After one of my recent posts my new friend Dan made this comment:
As a recovering jerk myself (I almost used a different two-syllable anatomic reference, but I don't know where you draw language lines), I can identify. Looking back, I don't like the guy I was in early college, so I wonder why any of my friends did...
For me, it was serving in Africa for a couple years that opened my eyes to a bigger world and a smaller me in it. What situation(s) or event(s) helped you to see and change this?
First of all, Dan, you're free to express yourself here. Christians don't always need to be so polite. Sometimes strong language is necessary.
I really identify with your experience. I don't think I would have gone out of my way to be friends with me back then.
On the other hand, I hope I would be a real manifestation of grace and love in that person's life. That person I was back then was really tortured and depressed. I may not have been willing to listen to a graceful voice at the time, but it may have sunk in with me at some point in the future.
The change you're asking about really began in me during my senior year of college at a certain Baptist school in Texas that begins with a "Bay" and ends with a "lor." I got to the point where I couldn't live that way anymore. Much like your experience, getting away from my cramped little corner of Judgmentalhomeschooledbaptisttexanville, USA was what finally let me breathe. Of course, I didn't go to the other end of the world. I just went north about a thousand miles. But that was about all I was up to at that point. I just needed to get away.
That was the first stage of growth for me and in a lot of ways was the most difficult. Getting into graduate theological studies in a non-fundamentalist evangelical setting forced me to confront the person I was and all the guilt that lay underneath the hardened exterior. It was freeing experience, but was so very difficult at the same time. It was freeing in the sense that I could finally breathe and begin the healing process, but difficult in that I had to both come face to face with myself (cue Michael Jackson) and reject a lot of the false gospels of moralism and legalism I desperately held on to.
Struggling with my past and my inability to live up to my own code of conduct brought me into a deep depression. It had been coming for quite some time...sure wish I had seen it. I remember feeling it settling in like a winter snowstorm at dusk. I can almost point to the exact hour. My faith was growing stronger, but the toxicity of my own introspection held me down for the better part of two years.
Enter stage right: Kelsey. A wonderful, bold, beautiful woman came into the picture at just the right time. As bad as things got and as difficult it was on her, I'm sure they would have been even worse without her love and faith by my side. What an amazing grace she has been. Then there are the 400 or so 5-10 year old kids I have taught that won't let me escape, even for a second, from reality back into my own head. I'm so grateful for that.
So here I am. I'm not perfect and the judgmental instincts are still being tamed, but I feel more free in grace than ever before in my life.
Thanks for asking, Dan.