I Could’ve Saved Him, But I Didn’t Know.

I have to tell you about Roland.

I met Roland in my third and final year of seminary. For my final year, I went to North Carolina to the main campus for a month-long crash course. At the seminary gym, Roland introduced himself to me.

He was tall, a bit desperate, with shifty eye contact, the sort of good-looking guy who probably wasn’t so handsome in grade school.

He followed me around the gym, offering to spot me, copying some of my exercises. We exchanged shallow pleasantries between sets, and at the end, he said, “Maybe we can, uh, like have coffee this week.”

“Sure,” I said, unsure if I wanted to offer my number. I take longer to make friends. Trust issues, I suppose. “I’ll see you at the gym tomorrow?” I said. “Then we’ll make plans?”

Roland grinned, a really sheepish, aw-shucks sort of grin. “Yeah, yeah!” he said, practically clapping. “Okay!”

I didn’t see Roland the rest of the week, and the crash course ended. I went back home to Florida and forgot I had ever met him.

A few months later, one of the professors on the Florida satellite campus made an announcement at the start of class:

“A student named Roland committed suicide this week.”

Roland’s girlfriend had broken up with him. The break-up had happened months ago and he was too lonely to go on. He had swallowed a bottle of pills and went into a coma. His parents decided to withdraw life support.

I remembered Roland’s puppy-dog shout: “Yeah, yeah, okay!”

I understood why he had tailed me at the gym. Why he was so quick to find a friend. Why he wanted to meet for coffee.

After class, I ran to a restroom and threw up everything inside of me.

I could’ve … I should’ve … I didn’t.

I let someone die.

For years, I felt responsible for Roland’s death. I’ve blamed myself over and over, seconds before my head would hit the pillow, remembering his dark-encircled eyes, replaying his voice on mental vinyl, losing sleep and softer dreams.

Could I have done something?

Should I have done something?

Continue reading “I Could’ve Saved Him, But I Didn’t Know.”

Advertisements

“3 Ways To Move Past Sexual Regret”


Here’s an article I wrote for XXXCHURCH, called “3 Ways to Move Past Sexual Regret.”

It’s about how to overcome sexual regrets, especially in a viral culture of public shaming and hyper social media. I go over some heavy stuff, from suicides caused by leaking photos to Monica Lewinsky’s recent confession. I also go over three ways that we as a community can help each other move forward from our past.

Here’s an excerpt:

We each need a safe place to talk about our regrets, no matter how sordid they may be. A person who regrets their past has already been shamed by their own guilt for long enough. They already walk into their home and their church and their workplace with a storm-cloud of remorse chasing after them. We can either be a voice that someone must overcome, or a voice that helps someone overcome.

The post is here!

– J.S.

Six Things Preached Against In Church — And Why We Can All Just Relax

There are things we hear in the pulpit that sound uber-deeply complex, but like a time travel movie, the more we think about it, the more likely our heads will explode from sheer absurdity. Here are some incomplete half-truths we hear in church that need more nuance.  Let’s be thoughtful.

Continue reading “Six Things Preached Against In Church — And Why We Can All Just Relax”

“The worst tool for evangelism” by Jon Acuff


Jon Acuff on using shame in evangelism.  Absolutely right on. 

Excerpt:

“If you’re 99% saved, then you’re 100% lost!” Church sign I just drove by. I guess they didn’t have the letters for “Visitors keep out.”

What does “100% saved” mean? Who is measuring that? The pastor of that church? The elders? Is there a chart? What is the 1% that makes all the difference? What do you do with the guy in Mark 9 who asks Jesus to heal his child “if you can?”

Jesus replies, “If you can? Everything is possible for one who believes.”

To which the father says, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Jesus, sensing that the father was only 78% saved says, “Can’t do it. Disciples, get my boat! It’s time to bounce.”

Or he heals him and moves on. One of those two things happened.

Have you ever met someone who said, “I became a Christian when a friend of mine shamed me badly. They shamed me into the arms of Christ.”

I haven’t, but I have heard this story countless times:

“A neighbor loved me when I was so unlovable to them. Their love made no sense. Finally I had to ask them, ‘Why are you so different? Why are you so kind to me? That’s when they told me about this guy, Jesus Christ.’”

Continue Reading at Jon Acuff’s blog


Self-Dissociation: How A Christian Can Condemn The Very Sin He Loves Doing

We’re not surprised anymore when a famous preacher who blasts homosexuality gets caught in a homosexual affair doing meth. A governor who pursues ethics in Wall Street is busted for carousing with prostitutes. An actor turned governor turned actor hides a secret child outside his marriage for ten years, fully realizing his role as an actor. We’ve learned that Nazi doctors who ordered the deaths of countless people were also fathers and husbands, a phenomenon later coined “doubling.” At least a third of pastors are addicted to pornography. And half of Christian men are in the same boat.

Once you claim a standard, you’re claimed by that standard.

Even the reckless prodigal or the pseudo-reasonable atheist has claimed categories of superiority. They both sneer at the religious right. The only difference is a Christian works from a deficit: he is expected to be impeccably polite while an atheist lacks all accountability and likes it that way. The atheist has infinite loopholes when he falls — especially when he falls — while the Christian is ready to be hanged at any second for a single outburst.

It’s a sort of reverse bigotry. The non-religious gets in a scandal and it’s “business as usual.” The pastor destroys his marriage and he’s no longer qualified for ministry, or to be treated like a human being.

How far do we take this? If an atheist turned out to be an axe murderer, his atheism as a cover is as good as a cheap hooker’s dress. Try to call that the usual business and you’re likely to be called insane.

No matter who you are or claim to be, a standard has claimed you.

The late John Stott said, Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross … It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.

While no one has a valid excuse for hypocrisy, a follower of Christ has more reason to keep it real. He is held accountable even when others are not. And if we claim no superiority, then we have no right to judge outside the church. We have every right to confront each other in the church, to build and not to destroy.

But we cannot ask of others what we first are not doing ourselves.

Continue reading “Self-Dissociation: How A Christian Can Condemn The Very Sin He Loves Doing”