short story

The Spiritual Life

Playing To Win, Losing For Real: A Short Story

The two men, property tycoons, sat opposite each other at the table. Between the two of them they owned most of the real estate in the city. But it was not enough for either of them. No, each of them wanted it all for themselves, and they had become obsessed at achieving that goal.

They bought property from one another when there fortunes were up, and when they needed more cash flow, reluctantly sold property. They were relentless in their pursuit to outsmart the other. One thing was certain. The day would come when one would succeed in his greedy goal. The moment would come when one would fail and declare bankruptcy, to the joy of the other.

One sunny Wednesday afternoon that day finally came. They sat in their usual spot in central park for another round of negotiations. As they had done for the past three decades. It was on this day, after one more bad business deal, one final bad move, that one of the men realized he had lost everything. He had been outsmarted, and he would have to give up his final hotel property to cover his losses. He handed over the last of his property to his old rival, and with a bitter look, told his opponent that he had won. He had defeated him.

At first the other man sat there rejoicing. Thirty years work, and now he had done it. He was the victor. He owned all the property in the city! But then he became quiet, and his rival also. He sat there and contemplated what had just happened. Something he was not quite prepared for.

In winning everything he had focused so hard on winning, he did something else he never wanted to do. He had ended the Game. By ending it, he was suddenly forced to admit that was all it was, just a Game.

Some of the other regulars in the park looked on at this significant moment with great interest. The two men sat as still as statues, their eyes downcast upon their monopoly board. Neither saying a word.

Over the years and decades they had both lost their jobs, their families, their homes and their dignity in their obsession with their Game. The worse of all, they lost their grip on reality, and over the years actually came to believe the game was reality. They enjoyed their passionate pursuits, thinking they were real pursuits, real business dealings.

People had often tried to wake them up, to force them to quit the Game, but they were so deep into it, so focused, they just dismissed their voices. No, they were not playing a Game, they were trying to win the city, and they were close to doing it! That’s what they both thought. Whenever anyone tried to show them they were losing their lives by living in their Game, they just ignored it. They were happy in their reality. They were winning the whole city. They were significant business men. They were like kings. They were important. And then – the Game ended.

Slowly, the man who had won began to weep. He looked at the board, and realized it was all just a game. He thought about his family he had lost, how long ago? Years? Decades? He thought about his life, the life he had missed out on because he had become so obsessed with the Game.

Then he shook his head, stop his crying and gazed over at his opponent.

“You know Frances,” he said. “You’re the best business man I know. In this city, there’s no better opponent than you. I’ll tell you what . . .” he picked up a few hotels from his pile and handed them across the table. “Consider this a gift. Now, let’s see if you can rebuild your empire.”

His opponent’s countenance suddenly changed, and color returned to his cheeks. “Rodger, you truly are an upstanding tycoon. A true gentleman. But be warned, I’m still committed to owning this entire city.”

The spark in Rodger’s homeless eyes began to sparkle once again, “I expect nothing less, my old revival. Now, pass by Go, collect your $200, and let us continue; we have a long day of business negotiations ahead of us.”
“Indeed we do. Indeed we do.”

As so they began playing again, suppressing the short realization they had wasted their entire lives playing a Game. They both focused intensely upon the board, counted their properties and planned out their strategies. This is not a Game, they both thought to themselves, No, this is the real world.

WWAPD?

WWJD: “What Would Jesus Do?” Do You Really Want To Know?

Once upon a time, a mother made her son a wristband. On it was written: WWJD. This, of course stood for: What Would Jesus Do?’ She instructed her son to look at the wristband before making decisions on how to live his Christian life.

A week later she was shocked to see that her son had become friends with prostitutes, was hanging out with ‘sinners’ – even buying people who were already drunk yet another round of beers!

Worse still, he had walked into their church the previous Sunday and tore down the book store, overturned the tables and threw the cash register through the window, he then made a whip and chased the pastor out of the building, declaring he was turning God’s house into a den of thieves.

Most shocking was what happened when his mother went to picket the local abortion clinic. To her embarrassment, her son was also there, but he was standing with the women who just had an abortion, and yelled at the protesters: “You who is without sin, throw the first stone!”

The mother was very distressed, but fortunately she found a solution to this terrible problem. She made another wristband, this time it read: WWAPD, this, she explained to her son, stood for: What Would A Pharisee Do? She took the old WWJD wristband and burned it.

Since her son has been wearing the new wristband, looking at it to help him make his decisions, he has become a dedicated tither, a public prayer warrior, an active condemner of ‘sinners’, a passionate defender of the Old Covenant law, and has a great reputation as a godly young man amongst other religious people.

Needless to say, the mother is very happy now. She only wishes Jesus would take notice and follow her son’s good example.

Barry the Good Christian

Yes, Jesus Is With Us … But Do We Act Like It?

One day Barry the good Christian was riding his bike when he bumped into Jesus. It was quite a shock at first, but he was excited to hear that Jesus wanted to spend the day with him. What luck, to have God actually with him.

First thing he did when they arrived at his apartment was stand in front of Jesus for 25 minutes and sing love songs to him. This. Was. Awkward.

After worship Barry informed Jesus it was now time for them to have communion. Jesus smiled, stood up enthusiastically and asked where the wine was. This. Was. Awkward.

Barry informed Jesus very nicely that communion was actually done with grape juice, as this was the biblical way, and Barry always followed the Bible. Jesus seemed to roll his eyes, but Barry wasn’t sure. Jesus then asked what they planned on eating for fellowship. Barry produced two tiny pieces of a cracker.

When Jesus asked why they were drinking grape juice out of a shot glass and holding a tiny piece of cracker, Barry decided it was best to ignore Jesus for a moment while he enjoyed communion. For Barry, it was a great moment of connection. Meanwhile, Jesus was still asking where the wine was.

Next he sat Jesus down as he wanted to share a 3 point sermon with him about how to live a better Christian life. Jesus asked if they could have a simple conversation instead. Barry laughed, thinking Jesus was joking. After 10 minutes Jesus actually fell asleep. Barry falsely assumed he was simply in deep meditation about the anointed message, and so continued for another 30 minutes. At the end, he politely woke Jesus up.

After Barry was sure Jesus was awake and listening he became very serious as he began his altar call. He asked Jesus, very convincingly, if he wanted to accept himself into his heart. In fact, he kept on asking with increasing pressure until Jesus raised his hand, upon which he prayed for Jesus to receive his salvation. Barry was very proud of himself – just wait until his prayer group heard about this!

After Jesus got saved by Barry, he was given a form to fill out all his contact details. Once he got all his details, he strategically walked Jesus towards the door. It seemed that Jesus wanted to hang out for longer, but why? They had already done everything important to the Christian fellowship experience.

Barry gave his best Christian smile, inviting Jesus back at the same time, same place the following week. Jesus, however, didn’t understand his nice Christian smile actually meant ‘It’s time for you to leave now’ and so he remained standing there, explaining that there was still plenty of time left in the day to hang out. This. Was. Awkward.

After Jesus finally got the hint and left, Barry sat on his couch, exhausted. 90 minutes with Jesus, he was convinced, was enough for one week.

Do You See This Woman?

Do You Have Eyes Like Jesus? Do You See This Woman?

Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” John 9:40

Some people wonder what Jesus meant when he asked: “Do you have eyes, but fail to see?” The Pharisees, of course, thought they had better eye sight than anyone; so good they could see every sin in the world; they were experts in seeing the sinner in the crowd. Perhaps that was the very thing that caused them to be blind?

When Jesus looked upon the people of his day, he didn’t see ‘sinners’, rather, he saw the lost sheep that God so loved he sent Jesus into the world to rescue. Jesus looked upon people with a different perspective than the Pharisees:

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

When Jesus was invited to dinner in the house of a prominent Pharisee named Simon, their dinner was interrupted by a woman, so touched by her interactions with Jesus that she fell to his feet and covered them with tears, and wiped them with her hair. What did Simon see? He didn’t see what God wanted him to see; he was blind to the very work of God. Simon’s perspective was this:

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Luke 7:39

Simon saw the sinner; but he didn’t see the woman. He put her in an inhuman category in his mind, that allowed him to cast his judgment upon her without consulting his heart, or the heart of God. But Jesus was different, he didn’t see the sinner; he saw the woman. He saw the true person, not the pain and corruption that life had pulled her into. He saw the child. He saw the one he came to rescue. The woman, now set free, was overflowing with thankfulness. Heaven was erupting with joy and dancing. God was rejoicing – but Simon missed the whole thing. Jesus asked him: “Do you see this woman?”

Do you see this woman? Do you see this man? Do you see them as lost sheep? Do you see them as the very reason Jesus came? Do you see God’s plan for restoration? Do you see the pain they are in? Do you see their need for love? Or do you see the sinner? Jesus words ring in my heart all the time: “Do you see this woman?”

It’s easy to see the sinner, but do you see the person? Do you see the lost sheep that belongs to God; that God came to find? Do you see the lost sheep, helpless and harassed, like a sheep without a Shepherd?

Simon, the Pharisee who was the host of the party, was blind to the miracle; he had eyes, but he couldn’t see. He only saw the sinner, he saw her sins, he saw her past, but he didn’t see what truly counted; he couldn’t see the unfailing love Jesus had for this woman. He couldn’t see the acceptance Jesus offered her. He couldn’t see how the love of God had led this woman into freedom. He missed it all, because what we saw was ‘a sinner’. What he was blind to was the transaction that had happened in this woman’s heart through the love and kindness of Jesus.

The multitudes were amazed at how Jesus multiplied a few loaves of bread into a feast for 5,000 people by the miracle hand of God, but the woman who cried at the feet of Jesus, washing his feet with tears of joy, was far more amazed at how Jesus transformed her heart through his love and grace. A transformed heart and life, that is received freely through the grace of Jesus, is the greatest work of God there is.

When we see people the way Jesus sees them, then we truly do see. Love is the eye sight of God. Love is his opinion of everyone. Love is his way. Rescue, salvation, reconciliation and new life is God’s agenda. For Jesus came, not to condemn the world, but to save the world through himself. We serve a king who saves. A king who loves.

Let us also see those who have not yet met him as the lost sheep whom our great Shepherd is seeking to save, and by the unfailing power of his love, will do just that.

disappointment

James, The Brother Of Jesus, & Rejected Son: A Short Story

Today’s short story is based on the Scripture: “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” - John 19:25-27 and also: “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” - Mark 3:21

Yesterday the Romans had crucified his brother. It was inevitable, and he had warned his brother that more than once. But did he listen to him? Did Jesus ever listen to him? No. He had his own ideas, even if they went against everything the experts in the law taught. James was one of the most praised young pharisees in the city. He was always the most spiritual one in the family. His older brother, by contrast was a common tradesman. After the death of their father it was Jesus who took the role of bread-winner, and to his credit, it was Jesus who had paid for James’ studies. But nonetheless, he was still just a carpenter.

However, all that changed three years ago, like a whirlwind, and nothing had been the same since.

Now this. The end of a long process of insanity. A dead brother, a mother who had half lost her mind in grief, and six siblings left at home trying to make sense of why their mother was not with them. James was now the head of the family, and it was his responsibility to bring order back into their household. But how to do that when his mother wouldn’t return home. She still clung to her false hopes her illegitimate son was somehow something greater, something divine. Yet now, she had to deal with the truth, that all he said was a lie, and that lie led him to his grave.

He knelt next to the bed his mother was lying in, and tried to talk sense into her.

“Mother, I understand you pain. He was your first-born son, but your others sons . . . we are still here. Come back home mother, so we can look after you.”

Mary wept. She rolled over in her bed and continued to sob. She had not stopped weeping since she watched her son crucified. James turned to the wife of Zebedee who was standing by the door.

“Why is my mother staying here with your family? She should be with her real family!”

The wife of Zebeddee was speechless. James maintained his gaze towards her, not satisfied to leave without an answer. Finally she replied, “It was the dying request of our Lord, we are only providing for her as he asked.”

“Your Lord?” James interjected with disgust. “How dare you blaspheme God!” James walked across to the wife of Zebedee, speaking in a whisper so his mother could not hear, he said, “My brother was not a devil as my many of our leaders have charged him to be, but he was out of his mind, and his delusions cost him his life.”

James once again turned back to speak to his mother. He pleaded for her to return home. Mary remained curled up in bed, facing the wall. After some time James conceded that she was too weak with anguish to reason correctly. He walked to the door, and prepared himself to return to his brothers who were waiting anxiously at home. Before he left he leaned over and asked to the wife of Zebedee: “Do you now want my mother to also die from a delusion and a broken heart? She should be with me, her son, her real son . . . Or do you really believe that your son John is now more or a son to her that I am?

A World Where Nothing Is Impossible

Was The World Created In Six Literal Days?: A Short Story

“But you must believe earth was made in six literal days–it’s biblical!”

“No, it’s not. It’s biblical to believe it may be millions of years old.”

“Oh, stop it, Jack. You know that’s a load of rubbish. It is clearly written in the Bible that God made the world in six days!” Ed looked at his friend with determination in his eyes, and continued, “It can’t be any clearer!”

“Ed,” Jack said, “who wrote Genesis, the book you’re quoting to me?”

“Moses,” he replied quickly, and proudly.

“And who wrote psalm 90?”

This time Ed wasn’t so quick. He had no idea, and it frustrated him to have to say so, especially to Jack. “Not sure, why do you ask?”

“Because, I happen to know who wrote it, for it is attributed to Moses. The very same Moses who wrote Genesis. Now, do you know what Moses wrote in Psalm 90, and what the Apostle Peter quoted to the early church?”

Ed gave a blank stare.

“Here’s what the Apostle Peter said: ‘But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.’ and let me quote what Moses said to you: ‘For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.’ Those, my friend, are the words of the same man who wrote that the Lord made the world in six days. So, although he wrote in Genesis that God made the world in six days, we know from Scripture that he didn’t mean it literally, it could have been six days, but it could have also been six thousand years, or six million years, the point was not the actual duration, but that God was the sole creator, and he was the completer of the creation of the world.”

“Jack, you just want it both ways, you can’t believe in science and God.”

“Hey, don’t sidestep what I’ve just shared! Don’t try to get angry and brand be faithless because you want to avoid what I just told you; be a man, tell me–isn’t it possible, and that from a biblical perspective, that the world was created in a much larger period of time than six literal days?”

“NO!” Ed screamed.”

“Why not? I just explained how it is all together possible.”

“Because, if you don’t believe in a literal six days of creation you aren’t even Christian!”

“And I suppose you think that’s biblical too?”

“Yes, I do!”

“Ed, you believe your pastor and his obsession with a six-day-creation theology. That’s what you believe, but don’t think you are simply believing the Bible. If anything, you’re rejecting the Bible in order to maintain your current belief.”

“You are the rejector, Jack. You are the one who wants to be a scientist instead of a Christian, not me!”

“Ed, you’re just side stepping the real point here. Again, what did Moses say?”

“He said six days! He said six, literal days!”

“No, he didn’t – you have added this word ‘literal’ into the story, don’t you see that? You’re adding information into the Bible that’s not even there!”

“Liar!” Ed screamed.

“Calm down,” Jack replied.

“Scientist!” Ed screamed again.

The Spiritual Life

The Last Supper & How Jesus Divides Family Members. A Short Story

This short story was based off Jesus’ words in this scripture: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn“‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law— a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ – Matthew 10:34-36

“How can you allow this man to use our upper room? How, father? Is is a blasphemer!”

“No, he is a good man!” Clopas said with insistence.

“Many are saying that he deceives the people,” his oldest son responded. “He breaks the Sabbath, he touches the unclean! He has no regard for the Law of Moses!”

“He doesn’t just touch the unclean, he heals them!” Clopas snapped back, trying his best not to raise his voice. “My son, many say that he is the Christ, the promised one!”

His son lowered his eyes to the floor. His frustration was bubbling over. “This man is not the Christ, for he has no love for the Torah and no respect for the elders and the teachers of the Law.”

“Has not the Law prophesied his coming?” Clopas reasoned. “I have seen him heal, I have heard him teach, I have listened to him–”

“You listen to him, but I am your own flesh and blood, and do you listen to me?” his son said abruptly. Standing to his feet he turned to face his father. Looking him square in the eyes he asked, “Do you listen to a stranger over your own flesh and blood? Will you listen to this man over your own son? Would you rather him in your house than I?”

Upstairs, where this man and his disciples were eating, they over heard a voice say: “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me – one who is eating with me.”

Clopas’ son lifted his angry eyes back to meet his father. “Whose disciple are you father? Are you a disciple of this man? Why don’t you go upstairs and join them if you are!”

“Son, I am a follower of the Lord, just as you are! You know this.”

His son shook his head. “Father, the Lord himself gave us Moses to lead us, to look to, to follow! If you truly are for the Lord, then you must be a disciple of Moses, for we know for certainty God spoke to Moses, as for this man, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

“Has not Moses himself spoken to us with the words: ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him!’ If we are to truly listen to Moses, surly we should take these words into account. Tell me son, what do you believe? When the prophet comes, will you follow him as Moses instructed you? If this man Jesus is not the Christ, than tell me, when the Christ comes will he do more miracles that prove he is the Christ than this man?”

Again, a voice was heard from the upper room, saying: “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”

Clopas’ son stepped forward, getting right in his father’s face, and said in a whisper, “What will happen to our people if we follow his teachings? We will become as ungodly as the pagans.”

Clopas looked in confusion at his first-born. “Why do you think that? He teaches only of God’s love and mercy. How can such teaching ruin our people?”

His son replied, “Because he teaches against our Law! When our teachers of the law seek to correct him, he humiliates them with his answers – to the delight of sinners no less! He speaks of God love, but where is his teaching of Gods judgement? Does he rightly condemn the sinners in this city? No he does not; in fact he does the opposite. He eats and drinks with them! He is a friend to the prostitutes and tax collectors! And what of our righteous law that sets us apart from every other godless nation? The elders say he is trying to abolish it! The Torah, our hope! Our life! No man who hates the Torah can be from God!”

Clopas replied in haste, “When have you heard him say that he hates the Torah? He teaches that he has come to fulfill the Law, not abolish it.”

Clopas’ son shook his head. “And how can this man possibly fulfill the Law?”

Clopas grabbed his son’s hand and looked him in his eyes, “Because the Law was given to lead us to God’s Christ, and I tell you son he is here! Has not all the Prophets declared his coming? Has not the prophet Jeremiah declared that when he comes, God will bring to fulfillment our covenant made at Sinai and establish a new covenant with his people? A covenant not based on our legal obligations but on his grace?”

Colpas held his son’s hand tight. His son continued shaking his head and grinding his teach in frustration. He wrestled his hand free and stood to his feet. “To follow this man is blasphemy. I wash my hands of this sin Father. Your precious ‘prince of peace’ has brought nothing but a sword into your own home and has set us against each other!”

Clopas watches as his son stormed out of the house. Upstairs, he heard the man say: “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
Short story by Mick Mooney
Books by Mick: www.amazon.com/author/mickmooney | Latest novel out now: God’s Grammar: A Novel

Who else but Jesus?

Why The Apostle Thomas Doubted: A Short Story

Regarding how we view ‘doubting Thomas.’ I think it’s easy for us to look back and think Thomas simply didn’t have much faith, but we need to remember just how extreme a situation it was for the early Apostles. I wrote this short dramatized account to highlight some of the tension that may have been going on at the time.

“Must we wait here to die!” Thomas asked the other ten Apostles.

“Stop striking fear into our hearts Thomas! We are not going to die! We should not fear anything,” Peter said with only half as much conviction in his tone as the group was accustomed to hearing.

“Then why are we locking ourselves up here like criminals? Why is the door locked tight, Peter? You know as well as all of us what happens to the followers of a blasphemer, death by stoning!” Thomas said angrily. “It is a miracle that we are still alive! But for how long? The Sanhedrin is probably doing an investigation as we speak and preparing our arrests!”

James, one of the sons of Zebedee, grabbed Thomas by his cloak and held him against the wall. “Do you want to die Thomas, is that what you want? Because you don’t have to wait for the Romans or the elders to arrange that, I would gladly offer my assistance!”

John jumped to his feet and separated them. “Is this what Jesus would have wanted? You are brothers! Let us keep the bond of peace between us.” John turned to the apostles and those there with them, “Our woman have given us testimony that he has risen, Peter and I can testify that the tomb is empty! The Lord himself appeared to Peter as he returned from the Tomb. Why are we still mourning his death?” Turning to Thomas he continued “Why are some of you so quick to call him a failed messiah? Will not one of us believe that he has truly risen?”

Suddenly, there was a knock on the door. It was Clopas and Stephen. They entered the room with great joy, a stark contrast to when they left earlier in the day. They stood in front of everyone in the room and declared: “Brothers, it is true, Jesus has risen! He appeared to us today as we walked to Emmaus!”

The room fell silent, an uncomfortable silence. Stephen stepped forward, “Why are you still downcast brothers, we bring good news. What the woman have reported is true, Jesus is risen!”

Suddenly Thomas shouted at Stephen and Clopas “Enough of this nonsense! Enough already!” He looked around the room at the others, “How long are we going to go on trying to fool ourselves? We have spent the last 3 years of our lives following a lie! Should we continue now by deceiving ourselves?”

“But brother,” Stephen replied, “we seen him with our own eyes, I assure you he is alive.”

Thomas turned to Stephen. “Oh you have seen him, and what did he look like? Last time I saw him he was beaten beyond recognition; he was nailed to a cross! So what about now, only 3 days later, please Stephen, tell me, does he still have the nail marks in his hands? Does he still have the flogging marks across his face, his back, his legs? Is his flesh still torn open? If you really saw Jesus, what did he look like?”

There was a deafening silence in the room, Stephens eyes welled up as he tried to hold back his tears “Thomas, brother, he is alive. We … we saw him just today, he met with us … he-”

Thomas interrupted him in a laud and irritated tone. “But what did he look like?”

Clopas spoke up “He looked well. He was healed of his afflictions. He didn’t have the same appearance, he looked like a stranger to us … but we know it was him!”

“He looked like a stranger!” Thomas declared, clenching his fists over his eyes he let out a laud moan in frustration. He opened his eyes and looked around at the other men and women in the room. Tears welled up in his eyes, “Must we continue this sad game? Have we not suffered enough? Do you expect us to believe you saw him on a lonely road, disguised as a stranger? Or the women, should we believe that a gardener near the tomb was the Lord? Can’t you see what is happening? Our group is looking for any reason to believe he is still alive.” Thomas shook his head, he gazed around at all the Apostles, and said sadly, “When a man is tortured to within an inch of his life and then nailed to a cross for 6 hours, only to have a Roman sword pierced into his side … I assure you, he can not recover. It’s impossible. Yet we are to believe that he has not only recovered but is even able to walk? Are you all out of your minds?”

Clopas stepped forward and tried to comfort Thomas, “Brother, my own eyes saw him, can you not trust the testimony of your own dear friends? I tell you the truth, we have seen the Lord.”

Thomas shook his head in frustration, pushing Clopas’ arm off his shoulder. “You saw a man, a random stranger, who you wanted to believe was Jesus-but you are delusional!” he screamed. He turned around once more pointing his finger at Peter and the rest, and cried out, “I tell you, unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger into his side I will not believe it!”

Freedom, Slavery, & The Institutional Church: A Short Story

“It’s not a black and white issue is all I’m saying. I don’t think you can say that the institutional model of church is completely out of God’s will.”

“But it’s so corrupt!” Jack said. “It’s completely following the Old Covenant model. Buildings to worship in, offerings to support those buildings, external sacraments, public prayers, paid professional clergy—the list goes on!”

“I know, I know,” Ted replied.

“Then why do you say it’s not a black and white issue? That’s how it looks to me. It’s Egypt! You told me yourself you think Egypt in the Bible represents religion. Should we be slaves in Egypt? Should we accept slavery when God has called us out into freedom?”

Ted just smiled at his passionate nephew. Jack had been out of the institutional church setting for about 9 months, and was zealous about his belief in its lack of relevance in God’s plan. Ted understood where his nephew was coming from, for he had also gone through these same thoughts himself. He too had at one time only seen the issue as black and white. But time has a way of showing you that the colors are actually blended, that there was no definite right or wrong, but God was at work through everything, including the institutional church; that’s what Ted realized.

“I know I said that, and I still believe Egypt represents religion, and when people make Christianity into a religion, then that too is a picture of Egypt.”

“And Egypt is slavery!” his nephew cried out once more.

“So there’s not room for grey? You’ve concluded the issue it’s black and white then, have you?” Ted asked.

“Yes, I have. I can’t see why I should think any differently.”

Ted stood up to grab a drink from the fridge. He opened it and sat back down next to his nephew, and asked, “And what about when the angel spoke to Joseph, when Jesus was just born, and told him to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt for protection? What do you make of that?”

Jack remained silent. He hadn’t ever thought of that. “Why did the angel send them into Egypt?” he asked his uncle. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Well,” Ted said, “not when you think in black and white. But when you allow yourself live in the middle, to see things in shades of grey, you might just start understanding things a little easier.”

“So why do you think the angel told Joseph to go into Egypt, in relation to what we’re talking about?”

“Well, this is just my understanding of it, but perhaps there are times, especially when we are young in our faith, where God sees that is it safer for someone to spend some time in religion then remain in their worldly circumstances.” He gave his nephew another smile and continued, “Perhaps God uses the institutional church for good, at times. I know this seems like a shocking statement to you at the moment, but perhaps it is in his plan and will, at times. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with how it runs, or support it in any way. But when you allow yourself to see the issue not in all right or all wrong, all black or all white, but instead see things as grey, you’ll be able to rest more in your own faith, and love those who are not as free as you are with a more genuine heart.”

Jack thought about it for a moment. He turned to his uncle and said, “But those who are stuck in Christian religion judge me in black and white. They dismiss my thoughts, talk about me as a backslider from God, call me a heretic behind my back, distance themselves from me. They only see the issue in black and white, so why shouldn’t I?”

“Because,” Ted said, “you can, that’s why. You are free, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Then exercise your freedom, and choose a more divine way of living out your faith.”

Jack sat down next to his uncle. It was all so confusing. He wanted to scream from the rooftops that the institutional church had nothing to do with God or God’s will. He thought his uncle would welcome such a passionate idea, but instead he had challenged him to see the whole situation for a higher viewpoint.

Jack exhaled loudly. “But if it can be God’s will for people to go into the institutional church, even for a season, it just makes things harder to understand.”

“I know, believe me I know.” Ted took another sip of his drink, “But what I realized is until I allowed enough space to see things in grey, where things could be both right and wrong all at the same time, I couldn’t love. I was too occupied in putting people in either the black camp or the white camp. But once I stopped with all that, and saw everyone on an individual journey with the Lord, and didn’t try to classify them, I found I could love them a whole lot more, where ever they were. And I found that once I started living that way people were willing to listen to my thoughts about the whole situation a lot more too.”

“But it’s easier to just see things black or white,” Jack said.

“Of that you can be sure, Jack. But it’s more diving to see things in grey, because it’s there you have the possibility to judge a whole lot less and love a whole lot more.” Ted sat a few moments longer before continuing with his thoughts. “The question you need to ask yourself is this: do you want an easy faith where you point your finger, or a divine faith where you share your love?”

Failing To Fit Into Church, And Finding Your True Self: A Short Story

“I don’t feel worthy of God. I’ve tried, the Lord knows I’ve tried, but I’ve failed. I just can’t do it,” Rodger said. It was true, he had tried. He tried as hard as any one could to be a good Christian man. But the more he tried the more he failed, and the more he failed, the more he hid himself. He drank alone at home. He still wore a great cloak of fear that he would be caught and publicly humiliated for his moral failings.

He didn’t attend church anymore, but still, the fear, the anxiety he would be found out by those he once spent every Sunday with, it hung over him like a shadow of a great oak tree.

Daniel was a friend from his old church, and the only person he really had a good connection with; this evening he surprised him by knocking on his door. After four beers, Rodger wasn’t sure if he should even let him in, but he did. Something in him urged him too.

“Would you like something to drink?” Rodger asked. The last thing he expected was Daniel to ask for a beer. He grabbed two and joined him on his couch.

They talked, and it wasn’t long before Rodger confided in Daniel why he no longer felt worthy of God’s company.

“I’m a mess, Daniel. You know, look at me. I can’t change, God knows I want to, but what people don’t understand is I just can’t. I have no strength, and the more I try the more I fail, and fall into a deeper hole. I don’t blame God for leaving me, I really don’t,” he said.

Daniel looked at him. He didn’t speak, he just stared. Finally he said, “Rodger, can I tell you what God really thinks of you?”

“Sure, it can’t get much worse anyway,” he replied.

“God thinks you’re a star. You’re a treasure. You’re a light. You’re a one of a kind… you matter. God thinks you make the world a brighter place. To God, you’re not just good enough, you’re perfect. You’re exactly who you’re meant to be.”

“How can you say that? It’s not true,” Rodger said.

“But it is. I know you might not hear it from the pulpit, because the pastor is so scared people will misunderstand him, but I don’t care if I’m misunderstood. I’m not here to make myself look good. I’m here because I really feel you need to know this. That God is not disappointed in you. That God understands this is a difficult season for you. That God is walking each day, each step with you.”

Rodger felt tears well up in his eyes. He fought them back. He didn’t want to cry, but Daniel was touching something deep inside him, that was overcoming him with, could it be . . . hope?

“I’ve tried to fit in, I have. I’ve tried to follow the rules that make me a good Christian man, I have. I’ve tried to be like everyone else in church, but I’ve failed. I just couldn’t do it.”

“But that’s just it, Rodger. That’s just the problem, the reason you failed, it’s because you were never meant to be the same as everyone else. You have an important place in the body of Christ, but it is your unique place. God doesn’t expect you to be like everyone else, and besides, all you see of others is the external. God is far more interested in your internal life, where your true self is found united with Christ. You see, it is ‘you’ God wants you to be. Not the pastor, the leaders or the other members . . . simply you.”

“So, what should I do? I’m so confused.”

“Don’t force yourself into a cookie cutter that makes you like everyone else. Let your uniqueness shine – let your heart declare: “I’m unique. I’m valuable. Thank God Almighty, I’m free to be me!”

Rodger sat there, hope was rising in his spirit, and he didn’t know what to do with it.

“Daniel, I’ve tried so hard to be like everyone else, I don’t think I even really know who I am anymore, you know, the real me. The unique me. What should I do?”

“Find yourself again. Start by accepting that you’re all right with God, that he is not disappointed in you, rather he is right here with you. Start by knowing God loves you and wants to help you discover yourself again. Start there, and let the Lord direct your steps.”

They talked for a little while longer before Daniel said goodbye and left. Rodger went to the fridge and took out another beer. He opened it and sat back down on his couch, thinking about all Daniel had told him. Instead of drinking it, he put it down on the coffee table and laid down, smiling.

Slowly, and quietly, he said to himself: “I’m unique. I’m valuable. Thank God Almighty, I’m free to be me.”