I grew up in the church and I made the mistake of separating faith and life. I said the sinner’s prayer at age seven which is what you did to become a Christian. I did it because I didn’t want to go to Hell and that was that. It was escaping the fires of Hell. As a seven-year-old, Hell was scary. There were pictures of men screaming with flames all around. I’m not sure if I knew Jesus at seven, but somehow God didn’t let go of me. After all, I didn’t know much about Jesus, and I certainly didn’t know much about myself at age seven.
Church was something I was made to do. I knew the hymns, sang in the choir (my dad was the choir director) and I knew the routine. Only one other boy was my age, so Sunday school became a lonely experience, especially if Arty didn’t show up. I disliked hymns, and the sermons weren’t much better. There were lots of old people (30+ years old). I put in my time and assumed that is what God wanted.
Ten years later I was in the summer after graduation from high school. I was off to college in the fall and required reading before I got there was CS Lewis’s book Mere Christianity. I started reading it, and it scared me. Lewis was talking about Christianity as if it made sense. It wasn’t supposed to, and I put the book down several times wishing not to finish it…. but I did. The book started me on a different path. You see from age seven to 17 I had learned quite well that there was my life on Sunday at church and there was my real life at school. They didn’t mix.
Christianity was this abstract thing that I believed in but had nothing to do with my real life. I didn’t think God could be a part of my everyday circumstances. I had learned the box theory of behaving. There was a box for school. There was a box for church, and there was a box for work. I could blend in quite well if I just opened the right box.
Over the years, I’ve had experiences that have helped me to break down those box walls. It was a mission trip, a seminar, a job change, a weekly men’s prayer group, a Bible study, a sermon, an illness, a move, a book or a retreat. Then I got married, and we had children, and the box theory of living was obliterated. Marriage was 24-7. Only by the grace of God could I learn to be real. My marriage wasn’t like a mission trip nor was it like a one-off men’s retreat. It was every day. I couldn’t box my marriage. I had to live it every day.
Where am I going with this? Faith is all consuming. It is not just a Sunday morning worship service. It’s all day. If I fake it at church, I’ll fake it with friends. If I cheat in business, I could cheat in my marriage. If I use my computer for lustful pleasure, I will look at women with a sexual attitude. Sure, you can box certain activities for a while and think you are getting away with it, but not forever. It’s faith and life. A faithful life.
None of us have all the answers. But let’s be real before God and with each other. Read your Bible when you most need it. Pray about specifics and find a friend you can trust who can help. Boxes are useful for organizing stuff that goes in the attic, but not in life. Godly wisdom knows that you have a lifetime to break them down starting now. Faith and life are meant to be done together, in harmony.
Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. — 1 Corinthians 3:18
Author: Paul Veerman