It’s called a gap year. They’re practically required for European students graduating from their equivalent of high school, and it’s purpose is to enjoy a break before getting right back into the grind of studies. If money allows the gap year will take the person exiting adolescence to Australia, South America or maybe just out in the large backyard of their own country.
But for Mark, the gap year was spent in his hometown working landscaping. While his friends were off at college discovering the wonders of recreational drug use and wearing pajamas in public, Mark was working hoping the light bulb in his mind would go off – telling him which direction to go. It was a time to become who he will be in all areas of his life – though everyone hoped his steady diet of Dominos Pizza and frozen waffles would not stick around into his thirties.
On Tuesday night he arrived an hour early to his church’s college ministry, hoping to talk to the pastor before the lights and projector turned on. “I think I’m losing my faith…” Mark said with his head down.
“To be honest the Rapture is so wild an idea I’m not sure I can buy it anymore. Believers being beamed up like an invasion? I don’t want to be a doubter yet I can’t believe. It’s not for lack of want…
“Then there is the Bible… It seems divine yet I can’t stretch that to mean it’s the exact words of God… I just don’t know what to believe anymore. I’m not who I was before I met Jesus, but I can’t keep holding these beliefs. It’d be like betraying myself.”
“You are not having a spiritual breakdown,” the 29 year old seminarian pastor said. “You’re having an crisis of intellect.”
Mark can have serious doubts about these things and still be confident in Jesus. He can still say he knows him and has been moved by him.
I think we’ve blown up what it means to be a Christian. I think if the apostles led a class called “So You Want To Be Apart of The Way” it would be very different from a new members class at a church today. I think it would be much less technical. It seems to me that issues that seem so worth battling over and endlessly discussing weren’t on the radar to most early Christians. Our emphasis on believing a certain set of things about the beginning of the world, what the Scriptures are – they are matters of belief. They are intellectual matters. I would even say discussing these things implies a luxury – in other words that we have the time and energy to worry about this and not concern ourselves with the upcoming harvest that will feed our family.
But Christianity, The Way, following Jesus, whatever you call this thing we do – is about encountering Jesus. And though Christianity may have some things to say about creationism, what origin of the Bible is, and whatever else we put on our church website, it’s first and foremost and ultimately about meeting Jesus on the road. And usually you are never the same.
So let some things be matters of intellect, and let them not interfere with people meeting Jesus.
What are the essentials? What is following Jesus really about? What is superfluous?