Saturday, May 5, 2012

thank you, rick warren

NPR - Fake Food: That's Not Kobe Beef You're Eating

This is a long one.  It's raw.  Sorry it goes on for a while but it's the kind of story that needs time.

I have that Christian stereotype of looking down on mega churches as watered down and impossible to find true connection in.  I consider myself above celebrity-pastors, as if somehow i knew some secret no one else knew and that made me cooler.  It's a struggle for me to take mega-churches seriously.

I owe my life to Jesus.  I also owe my life to Rick Warren.  Through Jesus, obviously.  But if it weren't for Saddleback church, I would not be a Christian today.

There was someone I dated a while back who, during the course of the rocky-relationship, cheated on me three different times.  And these were not "had a cup of coffee with someone else" sort of things.  It was the full on "cheat", if you know what i mean.  Now, I wasn't a christian at the time and while she did grow up in the church, I was not seeing much restraint in her actions, thoughts, and beliefs.  To us, at that time, all things were not only permissible, but probably should be done on a daily basis.

However, because she grew up going to church, that meant that her parents were (want to say are but it's been so long since i don't know) Christians too.  Which meant there was a certain level of expectation required of our behavior.  That meant we were forgiving people who hurt us.  And we were not getting drunk.  And we voted republican, or at the very least, wished Ronald Reagan was still in office.  And we were not having sex.

We were a bitter people who thought ourselves better than most.  We drank nightly and often drove home still very drunk.  As for the politics, well, lets just say we didn't really think about Reagan that much.  And purity was not a high point in our relationship.

There was that expectation from her parents though and while she went to school at UC Berkeley her parents lived in Orange County so during her visits home, sunday was church day.

Here I will mention that this is a turning point in my life:
Up until this point in my life, I had never attended church before.
And until then, I had no idea what real Christians looked like.  Acted like.  Smelled like.  Ate like.  you name it.
At that time, my entire worldview of Christians was formed from movies and TV shows like "Boondock Saints" or "American Pie"  (yes, I know the latter has no reference to Christianity, that's the point)

Through trying to live up to the expectations of her parents,
I attended church for the first time in my life.

And I loved it.

Did I mention what church her parents went to?  Saddleback church in Orange County.  I remember during one of the "mingle" sessions, Rick Warren appeared out of nowhere and personally shook my hand and said, and I quote from memory because it forever burned in my mind, "I don't think I've met you yet.  How are you?"

Out of a crowd of 5,000, Rick approached me because i was new.  We talked for nearly several minutes.  At that time i had no idea how big Rick is in the American Christian world but all I knew was the leader of this ginormous church was spending a long time getting to know me.  I was conflicted because the pessimism in me figured the parents probably approached him and alerted him that I am new and they would really appreciate it if he talked to me because I really needed Jesus.

The other part of me did really give a crap what his reasons were but was hungry.  I didn't care because he cared and that was enough.  I didn't know that there were a type of stranger that genuinely did not want to rob or hurt me but rather to care for me.  I didn't care that within a crowd of 5,000 I was just a number.

He made me feel significant.  Cared for.  Counted.  Prayed for.
To a non-Christian, that meant something even if I didn't want to admit it.

Although i'm not totally comfortable with it, we now need to turn back to purity in the relationship.  I'm not proud of it and it still hurts like an old wound to admit it, but we were having sex.  It made me feel significant.  Cared for. Counted.  But each time, it left me feeling empty.  Tired.  Hungrier.  Thirstier.  At that time, however, feeling meant more and so, like an addict, I needed that short fix to fill the growing void in my soul.  Each time it happened this hole grew larger, as if each time I took a piece of my soul and threw it into a deep, dark hole.  But I desperately craved that short fix.  And so this went on for a while.

And then the cheating started happening.

When you give up purity, you expose yourself to deep, deep hurt.  Purity is dependable.  It's a foundation that we need to count on.  Chloe needs to grow up under the purity of a healthy, God-designed marriage.

Purity is staying within the limits of what something was designed for.  Hurting that purity is like speeding on the road.  You have the thrill of getting somewhere faster until one day you hit someone.  And then we scratch our heads and think "maybe if I was just more aware, I could still run those red lights".

And when you veer from the limits of design, you expose yourself to incredible hurt.  Because you choose to ignore what was put in place to protect you.  The speed limits are there to protect you.  If you drive faster than the speed limit, you put yourself and others at incredible risk so that you can have things your way.

We were having sex because we wanted things our way.  It still hurts to say that.  It still hurts because, each time she cheated on me I forgave her.

See the thing is, with each time I went to Saddleback church with her and her parents, something was stirring inside of me.  I identified with what Rick Warren would preach so strongly it shook awake parts of me that were previously dead.

Each time I gave up my purity for control, a part of me died.

Each Sunday I spent at church, a part of me came back to life.  But would emerge different.  Changed.  Awake.

I began forgiving my ex-girlfriend each time she cheated on me because I began understanding that the world needs forgiveness.  Everything as we know it would collapse into anarchy if we, as a species, could not forgive each other for our mistakes.  So each time, I forgave her. Three times.

And then after the third time, we got engaged.

And four months into the engagement she told me that she had been seeing a guy for the past year and was leaving me for him.  She called to tell me that because she didn't want me to find out on my own and get hurt.  

What happens when you find out the truth?  How easy is it to forgive and to move on?
If you knew that it's 95% unlikely that you will ever find true kobe beef in America, would you still order and pay for kobe beef over regular beef?  Should you?  I mean, if you found out this whole time you were being ripped off, should you still order kobe beef?

After the breakup, I stopped going to Saddleback church because I didn't see her parents any  longer and thus did not need to meet any parental expectations on Sunday.  Instead I drank heavily and took up smoking.  I became reclusive and very, very bitter.  I began drinking, hoping that I might die from overdose but not having the guts to actually commit suicide.

Funny thing though was that all those Sundays I spent at Saddleback church created something in me that didn't die.  The rest of  me was very much dead.  Very much dead.  This light, however, was no longer restrained by my stubbornness and pride and arrogance and all those things that formed my ego.  It was free to grow.

I knew that I couldn't live the rest of my life in bitterness.  And I began not wanting to die.

Thanks to Rick Warren.  Thanks to the mega church Saddleback.  Thanks to the ex's parental expectations.

That's when I started following Jesus.

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