I was in the sixth grade, shy, clumsy and feeling awkward in many social situations. I was in Boy Scouts at the time and subscribed to "Boy’s Life," which was the magazine of the Scouts. Each month, I read this magazine — cover to cover.
One month I discovered an interesting advertisement. It was about about a course called "The Art of Conversation." The article talked about how one could take this course and become confident with people in social situations. The course was from a company in Chicago. Chicago! In my mind, something that came from Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York made that "thing" even more interesting. I had not been to any of these three cities but they each seemed big, mysterious, and interesting. I ordered the course and still remember checking the mailbox regularly until the course material finally arrived.
Now I don’t remember much beyond that. I just remember wanting to be different.
Many years later, I find that I still need to be open to changes in my life. What about you?
1. Do you need to change your attitude? Do you tend to be cynical and negative? Do you complain more than you praise God?
2. Do you live for the applause and approval of other people? Do you feel disappointed, and even angry, when others do not seem impressed with your willingness to sacrifice your prayer life or your ministry (Matt. 6:1-18)?
3. Do you need to change where you have placed your "treasure"? Is your heart wrapped around the desire for earthly goods, material wealth, and status symbols? Or, are you investing in a treasure that moths and rust cannot consume (Matt. 6:19-24)?
4. Do you take Jesus at his word? Do you trust him to the point of risk? Or, are you merely going along with his words as long as they seem reasonable?
5. Are you serious about loving God and loving others or do you hold on to cherished fantasies rooted in hatred, lust, or envy?
I am simply saying that it might be worthwhile to reflect on our thought world, behavior, and habits. Far too often, Christians simply get used to the darkness. Yes, I believe we can get used to the darkness that exists in this world; however, I also believe we can simply get used to the darkness of our own soul.
Flannery O’Conner wrote a short story called "The River" (one of ten stories in her book A Good Man is Hard to Find, 1955). In the story she describes a baptism that the members of a small country church had all gathered to witness. A couple had brought one of their neighbors, a boy, to be baptized. In the story, the preacher says,
"If I baptize you, you’ll be able to go to the Kingdom of Christ…do you want that, boy? "Yes," the boy says. "You won’t be the same again," the preacher says. "Then he turned his face to the people and began to preach and Bevel looked over his shoulder at the pieces of the white sun scattered at the river. Suddenly the preacher said, "All right, I’m going to baptize you now." And without warning he tightened his hold and swung him upside down and plunged his head into the water. He held him under while he said the words of baptism and then jerked him up again and looked sternly at the gasping child." … "You won’t be the same again…," the preacher said.
What struck me about this old story was not this preacher’s manner during this baptism but his words. "You won’t be the same again." This is such a reminder that as Christ-followers we have not been called to stay the same. We are not to simply shrug our shoulders and maintain the status quo. Rather, we are being re-created to be a new people.
I’m just passing on to you what I have been thinking about in regard to my life. What about you?
Do you see a need to do this kind of reflection in regard to your own life? Is there one question in particular that you have been thinking about lately?
(I first became aware of this O’Conner quote through a sermon by P. C. Enniss in Journal for Preachers, Volume XXXII, Number 3, Easter, 2009.)