Wrestling with God

September 18, 2003

Austin 3:16

I started yesterday feeling kind of depressed. My heart is bursting with desire for normal “post-Christian” folks — like my friends who are singularly uninterested in church, even though I tell them I’m “the front man in the band.”

In San Jose right now, there is a spectacular push for Alpha. Over a hundred churches are working together to host Alpha at around the same time, and the advertising is everywhere: radio ads, billboards, backs of buses, miniature posters placed on lawns, flyers in every home. Somebody ponied up a bunch of money for this.

It tears me up. Not because I think it’s a bad thing — it’s wonderful! I have often wanted to try Alpha myself. And since it originated in post-Christian England, I’d think it has a good shot at really touching people here. But I can bet money that my friends haven’t given it a second thought. …And since it’s not reaching my friends, it’s crap, right?

No, it's not. But I am becoming so focused, so obsessed with this vision of reaching not the "unchurched" but the "anti-churched", that anything that does not move that vision forward seems like crap to me. I don't want to be critical of other things! But I figure that if I don't make an all-out effort to bring the kingdom of God to my friends and to others like them, who will? I am compelled.

My depression yesterday lifted after I worshiped my heart out. But I am still agonizing, because I'm not sure exactly what to do. Here I am, bursting with this grand vision, but I don't yet see how to get there. Agghhh!

Kay, bless her heart, was the biggest encouragement. She said, "Jon, you're wrestling with God. Something happened to you when you went to Soliton — God planted something in you. And now you're in this difficult place of burning vision. And it's OK for it to be difficult because it's a birthing process. God is going to birth something in you, something new and wonderful." ++ Thank you for my wife who believes in me. ++

At the Soliton Sessions, Erwin McManus said that when you wrestle with God, God won't let up on you — but he wants you persevere until you win. You may have a limp for the rest of your life, but it's worth it.

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

8 responses to Wrestling with God

  1. Jon, I just want to affirm the vision and passion that God has given you. I think that you positively glow with it! It’s difficult being patient isn’t it, when God puts a burden on you? It’s like the “fire being shut up in the bones” that Jeremiah experienced. But, in due time I believe that God’s desire that has become yours will bring forth amazing fruit.
    Grace and PAX to you, Brother!

  2. I hear ya. While my vision is different from yours, I understand your dilemma of having difficulty supporting other people’s different visions, and wishing more of them would support your vision. As Rich said, “in due time…”. I find that at times I am impatient, but then in time, after I have learned some more, new, personal lessons, I am glad I hadn’t jumped forward previously, before learning those things. So, in God’s due time…

  3. I facilitated an Alpha course at the cabinet company where I was working a coupleof/3 years ago. Saw two people meet Jesus. I haven’t done one since, nor participated in one, but it was for me a definite “God thing”. It was the second one operating in Charlotte and now we have dozens. I’d do it again if it were him… but now we’re vibing on intercessory worship. It may get bigger, it may not. Personally I’m at a place with Jesus where I prefer the hidden work, but sometimes He leads out into the world. If its truly Him, its fruitful.
    By the way, I just saw a TV ad for those “Hulk Hands”. Amazing.
    Peace to you in your walk, that you follow on to know the Lord.

  4. Jon–
    I wish I would be of more support for you. But I know that my desire shouldn’t be to alleviate this tension, but to partner with you in it.
    3 things I know for sure(and maybe only three): This is necessary, This is God, and Many are here with you in the same wrestling match.
    Anything you ever need, you’ve got my info. Give Kay our Love.

  5. I don’t quite know how I got here, but somehow I ended up reading this blog.
    Nevertheless, I would like to point out that I think you should leave your friends alone. Faith (or non faith) is not something that should be pushed upon people. It comes through years of thought and self reflection (or fear and weakness). Do you really disrespect their oppinions enough that you are willing to tell them that they are wrong and then offer them the “right” way of looking at things? That’s all faith and non faith are: oppinions. It is impossible for anybody to know anything that isn’t an oppinion. It can be argued whether we exist or not, but in the end, from such a limited knowledge (for nobody knows even a small fraction of what there is to know), it is impossible to form anything more than an oppinion. To do otherwise would be rather pig headed as you would be claiming that you are better than the rest of the world.
    At least that’s my oppinion 😉

  6. Hi Alex,
    Thanks for your comment, I really do appreciate it. What may surprise you is that I totally agree that faith should not be pushed upon people. In a posting back in April 02, I wrote about my decision to stop trying to evangelize my friends. It sounds like you have had some bad experiences with Christian-types. If you stick around (and I hope you do), you may see beyond the negative stereotypes you are projecting onto me to see my heart.
    You see, I am eagerly seeking the kingdom of God — for my friends, for my family, for myself. I am not interested in pitting my opinions against anyone else’s — and I don’t mean that in a condescending way, like “I will not bother with the trivial opinions of heathens.” I mean, this is not about who is “right” and “wrong”. That is not the issue; in an old, old story, it is “the wrong tree.”
    I am on a spiritual quest, and I think you have something to offer me to help me on this quest. I think you can help me be a better follower of Jesus. I think you already are.

  7. Sorry, I don’t quite understand that second paragraph. If you don’t want to pit your opinions against anyone else’s and if it’s not about right and wrong, then what is it about? How can you convert people without doing exactly that?
    Also, here’s a little background about me:
    I haven’t had any “bad experiences” with christians (none that i can remember at least). I grew up with parents who never pushed me in ANY direction spiritually. I guess I was agnostic for quite a while, until about a year ago when I made the leap to atheism. I base everything I know on logic, and I also know the limits of what I know and what is possible to know. From this it is possible to devine that, with limited knowledge, it is impossible to know how much you don’t know, and therefore impossible to really know anything. That leads to the statment: It is imposible to know anything without first knowing everything (my own creation). I could go into proof but that would take a while. In the end i guess i’m an existentialist and a post modernist.

  8. Hey Alex,
    I’m Jared, and I’ve been intrigued by your posts. I do not have license to speak for Jon, but I think that your question deserves conversation. What you stumbled upon in the first paragraph of your last comment is a huge chord in the current progression of faith for many followers of Christ. As you rightly put it, we know little if anything of the world that we cannot see–let alone the world that we can. So for us to engage others from a posture of knowing something is pretty presumptious. What we can do is share our experiences with people, because our experiences are uniquely ours.
    In this way I have a deep level of respect for the agnostics–those who willingly share that they’ve not experienced interaction with the divine, without making conjectures as to whether their lack of experiences conclude that such an essence does not exist.
    What you may find here in this blog is a group of people that have experienced something of beauty far greater than themselves, and are wrestling with the hurtles of their own humanity as they pursue that essence. That essence for me, is the person of Christ–the tangible reflection of God to humanity. But rather than going around, marketing my knowledge to the masses and insisting that everyone experience Him in the ways that I have, I’ve found a different posture–not unlike your own–that makes sense for me to take. I believe in that my posture should be one of sharing, rather than telling; a student, rather than an expert; one that questions rather than one that has all of the answers. Rather than programatically “convert” people to my truth, I choose to spend my time attempting to love the people around me, sharing life and my story with them as time and relationship allow. Rather than become an expert in apologetics and theology, becoming confined to the finite spectrum of what I think that I know, I share my life with those around me, and invite them to do the same with me. Through that sharing, I develop a much more beautiful understanding of this God–and how important humanity is to him, because of what I learn from the people around me.
    I think that in this way, rather than demanding people give mental ascent to a simplified interpretation of God, they actual develop lives that reflect his nature, and are curiously drawn into the mystery of who he is, and who we are to become. “Conversion” in this case, now has little to do with a card they’ve checked off in some religious service, or a 3 step prayer they’ve prayed, or what levels of goodness they’ve attained. it becomes a process over one’s entire life, consuming them with longing for that interaction which constantly refines, explores, and embraces the human soul.
    Anyways, I don’t want this to get much longer, but I’m in a similar position of relearning how to lay agenda aside and just love the people around me. It’s amazing–I’ve believed in and experienced God most of my life and yet, I still wrestle with feeling like it’s necessary to act in his stead and draw humanity to him. check out this quote, and let me know what you think about all of this.
    “We see that it is not the task of Christianity to provide easy answers to every question, but to make us progressively aware of a mystery. God is not so much the object of our knowledge as the cause of our wonder.”