While in its definition the word angst might seem disagreeable—that is, a feeling of dread, anxiety, or anguish—I may prefer the emotion over its antonyms: contentment, ease, nonchalance. Something has been stirring in my heart for some time, agitated by Bible study, conversations, events, and reading books, including one by Erwin McManus.
Essentially a reprint of his earlier The Barbarian Way, McManus describes in Unleashed a break from the mold of civilized religion, including tamed Christianity, with which I’ve not merely associated but for which I’ve been a paid representative. McManus writes of a generation of believers—not just the next one either—that would rather run with barbarian faith and seek the heart of God than embrace a brand of religion that no longer looks anything like Jesus.
Personally, I have for too long perched myself on a Sunday morning stage, clutching guitar or resting on piano keys. But McManus says that I was not intended to be a spiritual zoo where people can look at God in me from a safe distance, that I am a jungle where the Spirit roams wild and free in my life and I am the recipient of the God who cannot be tamed and of a faith that must not be tamed. Following Jesus is not about being a good Christian or simply trying to improve my holiness-to-sin ratio.
Hiding Places for the Faithful
As our girls, in particular, grow older (12 and 11 now), we want to be sure we’re not passing on to them a religion concerned with, at worst, being a good person and, at best, a “personal relationship” with Jesus. As McManus writes, “So many of us have put our hope in teaching our children about God rather than guiding them into an experience with God.” My wife and I have agreed that we do not want to “spend our lives emphasizing our personal development and spiritual well-being,” or to be a part of churches that are “nothing more than hiding places for the faithful while pretending that our actions are for the good of the world.” We will not “raise our children in the cocoon of a domesticated faith” only to be left wondering “why they run as far as they can to find adventure.”
I will always be tempted to desire a life of security and safety and to want the same for our children. But I fear such complacency would cause us all to look back on our lives and wonder what amazing works of God we could have been a part of. If I don’t introduce them to something more—to Someone more—then I will have betrayed our kids. So, they might miss out on sports and schedule-crunching activities (even church stuff), but we’re determined that they will not miss the call of God on their lives, a call to the barbarian way.
I highly recommend Unleashed but with a warning: you just might sense the call yourself and you’ll be left with no recourse but to follow. For McManus says,
If He has won your heart, then to follow your heart will always lead you to follow the heart of God. He will always lead you to advance forward behind enemy lines to win the hearts of those who do not yet know Him or love Him.
I’ll see you in the trenches.