From Fear to Reward to Relationship(s)

If you live long enough, you come to the point that you realize your story (the story that is your life) could be told in many different ways.  If you can read this, you have lived long enough to know this.

Have you ever thought about your life as a story? If so, how have you told this story?  How many different ways have you told your story?

Certainly a significant part of the story of my life is the fact that I am a Christian; a follower of Jesus. I was raised as such, more or less.  But it wasn’t until early in the summer after my sophomore year of high school that I chose the Christian faith as my own.  I accepted Jesus; I was born again; I got saved – these are all different colloquial ways of describing what happened that day at a youth rally in northern Houston.

My primary motivation was fear.  I was afraid of ending up in hell for eternity.  I was afraid of not getting into heaven.  So, to allay my fear, I prayed and asked Jesus to come into my life and save me.

My fear was transformed.  Fear for my own soul had been replaced with the promise of the reward of heaven.  I wanted to share this with others.  I wanted everyone to know that their fear too could be replaced by knowing the promised reward of heaven.

Over the years, though, I realize now, I stopped talking and thinking so much just about heaven.  As I trained for and practiced ministry, I gained an awareness of how much we (Christians) talk about the promises of God yet don’t expect to live many of them before death.  It seemed, in fact, like expecting the promises of God to be available during this life was left to the “name it and claim it” folks.

As I was being interviewed for ordination as an Elder, I was confronted with the fact that, in answering the question about eternal life, I hadn’t mentioned life after death.  Surely I believed in life after death, didn’t I?

I live in a tradition (United Methodism) that has, since the Wesleys, sought to, in the words of Charles Wesley, “Unite the pair so long disjoined, Knowledge and vital piety.” His brother John said, famously, “The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness..”

In recent years I have found that I think little more often of a future reward in heaven than I do of a fear of doom in hell. Lately, I have come to realize, learning to live (now) in relationship with God has replaced both the fear and the reward.

That’s how I tell my story.  How do you tell yours?

2 thoughts on “From Fear to Reward to Relationship(s)

  1. I am not sure if you have read McLauren’s recent book but this transition from fear to reward to relationship was expand upon to include all sorts of (to use his metaphor) rays of light.

    These are not in a chronological order, but rather I think he argues that generally we tend to experience religion with these felt needs:
    Survival, Security, Power, Independence, Individuality, Honesty, Ubuntu (unity/peace), and (he forecasts) Sacredness.

    While you mention this focus on relationships, I wonder if you might be willing to join McLaruen’s quest to seek out Sacredness?

    Have you read this book? Did you encounter it in the same way?

  2. I have not read this book, but likely will. Honestly, I haven’t been in a hurry because I’ve been told it is so similar to other McLaren books -which I like and appreciate, but don’t feel a pressing need to read again (soon).

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