jillianchan asked a question:
As someone in ministry, have you seen many people fall from faith? If you have, how do you handle it?
Hey dear friend: I’ve been through this too many times to count. It’s happening now, too. It’s always heartbreaking and always a punch in the stomach. To be truthful, I still grieve for so many friends who went their own way and chose self-destruction. I still lose sleep over it. It’s something you don’t really get over, and something I pray about every day.
I’ve blamed myself; I’ve blamed God; I’ve blamed bad influences; I’ve blamed the church. In the end, I know I can’t persuade anyone to stay faithful. It’s their choice and their autonomy. I must respect that. As God respects our free will, so must we.
The only thing I can do is stay in touch. I text or call or email, at least a couple times per week. It’s difficult, you know. I feel like I’m being annoying or that I’m wasting my time (and theirs). I feel bitterness and disappointment and helplessness. But I want them to know: I’m still here for you. I’m staying. I don’t care if I look like an idiot. If it means my life, I’ll keep loving on you.
One thing I had to let go was a Savior Complex. I’m not the hero of anyone’s story. It’s not that I’m “better” or “further ahead” than anyone else. I would be pretentious to think that the right combination of words will “win” anyone. I would be presumptuous to think I’m the stable voice of reason while they’re “trapped in licentious prodigal living.”
Everyone must discover for themselves what is truly life. Some (like me) take the long road to get there. If I convinced someone back into faith, then they can be convinced right out of it. My argument would only be an external apparatus that imprisons them out of behavioral obligation or maybe because they don’t want to let me down: but it wouldn’t be real internal change. I’ve tried that and it never works; it ends up more disastrous than their current choices. Unless this person is hurting themselves at an unbearably dangerous level, I have to let the whole thing play out or else their change will never become a true part of them.
I believe grace is the only way to rescue a wayward life. Grace is what melted my heart and tenderized my pride. It revoked my selfishness and killed the taste for my old life. When I look back over the years on my dearest friends, who never lectured me nor harangued me, I think of their patience and persistence and I can hardly believe they stayed.
It’s only this unbelievable, endless second-chance that could ever break the stubborn, self-centered person towards the greatest love of the universe. And I was shown such grace because the friends who stayed had a God who stayed, too. And so I stay, relentlessly and recklessly, and I embarrass myself to destitution so they may see the riches of Christ. Not perfectly, but passionately: we can.