I was so excited to see Max Lucado was on Jen Hatmaker’s latest podcast today, January 1, 2020. Max Lucado is a huge influence in my Christian faith. He is Church of Christ, so of course that was a big deal to me-Church of Christ is not often seen in the public sphere. Max is a great person, and one who represents Church of Christ, and the body of faith as a whole, well. I am no longer on the same page as Max on several important issues, but he is someone who is open, loving and willing to listen. Before I left my denomination of origin (which is so weird to say, because I am still Christian) I was grateful Lucado used his voice to call our current President “not decent”. I needed that more than words can say. I was dying inside, and the Church I was a part of, and churches all around me would not speak. The only ones speaking were the ones who supported the President; and the betrayal I felt was a deep depression for me. I wanted Max to go further in what he said, but considering the fall-out he received afterwards, I took the gift for what it was at the time.
Let me back up a minute and explain a bit of my history with Lucado. I used to read Max Lucado and John Grisham exclusively. I loved the comfort and joy from Max, and the mystery and suspense from John Grisham. I guess in some ways they put the faith life together for me–now that I write this out. Since I joined my book club 14 years ago (gasp!), I haven’t read either one since. So, it was such a joy to hear from Max again on Jen’s podcast today. To hear what he is thinking now; how he came to Christ; his abuse; and what he is writing about now was a treasure for me today.
I grew up conservative. I was always at the most progressive Church of Christ in town, but for all intents and purposes, we were conservative. Dancing wasn’t expressly forbidden at our church, but if you had a reception at the church – no dancing. And the Church of Christ colleges in the area absolutely forbade it. I don’t know if that is still protocol, but it was when I was growing up. They would track you down too–find you by your car tag. Scary! I know this because someone I know and love was caught. I have friends in low places. Ha! But Max did not see dancing that way at all. I can’t remember which book it was, but he talked about Jesus being the life of the party–Jesus would dance with the bride. I loved that. He made Jesus sound fun, instead of trying to find all the ways we are wrong. And I never understood why we couldn’t dance. What a dumb rule. I feel like I was born to dance, but I did not get the chance to develop the skill. The same thing was happening to me in regards to preaching, because I was in a complementarian church and a woman–doesn’t work out for me.
Another thing Max Lucado did for me was help me approach my prayer life differently-more tenderly. I said my prayers at night as a kid. A lot of times I fell asleep praying, and I felt so guilty about that. I would think about the garden scene in the Bible with the disciples unable to stay awake, and I thought Jesus was upset with me too. But Max presented it another way to me. He not only gave me permission to not feel guilty by falling asleep, but to also thank Jesus for the gift of peace of falling asleep in his arms. How beautiful is that imagery? I need to tap into this again as sleep has not come easily to me as of late. The world is on fire, and it is hard to sleep at a time like this, but sleep we must or we won’t be any good.
Today on the podcast, I heard his story of finding Jesus in his pain. He was abused as a child. It is such a sad story, and it grieves me how predators scheme and fool people because they are likable-and often knowledgeable in scripture! This is what happened to us in the soccer world, and my child was almost a victim–I grieve every time I think about it. And the lack of response by the community and police department revealed to me how unsafe our children are in our society. This is when I ran away from church and most of life in general. But I found God running with me; I will get to that in a moment. Max set up his own Eucharist to cope. I cried thinking about young Max having to cope on his own in such a tragic situation, but Jesus met him there. Jesus didn’t leave him alone. It was milk and something else he had to substitute for crackers, and he felt Jesus healing presence. For me, I was outside–nightly–with tears and wine, and Jesus revealed himself to me as a tender mother. Max says he was completely healed with no lingering side effects. While that may be true for him-I would not say that is the case for me, and might be a dangerous thing to say because abuse is a deep wound–but I get the Spirit of what he is saying. God transcends whatever we go through, and that is absolutely true. My wounds still hurt from time to time, but St. Gertrude came to me in Church History and revealed to me the wounds of Christ are jewels-view my wounds as the jewels of Christ.
Lucado talked about going to seminary. He was in a class where they had to give their professor what they thought was essential to be a follower of Christ. Everyone’s response was taken into account, and then they had to decide what was the most essential. The professor had them to turn to scripture: 1 Corinthians 15. When Max read it was the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ- all else is secondary- I could agree with that; but there was more said that I hadn’t heard before in this writing of Paul. It is that Paul said Jesus revealed himself to Peter first, and then to the apostles and so on. Wait a minute!!! That isn’t exactly true.( By the way, I love to argue with Paul. We have a good relationship now, and he can handle it.) Jesus revealed himself to women first.
Paul we are pretty sure, was a friend of Luke’s, and this continues my dissatisfaction with how Luke portrays women in his gospel. But Luke does say women were the first to see the men in dazzling clothes who asked them why they were looking for the living among the dead. He is not here, but risen (Luke 24:5). They remembered what they had been told, and went back and told the eleven. They were not believed-the apostles thought the women were telling idle tales (vs. 11)–women, can you imagine this?!—and that is when Peter went and checked the tomb, found the clothes and was amazed (v. 12). I never caught this discrepancy before. Helps to know Scripture. While Paul may have been speaking to his audience-it is not a help to women. He may have been trying to get people to listen, and bringing up women would be too controversial (imagine that), but what keeps me in the faith is that Jesus did not do that. Jesus did not wait until the time was convenient. The authors may have tried to write women out of the story, but Spirit never let any of them get away with it. We only see glimpses, but learning the history and seeing the glimpses-God has revealed something to me in regards to faithful women.
I left my church home because my experience did not matter. I had laid my life down for soccer and church, and I did not matter. It was considered too political and controversial to bring up rape in church by calling out the Republican candidate. Republicanism has been confused with Christianity, and ministers are having a hard time figuring out what to do in this political climate. Our minister did say something in general, but when your pain is not spoken clearly-it continues to feel like another wound on the soul. This opened me up to the pain other people had been expressing, but are not getting their message spoken either-not clearly. This is the problem with generalization. We always want a balanced conversation-even when there is no balance.
I don’t think the split in the church is the work of the Devil. The Devil doesn’t have that much power. Holy Spirit is blowing through out churches, and what is being revealed is lifting up the powerless, and asking those who have had the podium to listen.
I write this with deep gratitude for what Max Lucado has meant to my life. We are not on the same page, but I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. Thank you, faithful servant. I loved hearing from you today.