I have a confession to make: Sometimes I listen to Christian radio in the morning when I’m getting ready. Christian radio is kind of the not-theologically-important great divide amongst evangelicals, I’ve found: some people LOVE it and exclusively listen to it, and others are WAY TOO COOL to listen to something as lame as a Christian radio station.
I’m not taking sides in this debate. I’m just saying: Sometimes I listen to Christian radio in the morning when I’m getting ready. Please withhold judgment.
Last week, one morning, a guy called in saying he had been considering suicide because of how hard life had been to him lately, when he stumbled across this encouraging radio station and decided to call in. The DJ or host or whatever they’re called asked if he wanted to accept Christ, and they “prayed the prayer” right there, live on the air.
They asked if the man had any further questions and told him they would be praying for him and that he should get connected to a local church for continued encouragement. They told him they could connect his call to one of their staff pastors to finish the conversation.
The man agreed, and the host/DJ/whatever said: “Well, there you go, buddy!” and they started playing a new song.
“Well, there you go, buddy!”
I say that to my third graders when I’m helping them to open a packet of ketchup or tie their shoes or unstick a stuck zipper.
It is as condescending and final as it sounds.
It means: “I have accomplished this task for you that you could not accomplish by yourself. You are welcome.”
The whole phone call I had been cynically applying makeup and blow drying my hair, alternating between: “this must be a fake” and “if this is real, they are really not doing this man any favors.”
Is the prayer they prayed meant to protect him from his deep depression, his lost job and his failing marriage? Are those things fixed now because he prayed that prayer and “accepted Jesus into his heart”?
What does that even mean?
A woman called in 10 minutes later saying she was ready to accept Christ. They literally replayed the prayer they had prayed with the man, complete with his voice repeating the prayer, so that she could join in too.
Thankfully, the second time around, they left off the condescending goodbye.
I turned off the radio and started looking for shoes, my mind somersaulting through cynicism and guilt for my doubts.
“That poor man… his life isn’t going to get better and I bet he leaves Jesus behind before he ever has time to connect with a local church…”
“Shut up, Rachel. How can you think like that? Isn’t God big enough and powerful enough to use even radio conversions and unintentionally condescending DJs?”
“Is He? Do you really believe that?”
“Well, there you go, buddy.”
I think I was so struck by that phrase because, for so long, I have believed that God speaks those words over me. I have believed that God is condescending and final, that I must be always, in everything, grateful for what he has done for me that I could not have done for myself. In some sense, that is absolutely true. And being found in human form, he humbled himself…
But God’s work is not finished in me. I do not have to feel constant shame and guilt over my “failure to measure up”.
The other day, I was asked what I would have to do to feel like I had done a good job in life, where the measuring stick went up to and who had put the measuring stick there. I realized that my shame over my inability to measure up, even the way I define success… it’s all from me, not from God. I am my own biggest critic.
What I would have needed to hear, what I still need to hear from the other end of a phone call where I decide (again) to turn back to Christ… it’s not “Well, there you go, buddy.” Because while that feels good today, tomorrow, I would realize that I’m not all set, that we’re not done yet.
The honest truth that I need to hear is mor like: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Hebrews 11:28-30, The Message)
Because Jesus doesn’t just condescend to me. He walks with me and works with me because we’re not done yet. And that means the ugly things in this life- the depression and darkness and death and destruction, they don’t mean Jesus isn’t powerful or loving or real.
Even when I’m tired, worn out, burned out on religion.
The answer is always: “Come to me. We’re not done yet.”
Photo by Piotr Pazola via Flickr