16 years ago today, I wrote this in my journal:
Being as quiet as I am I’m not really one for sharing the gospel, but I do my best to remain sinless, spend plenty of time in worship and prayer, and indulge myself in the Word. Some days are better than others, but I’m still not living the life I want to. I want to constantly be in touch with the Spirit, but it’s hard. I run out of things to say. I need to memorize more scripture to meditate on.
I still need to be baptized. I don’t know why, but I’ve resisted the pull to go forward two weeks in a row now. That was sinful and unconfessed sin breaks your relationship with God which leads to many more sins. I can’t do this anymore. I’m going forward to be baptized this Sunday! And yes, I guess I’ll be going to church there from now on. The pastor is very sincere and the gospel is clearly preached and the focus is on Jesus. I like the college group, too. They’re pretty mature spiritually and very friendly. It feels like the Lord wants me there.
— December 23rd, 1998
Dear Former Self,
Being an evangelical Christian is tough with you’re extremely shy. You’re going to have many opportunities to proselytize, and butterflies will fill your stomach every time. It’s a no-win situation. You can either feel nervous while you’re sharing the gospel or you can feel guilty after the opportunity has passed.
Avoiding sin, praying, and reading the Bible will provide some consolation. You can tell yourself, “At least I’m doing all the other things God wants me to do,” but you’re still holding yourself to an impossible standard. Every time you skip prayer or Bible study you’ll go from feeling guilty about sinning to feeling grateful for God’s grace to feeling exhausted from the emotional roller coaster. You cannot “constantly be in touch with the Spirit” because you are not perfect. But if your imperfection is because of the sinful nature with which you were born, why do you keep blaming yourself?
I suspect the reason you still haven’t gotten baptized is because deep down you know it’s unnecessary given that you were already baptized at 13. And now you’re interpreting your ambivalence as conviction from the Holy Spirit. How do you tell which feelings come from yourself and which feelings come from God? Is there an objective method, or do you just use more feelings? And if you feel that the feeling came from yourself, how do you know that feeling didn’t actually come from Satan?
This is the problem with having a worldview that depends so heavily on emotions. Since the Bible can’t help you with normal everyday decisions, you have to pray for guidance. And since God seems incapable of giving clear and specific advice, you have to go with your feelings. It’s the perfect recipe for confusion and bad decisions.
Haven’t you ever wondered why so many things God supposedly told you to do turned out to be wrong? For example, going to this new church. This month you feel it’s God’s will, next month you’ll feel God wants you to go somewhere else. Does God really change his mind that often, or is it more likely that there is no God and you’re just blindly following your emotions?
— Matt, December 23rd, 2014
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.