Once upon a time someone tried to tell children that they could resist the lure of illegal drugs by simply saying, “No.” Sex education programs that teach abstinence sometimes try the same tactic: Just say NO. It is extremely hard to say NO to something you really want, something you hunger for, and all those programs about saying NO have high failure rates. People cannot simply say no to deep hunger. Children try drugs because being one of the “in” crowd meets a need, and the drugs themselves temporarily fog their ability to recognize that the need is not being filled. Children experiment with sex because there is a deep hunger they think sex will satisfy, and they keep it up, because the human body is designed to hunger for sex. It is a lot harder just to say NO when everything within you is driving you to YES.
Frederick Buechner, quoted by Mike Glenn in The Gospel of Yes explains that our destiny in Christ is a deep and powerful force which is like the forces that drive people to drugs and sex for fulfillment. Buechner says, “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” When I read those words, I knew that at last somebody had clearly stated what has happened to me. I never had a “Damascus moment” like the apostle Paul when my world crashed down around my ears and I finally saw my future. My experience has been very different from that, and someone who recently asked me to describe my sense of calling was a little disturbed that I didn’t have a single enlightening moment, a powerful “one thing” that came clear to me. My experience of calling is more like the discovery of what Buechner called “deep gladness” and the arrival at the intersection with a “deep hunger” in the world.
My call is to learn how the world actually thinks in order to learn how to communicate with the world as it is. The Bible teaches me, and I can easily observe, that human beings are fatally flawed from the moment of birth. The Bible explains it as the work of Satan and the will of humans. The Bible teaches me that Christ came to change all that. My own life is a testimony to that truth – I, a flawed human being, met Christ and was transformed by him into the person I was created to be, not the sad failure I had become on my own. I want to share that experience with other people. I want other people to know Christ as I know him. The desire to share Christ with others is a driving force in my life. My experience with Christ created deep gladness in my life.
However, I find that nobody wants to hear me quote John 3:16 as a greeting. People reject most quotations from the Bible, although a few proverbs and some generic selections from Ecclesiastes pass muster as safe aphorisms. If I want to share Christ, I can’t speak Bible language. I must speak the language of the culture in which I find myself. And that is not easy.
The culture uses the same words I do to talk about life, but they don’t mean the same things. Here, I am happy to say, is another deep-seated gladness for me – words. I love the study of words, and the more I study the words of the culture, the better I understand what the real hunger of the culture is. Guess what. The culture hungers for someone who will heal our guilty feeling that each of us is personally responsible for the terrible mess the world is in. The culture hungers for Christ. The problem is that it has classified Christ as an element of religion, thereby defining him as a myth, and in that act, the culture believes that it has removed the Christ problem from the real world. The culture is now engaged in a rational and reasonable search for the solution to the universal guilt that they refuse to call sin, because that, too, is a myth.
My calling is to understand their language, so I can speak their language to share the Christ they have tried to lock up inside houses of worship.
My deep gladness, Christ the Living Word, and my other deep joy, the study of human words, have met with the world’s deep hunger for a cure for the universal guilt.
I have found my destiny – my YES in Christ. How it will all work out I don’t know, but what I do know is that I have never been happier. I have a sense of fulfillment and peace that is like the moment when you sit down by a fireplace on a snowy day. I am working very hard. I spend long hours every day researching the culture and studying my Bible and writing what God gives me to understand. I don’t have a vision of the distant future; I barely have a vision of tomorrow. I forget to do things that should be ingrained habits by now. None of that matters, because I am saying “yes” to Christ’s “yes” to me. I am glad, deeply glad, and I love sharing bread with the hungry world just waiting for Christ’s “yes.”
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