Last night at church, we hosted Hilarious Hair Night in our children’s ministry. I am the one who plans our theme nights, and I’m pretty sure I love them more than anyone. I love getting dressed up in a silly costume or wearing my clothes inside out or going to church in my pjs and a robe. I just think it’s fun. And, there’s nothing I love more than when I find fun people who will dress up crazy with me.
I have made it one of my goals in life to teach my kids not to be too cool for anything. In fact, last night at church I gave all of the kids a big speech about it, because I truly feel that if you think you’re too cool for things, you’re going to miss out on loads of fun. Be the one who isn’t afraid to do funny motions with songs in church. Be the one who knows that the key to a really good costume is not being afraid to look unattractive in it. Be the one who is always game to do the silly stuff, because the truth is that in the end the ones who aren’t too cool to be silly are the people that everyone gravitates toward. They are fun and happy and having a good time. Everyone loves to be around fun people.
These are the kinds of things that I preach to my kids.
But, the truth is that I realized sometime last year that I had become too cool for some things. I’m not talking about silly songs or theme nights. I had become too cool for certain types of Christianity. For particular testimonies or kinds of worship or ministries. I had become cynical about a lot of the things that would have gotten me incredibly excited as a young Christian, and I had begun to look down on those things as inferior.
I remember when I first moved away from my small hometown to go to college. My Baptist college wasn’t big, but for me it was a whole new world and way to think. I went there brimming with positivity, genuinely moved by many things all the time that I could see God was doing in my life and in the lives of those around me. I loved the Christian culture and church life and everything that had to do with Jesus. I was a Jesus freak.
But, I was also coming to adulthood at a time when we were beginning to see that some of the things that we had grown up experiencing in our churches were just sort of ringing hollow. We started becoming critical of Christian culture–not hateful, but skeptical in a way that might cause us to roll our eyes when we heard certain phrases or sigh impatiently when the same old ways were held up as the only ways. We were sentimental for our old youth group days, but we were quick to label things as lame or shallow or stupid if they smacked too much of youth group culture. We were still sweet little Baptist kids who loved Jesus, but we had lost some of our joy. We were trying so hard to figure out how church should work and how Christians should be, and we gave up some of our sheer delight in being a child of God.
I know full well that the church needed some examining (and still does). I know that we were feeling some of the effects of the great big, comfortable, easy, we won’t ask anything of you, let’s burn our secular tapes and feel like awesome Christians, rather soft 70s, 80s, and 90s churches that we were raised in. I know that we felt the need for something deeper. And, I know that in most ways a discerning and sometimes critical eye is a necessary part of the Christian faith. It’s one way that we hold each other accountable and help the church operate for God’s ultimate glory and our maximum growth.
But, something happened to me during those times (and maybe to some of you, too) that I recently realized has followed me for all of these years. The cynical spirit that I developed in my late teens and early twenties never went away. And, to be completely honest with you, I hadn’t really even noticed.
Then Chad and I started getting this stirring in our souls, and it happened almost simultaneously, which is so gracious of God to do. We started to have a deep longing for a closer connection to the Holy Spirit. We wanted to be a part of what He is doing, and I quickly realized that I have probably been missing ways that the Holy Spirit has worked in my life and in the lives of those around me because I had grown cynical and skeptical and critical. Gone were my teenaged years when I saw God’s hand everywhere I looked. Oh, I haven’t missed everything. But, there were sure a lot of things that I never noticed or wrote off as coincidence because I had developed a pattern of thought that rolled its eyes at what some might call a “God thing.”
I had become too cool for all that stuff.
Oh, it grieves me that I let a cynical heart and mind flourish inside of me, choking out the truths that were evidenced everywhere. The truth that simple faith is beautiful. That the Holy Spirit is working everywhere in a million different ways. That Christian music and movies and books and the whole culture, while flawed, is filled with sincere, godly people through whom the Holy Spirit does things that I don’t always understand. That the church, while flawed, is filled with godly, sincere people who have real interactions with the Holy Spirit that are different from my own. That I have so much to learn from those people.
God has been so patient with me.
I don’t want to be a cynical Christian. In many ways, just giving up that too cool attitude in my spirit has restored to me the joy of my salvation. That delight that I remember feeling when I was a teenager, loving so many different aspects of God’s people and the ways and purposes of His Bride.
I’m still a work in progress.
And, I still recognize the need for a discerning eye, especially in these times. Don’t misunderstand me: there are segments of the church that are flying off the rails at high speeds at the moment. It’s so important to test every spirit and cling to the Word of God. We must be diligent in making sure we remain firmly planted in His word, and we should judge everything that emerges from church culture through that lens. But, if someone wants to tell me that they’re too blessed to be depressed, if they want to play me some Michael W. Smith from the 90s, if they want to tell me about the way that God miraculously rescued their cat from the waiting jaws of a German Shepherd, then I will praise God with them, with great joy, and I will sing louder than anyone else.
Because I’m not too cool for any of that stuff.