Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In which I don't understand being saved

by Nick Miller Kauffman

(Cross-posted from Scribble Theology)

My junior year of high school, I went with my girlfriend to a Bible study at her friend's house. At some point during the evening we split up into pairs, and I wound up in a small loft, seated on the floor across from a girl I'd never met so we could "share our stories" with each other. Almost immediately, her question for me was, "When were you saved?"

I'm not the kind of Christian that has an answer to that question. I definitely didn't know what to say then, having never been asked before and not really knowing what "saved" meant, so after fumbling around for a while for an answer, I offered:

"Um... always?"

I actually did have what was supposed to be a "saved" experience the year before; it's just nobody had bothered to tell me that's what it was supposed to be. It was at Acquire the Fire, a big indoctrination program Christian event where you go to experience an incredibly long rock concert interspersed with the occasional awkward dramas and sweaty preachers. They asked for those who wanted to accept Jesus into their hearts to come forward, and I thought, "Well heck, that sounds like something people should do."

So I went down onto the floor of the convention center, kneeled in the aisle, felt a stranger put his hand on my shoulder, and got prayed over for a while. I remember when I went back up, my youth pastor hugged me and said he was proud. I didn't know I'd just been saved, but I did know that the experience was an awesome emotional high.

It's hard to remember what went through my head at the age of 16, but I can be sure I didn't know what was going on because of my later answer to the "saved" question at that Bible study. And when my youth group went to ATF the next year, too, I went down to be saved again. Because I wanted that emotional high again. Like drugs. And it didn't hurt that my youth pastor was proud.

Except my youth pastor didn't seem as proud that time. He didn't really say anything or acknowledge me when I came back to where our group was seated. Because being saved once is cool, but being saved twice, two years in a row, at the same event... what, did the first one not take? Did I just want attention? Did I not get it?

I never got the memo that said you only got to invite Jesus into your heart once (or that Jesus wasn't there anyway). I guess maybe it comes down to different views of the meaning of worship (and that's the reason I'm thinking of all this right now -- my theology group was talking about worship tonight). Is it about the adulation of God? The word itself would suggest it should be, but that's not my purpose, and I don't think it's Acquire the Fire's purpose.

I see worship as a communal experience and an opportunity to draw closer to God--which is maybe a euphemistic way to say "achieve that emotional high." That's what I was after, and I got it with the meaningful music and the emotionally charged room and the hand on my shoulder and the proud youth pastor. But by their theology, at least at that event, the idea was to rack up more souls for heaven's army. And I was the guy who enlisted, and then circled right back to the back of the line to enlist again.

And that guy is weird.

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