Hope City Church, Waterloo Iowa
Sunday, February 12th, 2017, 9:15 a.m. service.
What a difference a week makes. Last Saturday night I ran out of Prairie Lakes Church in Cedar Falls because I saw someone from what I consider a past life- a part of my existence I am not proud of. (On the off-chance that someone from Prairie Lakes is reading this I would like to note that your church is fine. I know quite a few happy people who go there and would never discourage anyone who would say to me that they desired to.)
This week I am in Waterloo, in the shadow of East High School at a place called Hope City Church. It’s toward the end of the service and I, along with other men, was on bended knee in the main aisle of the church. We were praying with the pastor as men to rise up and become Godly men, a Godly man being something I’ve clearly not been. Up until recently, I wouldn’t have considered it anything worth being.
But last week I entered Prairie Lakes Church as a man wanting to revive his spirituality but still holding on to the arrogance that prevented me from the relationship with my savior that I wanted.
Then I saw the gentleman from my past and fled that church a broken man haunted by his past.
This week, I stumbled into Hope City Church in a much more humble condition. This week truly was the Week in Weak as the title of this blog proclaims.
What led me here? In the first place, the head pastor freely admits he committed a felony in his teenage years for which he spent over seven years in prison for. While that wouldn’t exactly be a selling point to most as far as pastoral leadership goes, it greatly appealed to me.In the past, it seemed to me that while most people in those churches freely admit that they, “have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)” it usually looked like most were normal people equipped with the normal cares and concerns of regular life. Or, at the very least, they looked as if their life was in much better condition than mine was and thus (would I have allowed them to take the step to get to know me) would never fathom problems like mine.
If the people knew about his past and accepted him as their head pastor, surely they would accept me as a mere parishioner. Furthermore, his past gave the words in his sermon a quality that commanded more of my attention. If Jesus could turn this man around, surely He could do something positive with me.
So there I was on bended knee in an aisle of a church I had never been to in front people I didn’t know, praying to the Lord for forgiveness regarding my shortcomings as a man. A man with a past called to repentance by a man with a past. This is my kind of Christianity. We’re all criminals here. I couldn’t possibly feel superior to the head pastor knowing my past. A wrecked marriage due in no small part to me desiring to flirt and speak inappropriately to other women rather than concentrating on the relationship with her. A son beginning to go down a path that I fear will not have a positive result due in no small part because of me being on autopilot for many years of his life. Alienated people that I used. Greed. Selfishness. Arrogance. Fear. Hatred. Placing myself on the throne of my life where God rightfully belonged.
I cannot claim any spiritual superiority with a track record like mine. These things led me to the cross of my savior. In his death and resurrection, I hope to make a new life.
Pastor Q’s sermon was part two of a series entitled “Longing for Eden: Rediscovering the five deepest longings of relationships.” He used the Garden of Eden story in the book of Genesis as the foundation. Today he dealt with the identity of men. Godly men. Something I am not. There is a world of difference between a man who believes in God and a Godly man. Pastor Q specifically called on men in his church to step up as leaders in our families.
I eschewed from any talk about being a leader of anything in my family before. There are a few reasons for this. Most of my issues with it in the past come from my lascivious and hedonistic choices. Being a leader, Pastor Q said, meant standing up and going to war even with my own soul if need be. Given the fact that I was most concerned with pleasing my desires, I certainly felt no compulsion toward acting like a leader or serving as an example to my son. In fact, those desires made me contemptuous of the whole idea of godliness.
And, now that I sit here thinking about it, perhaps my ideas of Godly men and leadership were perverted in my mind from the beginning. Some have set bad examples, using any kind of authority, be they by scriptural interpretation or the inner dynamics of the marriage and family, as a license for tyrannical Alpha-male behavior irrespective of the thoughts, wishes, desires and feelings of others in the family.
I don’t consider myself an Alpha-male. But the way Pastor Q presented it, I don’t think I necessarily need to be. It appears to be a call to humility instead of tyranny. The cross of Jesus is the number one piece of evidence that should ban arrogance from my life. God seems to demand humbleness. Leaders who serve. Honest men. Men who are unafraid to examine themselves first before they even think to be critical of others.
I asked for prayer after the service and an older gentleman prayed with me. Mine was basically a confession that I was not the man that God desired me to be. I mentioned my failed marriage and my child. The tears came down.
He seemed to understand and told me of his mistakes in family and marriage too. “You know what I get from this message?” he said. “It’s not too late.”
He prayed for me.
“And you know what? You’ll never be perfect. You don’t have to be.”
We shook hands. He went his way and I went mine.
It is often said you don’t need a church or go to a building to express your faith. I certainly won’t argue with that. But that prayer with the gentleman and the sermon calling me to a higher level of faith and manhood are the reasons I want church and want to be in a building to express my faith. Anymore, life is so insular and we are so detached from each other that we can trick ourselves into thinking, as I certainly have been known to do, that we are the only ones with our problems. No one would understand us.
That moment for me showed how wrong that idea is. I’ve been a world class screw up for most of my life. But you know what? So have others. And here we are on bended knee with hands raised in the air and souls that tell us our Jesus can accomplish great things with screwed-up lives. And like the other gentlemen in the aisle, I was asking him to.