I grew up going to a small congregation in the time of the Jule Miller filmstrips, tracts about hell and the 5 steps of salvation, bible bowl, youth camps, area-wide singings, gospel meetings… I remember transcribing cassette tapes of an entire Creation vs. Evolution series by Burt Thompson. Then there were college devotionals, retreats and my very first trip to the Tulsa Soulwinning Workshop.
Since it was difficult to give credence to anything by anyone outside the Church of Christ at that time, it really was a small world after all. The AIM atmosphere loosened up my safety grip by gently challenging concepts and by expanding my approved authors list.
Once that door was opened, I dove into The Experiencing God studies, Beth Moore studies, Women of Faith conferences… Now I can’t even begin to keep up with all the books, podcasts, CD’s and group studies on DVD that are available. There are countless Christian resources on dieting, marriage, finances, pornography, youth ministry…
It can all be too much.
By no means am I “anti” any of these things. In fact, I’m packing for the Pepperdine Bible Lectures while I write this! I’ve worked in the Christian book industry and spent a huge chunk of my paycheck there. I try to take advantage of anything and everything to better myself and find encouragement in my daily walk. I’m just saying that at my worst, when I’m checked out of my one-on-one time with God, Christianity can begin to look an awful lot like the self-help industry. I can see how those outside Christ might make that mistake as well. The pursuit of all these things can become addictive, needing a hit of the next thing to keep up the spiritual high.
This is nothing new. Even back in the 1500’s John of the Cross noted that “Persons expend all their effort in seeking spiritual pleasure and consolation; they never tire, therefore, of reading books; they begin, now one meditation, now another, in their pursuit of this pleasure which they desire to experience in the things of God.”
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned so far is that even the things of God are never a replacement for God. The value of all these things is either enhanced or diminished by the state of my soul, whether or not I’ve taken the time to acknowledge my ever-present God, whether or not we’re on speaking terms.
Without camaraderie with Christ, I tend to take a more heady slant… to the point that I have even questioned someone’s experience of God simply because they didn’t appear to have the same level of theology as me or read the same Bible translation as mine... If that seems correct to you, then it might be a good idea to take a step back and ask yourself how God reveals Himself in this world. (Answer: There is more than one correct answer.)
In the mid 1920’s one Coca-Cola slogan was “Pause and Refresh Yourself.” And I look at all these incredible opportunities to expand my spiritual horizons as deep and meaningful times of refreshment. But the true bubbly burn of that first sip is drinking deep of the beauty of my Savior, living in my baptism, basking in grace, escaping this world for a moment in the unseen… That’s where I really get my money’s worth. That’s the real thing!
- Angie Burns