Monday, September 13, 2010


This will be my first "Radical Response" post as I comment on the things I'm learning during the Radical Read-Along. If this, or future Radical posts seem to ramble, my apologies up front - I am all kinda of overwhelmed by what I'm reading and am having a hard time processing it.

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"The gospel does not prompt you to mere reflection; the gospel requires a response.” (Radical, page 20)

I remember the first time I started feeling "uneasy" about the American brand of Christianity. I was in the beginning of my Sophomore year of college and had just read Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. I felt a sense of relief that I was not the only one who thought that American Christianity was somehow missing something incredibly important. I began to cautiously mention my feelings to my peers and was surprised to find that a number of them felt the same kind of discontent with the shallow, self-indulgent, feel-good Christianity we had grown up with. But for the most part, there was a whole lot of discussion between us and not a whole lot of action.

Fast forward seven years to the present and it seems that very little has changed in my life. I am still discussing what it really means to be a Christ-follower, but not doing a whole lot of following after Christ (turns out the word "following" is an action verb that indicates doing). There have been little glimmers of action, but nothing extreme, nothing that would indicate radical abandon and obedience to Christ. In the last few months however, I feel like the call to action is becoming more and more overwhelming. I feel more and more uncomfortable with the comfortable life I'm accustomed to. 

Now I am, once again, at a crossroad with one sign reading "Self" and the other "Christ." If I choose "Self," I will continue to live a comfortable, self-preserving spin on Christianity and I am certain that I will never make the kind of difference in the world that Christ called those who followed after him to make.

If I choose "Christ," I will undoubtedly find myself desperately clinging to the promise that while those who follow after Christ will face difficulties in this world, they will find their treasure in heaven. I don't think until this moment, I have really understood how much faith that takes. To be willing to give up everything in this life based on faith that there is something better in eternity, in a place I can never comprehend until I'm there, takes far more faith then I've ever thought possible. I'm understanding now why Paul said, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Cor 15:19). If Christ's claims, which Christians profess to believe, are true however, then no response other than radical abandon seems appropriate.

I am tired of discussion. I am tried of trying to rationalize Jesus' word to fit my own comforts. But at this point, I am also scared of what action in my life will look like. I am stuck in a very uncomfortable limbo right now - I'm uncomfortable with not doing and I'm uncomfortable with doing.

But limbo indicates inaction, and I do not want to sit in that rut again.

As I look back at the last seven years, I can't say that I haven't done anything; that there haven't been some changes in my life, because there certainly have been. I don't feel like I've done enough however, and while I probably haven't, I had to ask myself why I felt that way. The first thing that popped in my head was, "Because I haven't felt like I've really sacrificed anything." The theology behind this statement made me pause. I thought back on all the ways that God has moved in my heart over the past seven years and the things he's called me to give up. I realized that giving up those things never really felt like a sacrifice because I had joy as I "gave up" things for God out of love and obedience to Him.

Certainly I can give up more for Christ, but I don't think that I should base my "enough" meter on whether or not I feel like I've sacrificed. I believe this mindset has the potential to cross a dangerous line into feeling prideful and into an attitude of "look at how much I gave up for Christ" self-martyrdom. 

As I process what I'm reading in scripture and what I'm reading in Radical, I'm realizing that much of my fear in truly following Christ is the fear that I will be miserable and that if I'm not miserable then I must not be following him hard enough. These two warring thoughts make me, well, miserable. Instead of beating myself up however, I think I need to realize that when I am doing what Christ called me to do, it shouldn't necessarily feel like a sacrifice- it is a joyful thing. Even though it might seem crazy and difficult and cause me to give up things and take a whole lot of faith to sacrifice for Christ, it brings joy. This is an encouraging and much-less-scary thought as I enter into this Radical journey.

The crux of the matter, for me, is that I am far too easily distracted by things that bring me joy based on the world's standards and not focused enough on pursuing the kind of joy that Christ promises. This quote from Radical sums it up nicely:

"If Jesus is who he said he is and if his promises are as rewarding as the Bible claim they are, then we may discover that satisfaction in our lives and success in the church are not found in what culture deems most important but in a radical abandonment to Jesus." (page 3)


  1. Oh my goodness, Jen! I just had an epiphany! Thank you! I LOVE what you said about sacrifice not having to make you miserable. Because being truly abandoned to Christ will bring JOY. Wow. I mean, I "knew" all that, but wow. THANK YOU.

  2. I love "aha" moments like this! Thank you for your perspective. I always thought that sacrifice should be somewhat painful, but I think you're so will be joyful! I believe that's the paradox that we have such a hard time understanding from all Paul writes.

  3. Isn't it amazing how much time we spend talking about change and how little time we spend actually changing? My hubby and I have spent the last 15+ years looking at the church and our own lives and knowing that things are just not right. We have made some changes. We have involved ourselves in activities outside the church in order to actually have some "lost" people to try and minister to. We have changed how we look at those outside Christ and we have tried to help others see that we are to always love the sinner while hating sin. The reality is we have still fallen way short of what God desires. Thank you for your honesty...thank you for the encouragement you have given me!

  4. "Certainly I can give up more for Christ, but I don't think that I should base my "enough" meter on whether or not I feel like I've sacrificed. I believe this mindset has the potential to cross a dangerous line into feeling prideful and into an attitude of "look at how much I gave up for Christ" self-martyrdom."

    Oh my GOSH! YES, YES, YES. That says so much. Thank you, Jen, for sharing that. Absolutely profound insight. Wow. I totally needed that today.

    (PS - My first timid step on this path began with Blue Like Jazz, too, about four years ago.)

  5. You verbalized so much of what I've been wrestling with myself!

    Giving your all sounds like it should be painful & sometimes it is, but more often than not there's a quiet rest that comes in knowing you are fully resting in the care of a loving Father!

    Thanks so much for your post! LOVE it!

  6. Yes, I love this "I am tired of discussion" and YES I find I have great joy when I sacrifice by the world's standards.

  7. "I am stuck in a very uncomfortable limbo right now - I'm uncomfortable with not doing and I'm uncomfortable with doing."
    I feel a lot like this right now; wondering what it is God wants me to do and scared of what he may ask-my desire to "plan" everything is overwhelming, right now I am having to exercise faith. Resting in th Father for his timing and plan. Radical bootcamp!

  8. I'm popping over from Marla's Read-Along. Just wanted to say that I really appreciated this wonderful post and it has helped me process some of my own swirling thoughts on this issue.

  9. agreeing w/ all the others. blue like jazz, check. velvet elvis, check. other emergent/post emergent books, check. house church stint, check.

    and you see the pattern? b/cs reading (and discussing) isn't the be-all/end-all. i have to eventually do or acknowledge my lack of doing... not to beat myself up per se, but to merely acknowledge that the tension is there, the limbo you spoke of, and to do something about it.
    idon't feel very brave, and even reading your post i was like :headsmack: duh, i wrote about now wanting to get rid of my dream for nice furniture, and it's about so! much! more than that!
    i'm so happy to be a part of this RAL. can't wait to finish dissecting this book and the profound impact it's gonna have on my life.

  10. i too struggle with the misery meter. sometimes i find myself longing to know God more, to become more spiritual, but then i immediately follow it up with "but i don't want to be like sister x who thinks all fiction is from the devil". the funny thing is that God has called me to give up reading fiction for small periods, sometimes even indefinitely, and it hasn't been a hardship. i'm currently not reading any fiction, not even because God has asked me not to, but because i don't want to be distracted. i love how God turns our sacrificial obedience into joyful following. :)

  11. I linked from Marla's site. Thanks for articulating the war going on inside me... I want to be RADICAL but I'm not miserable enough...not a good measurement of obedience!

  12. Oh, what honest and beautiful words from your heart! I think that you are so right, that the enemy wants us to think that radical obedience will make our flesh miserable...while it may for a moment, the blessings that flow make it all worthwhile. Joy cometh!!

  13. "I realized that giving up those things never really felt like a sacrifice because I had joy as I "gave up" things for God out of love and obedience to Him." THIS! So good :-) Thanks for sharing your story . . . I have had those same stirrings in my heart that there has to be something MORE to being a Christian. And, while I agree we dont need to become self-righteous or prideful in how much we've "given up" I also agree with you that we need to examine our lives and unequivocably choose Christ over ourselves every single time. Even though that is hard. And counter-cultural.

  14. Thanks for sharing Jen. The 'enough' meter thoughts are exactly what I needed to read. :)

  15. I had a very similar experience with Blue Like Jazz. I have been a huge Donald Miller fan ever since.


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