(One of my favorite people is a journalist from Atlanta named Bill Sanders. I’m so honored that he agreed to guest blog for us. I’m going to get out of the way. Enjoy!)
Hmm. Me filling in for John Lynch.
Imagine buying Springsteen tickets and instead, getting Springfield, as in Rick.
Instead of Born to Run, you get Jessie's Girl.
It's not that Bruce is greater than Rick. (Well, of course, he is, but that's not the point.) It's that Bruce is what you signed up for. It's what you've waited on, what you've paid for.
So, to my spiritual Springsteen, (that'd be you, Lynch) thanks for the space. To John’s loyal followers, sorry. Bruce will be back in the next couple of days, I'm sure.
I've read enough of your comments to know that we sit on the same bus. We've embraced the grace theology wholeheartedly. We've risked it all on this being the truth, the Original Good News. We've put on that robe of righteousness, and it fits. It's who we are. We can't screw that up, and we've finally come to believe that is true.
But many of us haven't totally accepted that the kind of grace community that John talks about is available for us. Have we?
I mean, we've all tried it before. Right? And we came out on the other end hurt.
Or worse, we came out numb.
I know you people because I am one of you, one of the millions who read John Lynch's blogs and buy “The Cure” and “The Cure Study Guides” (Millions is what you told me to say, right John?) and think: If only I lived in Phoenix. Or, if only John and his Truefaced buddies lived in my hometown. Then, I'd be part of a community of grace. I might even be the vice mayor of this community.
If I had a dollar for every small group and Bible study I'd been in, I'd have, like $20, which come to think of it doesn't sound like much. But 20 small groups – now that sounds impressive. Or, perhaps oppressive.
Every one of them, eventually, died off. Most never had life to begin with.
Now why is that? How is it possible that so many well-intended Bible studies or small groups had so little impact?
For one, they were too sterile. Authenticity is not sterile in this messy, ugly, fallen world. Pretending it is, particularly in a small group of believers, is just a waste of time. In our real lives, nothing is a pretty picture of constant peace. We struggle. We doubt. We fight. We get hurt, and we hurt others. In our groups, too often, we wear nice polo shirts, pray nice prayers and eat nice snacks with clean hands.
Or, at least we used to. Eventually, most of us saw that pretension for what it was. We left it behind and replaced it with nothing.
So, here I am, on the verge of jumping in that pool again. It's too much to stand on the deck, sweating in the Deep South heat and humidity of Atlanta when a pool is right there. Staying with the metaphor, jumping back in the public pool will have its downside. I'll see a lot of shapes and figures that aren't that great to look at. Those people looking back at me will think the same thing. It also might be too cold in there. And likely, someone has just peed in it.
It really is safer on the outside, with my shirt on. But it’s so stinkin' hot.
If John is willing, I'll report back in a few months. Armed with a fresh perspective – grace is a gift, not a sledgehammer – and a tolerance for people who haven't seen our friends at Truefaced model this lifestyle so well, for so long. I'm certain I'll be kinder, more patient and less willing to bail than in the past. If this doesn't work, I'll get out, let the sun dry me off, perhaps pout a few minutes while I get sweaty again. Then I'll give it another go. Because I'm convinced we're not meant to do this thing alone.