We have the ability to change the course of our lives when we become aware of that core of sacredness—which I call the Beloved—and begin to live with it as our guide. Whenever we have a flash of love, innocence, acceptance, inspiration, awe, or wonder, or we’re moved to tears or filled with joy, we must remind ourselves: this is the real me. We must not let such moments simply pass us by. We must stop and appreciate those moments and act on them—and ask that we receive more of them in the future. –Rev. Ed Bacon, 8 Habits of Love
The first time I took my old 85 Isuzu pickup out on the interstate was in college. I’d been driving that old truck for a few years, but only on country backroads below 45 miles an hour. At those speeds, on those roads, that little truck did just fine. But as I eased onto I-65 for that first time and the speedometer crept past 55 and onto 60, the pistons began to scream. Every joint was rattling. The tires were begging for mercy. The axles were wide-eyed. And the motor couldn’t believe what was happening. This was too much.
I had a similar experience Saturday night. It was one of those rare soul-shifting, theology-shaking, heart-wrecking, tear-inducing kinds of experiences. It was just a small gathering with friends. A little wine, some light hor d’oeuvres, and lots of love.
But the conversation that transpired over those two and a half hours, sitting in conversation with Ed Bacon, changed me. And maybe it didn’t change me as much as it confirmed in me that I do have an inner-knowing deep inside of me, and that I have all the permission I need to fully explore those truths.
He made a statement, during the “lecture” portion of his talk with us, “God is not a Christian. God is not a Muslim. God is not an Atheist.” The list went on, but you get the idea. In the whole of the evening, this statement was really just a side note. And though Ed really just said it in passing, he fully meant it. He fully believes it, but it wasn’t the point of the night. And it wasn’t said to be shocking. It was said to show us the fullness of God, to impress upon the group that yes, God is so much bigger than we have ever imagined.
My chest began to rattle like that old 85 Isuzu. Every inch of my body was shaking. I could feel my bones rat-a-tat-tatting against each other. It was as if my soul would climb the rungs of my ribs and makes its way up and out my esophagus to scream, “YES! Hallelujah! Amen! Say it again!”
And that is exactly what happened. In my friend’s living room, I yelled like the recovering Pentecostal that I am. And we all laughed. And I was relieved. I wasn’t trying to get attention. I didn’t need it. But this wrestling, which has been such a part of my private life, has only become more public in recent months, and this affirmation from “a man of the cloth” was such a powerful moment for me that the only right response was to holler.
But the night wasn’t over. When it turned to time for questions, I knew the one I’d have to ask. The question I confessed to my wife on our way to this event. “This is the question I’ve been wrestling with for a while. This is the question I have but can’t tell anyone else but you.” I knew I’d have to ask it, or the entire evening would be a waste for me.
There was a great question about Hell, followed by an intimate discussion. But I was still clenching my question, knowing that saying it aloud would surely send me straight to the Lake of Fire. My wife confessed that walking through postpartum depression was Hell on earth, because she couldn’t feel God during that time. And there was more great discussion.
But I still had my fearful claws in my question. The one I’ve been wrestling with for a long while. The one that would officially brand me a heretic. The one question that, once uttered, can never be silenced. It can’t be reeled back in. It can’t be erased or taken back. Once you put it out into the universe, everything changes.
I made eye contact with our speaker. “I’ve got a question.” My typically confident tone was shaky. And, like I do when I get nervous, I prefaced it with all sorts of rambling and warnings and a little bit of humor. “Y’all may want to move back before the lightning strikes. I’m on staff at a church, but I can’t skip over your statement about God not being a Christian and not ask the one question my soul is begging me to ask.”
The speedometer passed 55 and the pistons were screaming again.
“Is Jesus the only way to God?”
*Stay tuned for my response to this post.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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