Not my 25th wedding anniversary. That will be next summer. But an anniversary that is more profound.
Perhaps it is significant that this anniversary take place on Thanksgiving Sunday (in Canada, at least). There is much I should be thankful for…and much that I am.
It is odd to think that I can cite a date when this event took place. Today, I would be more likely to argue that it is more a transformation that takes place over time than something that happens in a moment. And I could make that argument from my own experience.
On the evening of October the 7th, 1982 at Convocation Hall, University of Toronto at an event called Joy in the City, I came to a visceral understanding that Jesus was who He claimed to be – and – that He is my Saviour. It didn’t happen while David Watson was preaching. In fact, I cannot remember a word this wonderful brother in Christ spoke that night. (Though I have since read almost everything he wrote.) But, I can still remember the actor sitting in his chair, newspaper opened in front him, whilst actively ignoring the actor playing the Hound of Heaven. That short one act play in the middle of an event that featured lusty singing, great preaching and surely the prayers of the saints, was what pushed me over the edge – or perhaps I should say, pulled me over the edge.
It is important to note that this took place after I had been pursuing an understanding of Jesus’ claim to be fully God and fully man. That I had been actively questioning His claim that “none would come to the Father except through me.” I had even been the only skeptic at a skeptics dinner held in the basement of Little Trinity Church where Harold Percy had lovingly and easily parried my jabs at his faith.
I would like to tell you that my life was filled with unending happiness and peace from that October 7th moment on. That in “becoming a Christian”, whatever that means, I became fulfilled and content. I would like to say all that, but it would be a lie.
I can say this. In these 25 years that I have been a believer, I have experienced more Joy than I ever thought possible. And more pain than I ever knew bearable. I have oft times referred to it as a “full-bandwidth experience.” Not the muted pleasure and occasional hurt of my previous existence before knowing Christ, but full-on, over the top, joy unspeakable – and pain that has shattered and crushed me. Yet, I still stand – not in my own strength but by the One who sustains me.
I have seen and experienced what could only be the direct intervention of an All Powerful Other. And have felt at the core of my being His seeming absence. I have watched as the wicked prosper and the faithful perish – and have asked “where is this God that I profess? Why has He abandoned us?” And wept like a spoiled child who doesn’t get his way.
And relationships! Such relationships.
I have friends and family who walk with me no matter what I’m going through. Who love me enough to speak the truth to me, even when it hurts. Who want and pray the very best for me and my family. Some of them are fellow believers. Some are not. All of them are God-given.
And my wife and children. Could a man be more blessed. When I doubt it, I only need to look to them to realize the goodness of God.
Yet, also others.
I’ve been ordained by one who no longer speaks to me, slandered by one who stands righteously before thousands, abandoned by those I thought life-long friends. I’ve seen the ridiculous held up as the movement of the Spirit. Watched those who claim to hear His voice, lie as easily as they breath. And still adoring crowds press forward in an attempt to touch the hems of the garments of these “anointed leaders.”
My supposed rights demand that I be bitter. I would lie if I claimed I had not drunk deep of those stagnant wells. But am I any less evil than those who have caused me pain. Have I not also been a faithless friend, a careless judge, a scorn-filled mocker? I am fully human, thus fully broken. And still there is One who sticks closer than a brother. Who promises to never leave me nor forsake me. Who, even when I doubt His constant presence, is there.
Yes, this 25th anniversary may be in the season of my discontent. I may have briefly walked away from the organized entities that demand to be known as the Church, may be Quixotic in my railing at windmills, as much a hypocrite as those who don’t know me have asserted. But I still believe…even if I haven’t found what I’m looking for.
And would I go back and change the reason for this 25th Anniversary. Not for a nanosecond.