When you have been in the church a long time, you end up hearing a LOT of sermons. I have heard thousands. A couple of years ago I started feeling as if I had heard every sermon ever preached, and they no longer moved me. It seemed like all the messages were promises for a better future, but nothing about dealing with the hardships of today. Messages titled, “The Best is Yet to Come” …yet to come…always yet to come…never here. Then I heard the how “attitude determines altitude”, and thought that if that statement was true, I’m about as high on God’s list as the earthworm. So I gave up. Then it happened. I finally said it out loud, “God, I stink at being a Christian.” I explained to God that I honestly did love Him, I even missed Him. I just had no skills in the spiritual growth department, and that quite frankly, I was too tired to try anymore. He would have to accept me and not ask too much. I was surrounded by capable Christians that were exceptionally good getting His job done. I just wanted God to focus on them. I was doing good to get two loads of laundry done in instead of one (and that was rare).
About this time, I ran across a little book about a Christian psychiatrist that was not getting the desired results in his severely depressed patients. So he decided to take an unorthodox approach to try to remedy them and prescribed them to read Psalms 23, five to ten times per day – slowly, and out loud. His patients did as the doctor prescribed and had notable success in their thinking, life perception, and emotions. Fully aware of my spiritual anemia, I thought that is not too hard, I could do that. So I did. It was not long before I started feeling a little awakening in my soul. I ended up camping out in Psalms 23 for months, then slowly gravitated to other Psalms but refused to go further. I did not want to hear all the do’s and do nots, the great commission, the commandments – all those things I couldn’t do. I only wanted to hear about how the Lord was my Shepherd and that I would not want, that He would lead beside still water and that He would (eventually) restore my soul. It was close to a year before I was even willing to move out of the Psalms. It was what I needed, and I sensed God’s pleasure.
I started digging a little deeper into “simple spiritual practices” that I could apply to my life. It was about this time I ran across Ann Voskamp’s book 1,000 Gifts. No explanation needed. I started scribbling on pieces of paper throughout my day, little things for which I could find to be thankful for. My heart again began to respond to these simple practices. Dark clouds over my head would start to break up allowing some rays of sunshine to pierce through my afternoons. Then one day, I heard a sermon from John Piper about the dire need for Christians have, to listen to the preaching of the simple gospel. “When was the last time you heard the simple gospel?”, He would ask. I figured I already knew that message, that it was time to grow up past that, the problem is I went so far past that, I got lost. So I grabbed my ipod and started listening to simple messages of the gospel while I folded clothes. The power of God is in the gospel and listening to it again felt like a blood transfusion. Jesus said, “unless you become like this tiny child you will not inherit the Kingdom of God”, it was then I realized that small children had all the spirituality they would ever need in just singing and knowing “Jesus loves me this I know for the bible tells me so.” Although there is so much more to know, that is all anyone needed to know.
So now when I go throughout my day you’ll see me lugging around my big old red bible, looks very spiritual, but really all I’m doing is gleaning and grazing off my Psalms though the day, it comforts me. I also have my gratitude lists growing here, there, and everywhere, counting gifts so to avoid how easily I count other people’s gifts instead of my own. And lastly, I remember to not only listen to new messages from great preachers but to listen to the simple gospel that still holds within it the power to change lives. Be encouraged if you feel a million miles away. We’ve all been there. Hideout in the 23rd Psalm for a while, start scribbling lists of things your thankful for, and here when you have time, take 10 minutes to listen to the raw gospel message and let it revive your soul. Keep gleaning fields, even seemingly empty ones, He always makes sure you find something if your looking.