|If you decided to take a trip to a foreign country and, upon arrival, you found there were no rules, laws, or directions, and that everyone made up their own guidelines – would you be concerned?|
You would immediately realize that anyone could do anything they wanted to do to you and there would be no authority to protect you. Would you stay?
Maybe you were raised in a home where there were no boundaries, no discipline, no instruction, and no leadership. Did you find it confusing?
Maybe you resent it now because you were misled about life and had problems in school and society because there are laws and boundaries and you didn’t think they applied to you. How fair was that?
I was raised in a religious home. There were rules, boundaries, and discipline, but something was wrong. My father was an alcoholic. Because of his alcoholism, something happened to me and he missed it.
When I was twelve, a priest sexually molested me.
I felt I did not have the kind of relationship with my father that would have allowed me to tell him about it. By age 15 I was in jail for crimes I committed and had a felony record. By the time I was 18 I was out of control, authority meant nothing to me.
I did manage to graduate from high school (with a D-) because one teacher confronted me and would not let me graduate until I made up all my homework assignments for her class.
After I received my diploma, my dad told me I could either go to Jr. college, get a job, or join the service, but I couldn’t stay at home and continue to create problems.
I joined the Navy and found an authority that could contain me. I matured enough to handle responsibility and I advanced into leadership. This did not change my character, but it did teach me to change my performance. I found if I performed well I was accepted and rewarded.
I moved from one dysfunctional world to another. I spent the next 38 years going through marriages and divorces with low self-worth, trying to perform well enough to be “loved”. I was unsuccessful.
Eventually, at age 56, I was severely depressed, going through my 4th divorce, homeless, unemployed, and bankrupt.
Now let me back up a minute. At age 28 I became a Christian, but I continued in my performance mode. I went to church, read the Bible, taught Sunday School, went to Bible college, became a preacher, and tithed, but I was doing all of it to try to gain God’s approval.
I saw God as a judge sitting on His throne waiting for me to do something wrong and then jumping on me.
You may be wondering where I am going with this personal story about myself. Well, let me cut to the chase.
Every authority figure in my life has let me down with the exception of one high school teacher and God. Neither of them allowed me to be irresponsible or unaccountable. Both of them exercised “tough love”. I don’t know whether the teacher is alive, but I know God is. What He has taught me is worth more than all the riches in this world. I would like to share just a little with you.
I started reading the Bible when I was 28. I read it a lot, but because of my background I saw all the do’s and don’ts and missed the truth about God.
What I saw in my reading was a continuation of what I got from my childhood teachers who were in the same performance mode. My life was hard because I was always doing stuff to earn God’s or my wife’s or someone’s love and respect.
It all changed in 1998 when I lost everything and hit rock bottom. For nearly a year it was just God and me. I was tremendously angry with Him. I suppressed all my anger, because I was afraid to confront people who hurt me, and eventually it came out in severe depression and anger misdirected toward God.
It scared me to be angry with God. I was divided. One side of me wanted to believe He loved me and the other side believed He was going to send me to Hell. I quit going to church. I quit reading the Bible. I didn’t quit praying. I continued my love/hate relationship with God.
During that process He sent some people to me in some very unusual ways. I found my first love on Classmates.com and contacted her with the intention of finding out why she broke up with me when I was 16. I never had closure and I just wanted to know why. It was very healing and in the process she referred me to a book The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee. A must read/study for anyone who is living a life of performance.
Six years later I discovered another book by this same author titled The Search for Peace that deals with resentment, hurt, anger, and unforgiveness. I have forgiven many, including myself, and I am finding my way back to church.
A couple of paragraphs ago I said I quit reading the Bible. That’s not entirely true, I quit reading directly from the Bible. Occasionally I would read it when I felt like “I should”, but it didn’t last long. I needed a new approach to the Bible and found it through McGee’s books. Both of these books are full of principles directly from the Bible and gave me life-changing truths that I had not really grasped before or applied to me.
The bottom line is?
The Bible is divided into two parts. The Old Testament shows us how much God hates and responds to sin and that it is impossible to perform in a manner that is good enough to earn us a place in Heaven. The New Testament shows us how much He loves us and how far He went to provide a way to Heaven.
The Bible is not a book about performance, but it is a book about relationships with God and other humans. It is about love, grace, mercy, acceptance, and forgiveness.
God is Love.
He gave us all the information we need to accomplish all of this.
He gave us the Bible.