably built into it as the law of gravity is built into the physical universe. When Jesus says that whoever would save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life will save it, surely he is not making a statement about how, morally speaking, life ought to be. Rather, he is making a statement about how life is.” –Frederick Buechner