Let me introduce you to Josh, also known as Joshua and one of my newer buddies from Canada. I think Canada is close to Topeka, but I haven't looked.
Seriously, Josh lives in a suburb of Toronto. He and I visit most weeks and talk about matters important to our walks with Christ Jesus. Periodically, Josh is going to write a blog post about our visits, and when he does, I want to share his thoughts with you.
To start this tandem journey, here is Josh's first posting from our discussions. Enjoy!
When Hope Happened…
Written by Joshua
One morning, I realized I was too tired to try and manufacture intimacy with Jesus…
When I first encountered Pres Gillham, I was frustrated with my Christian walk. I was ashamed of my performance – or lack thereof. For someone who should have become a good Christian by now, I felt a dismal failure.
I prayed the prayer when I was a little kid – maybe 5 or 6 years old, I can’t quite remember. Today, 25 years later, my inner sense of inadequacy, of being not-enough hadn’t budged, and inconsistency seemed to be my normal.
If adhering to spiritual discipline was tracked on a spectrum, I was swinging from one extreme to the other.
I oscillated between giving my Bible an obligatory flip-through once in while and forcing myself through periods of praying and reading scripture for hours a day.
The week before I met Pres, I was journaling, trying to make sense of a mess of thoughts swirling through my mind. In the midst of that, a question bubbled to the surface.
Okay God, I’ve been trying hard for a long time. Exactly when is the deep, rich intimacy with Jesus supposed to kick in?
The question startled me at first, but I could see there was a profoundness in the midst of that heart cry. My heart longed for intimacy with Jesus – and I realized I’d been striving to manufacture it.
Later that week, Ross Gilbert, a great friend and ally, introduced me to Pres. Josh, you’re really going to like these books. My friend Preston Gillham wrote them. Ross handed me two books, No Mercy and Battle for the Round Tower. At his enthusiastic endorsement of both the author and the story, I dove right in.
I found my concept of Life with Jesus began shifting.
The books are an allegory of the Christian reality; their story centres around Hank, a middle-aged, everyman type character. Hank wrestles with his broken relationship to his Father and Brother while battling intense day-to-day struggles.
As I read about Hank, I felt like I was reading about myself. Deeper and deeper into the story I was pulled, and layer after layer of my own fractured concept of my Father God was exposed.
I’d always believed that yes, God accepted me ‘just as I am’, but He also wished I would climb a level or two higher in my devotion and love. If I would just ratchet my performance up a notch, well, He’d usher me into a whole new exciting experience of Life with him.
But, as Hank learned to accept the truth of his Father’s unending affection and full-on acceptance, I too faced the truth. I’d been trying climb higher in my effort. I’d been trying to meet God’s expectations. To make Him proud. To earn His affection. But as my efforts to reach this moving finish-line inevitably fell short, my frustration grew. In the story, Hank had alreadystopped trying; he’d become bitter and angry and jaded. I wasn’t far behind him.
Maybe my Father wasn’t who
I thought He was…
But something in the story arrested me. Something pulled me in, magnetic and irresistible. I saw both sadness and resolve in Hank’s Father. Sadness over His son’s refusal to give up trying to earn His love – and resolve to never leave His son alone. Is that how my Father felt about me?
I read and watched in my mind’s eye as Hank’s heart began a long, slow turn towards his Father, and my heart longed to turn towards mine. I realized that my Father was a Person I did not truly know. But if He was anything like Hank’s Father, my heart ached for Him.
Deep within me, hope stirred, a spark flickered back to life, and I felt a whisper. My son, I’m so excited for you to see the real Me!
Special thanks to Preston Gillham for a) writing the first two thirds of an epic trilogy (waiting on number three, sir…) and for b) spending time with me as I figure this stuff out. Thank you, Pres, for these: No Mercy and Battle for the Round Tower. CHECK OUT THESE BOOKS, PEOPLE.