And the pizza, who can pass up that cheap, voluminous pizza Costco serves? It’s like a culinary science experiment gone right. Best of all you don’t need an active membership to eat the pizza, so we did. All in all we cobbled together a pretty nice, albeit ultimately fake, Costco membership.
If we loved a sample of pasta or cookies though, we couldn’t buy it. If our kids found a long lost Kim Possible book, the answer was “no.” If we were out of something important, like 42 rolls of toilet paper, we couldn’t get it.
We had the membership card, but we had a façade experience. Half empty, mostly imagined, part of Costco by name but not reality.
I had the card in my wallet, but it didn’t mean much. And to tell you the truth, for a long time, I could have carried a “Christian” card too. I “grew up in the church,” I’d been baptized, I’d been part of more small groups than I could count. But it didn’t define my day. It didn’t really impact my decisions. I was a Christian by name but not heart.
That changed in 2005. I made some horrible mistakes. As I’ve said before, I did the kind of things that when a character in a movie does them you hope that character gets hit by a car later in the film. I eventually came to a place where I couldn’t fix me, with me anymore.
But something was in my way. There was a wall that I couldn’t scale, a gap I couldn’t fix and it’s actually kind of simple.
I didn’t want Jesus to be my last resort.
He was, make no mistake, my last resort. I was completely out of other options. But for some reason, I was ashamed that I was coming back to him only after every other opportunity had expired.
I wanted to return home with at least my hands clean. I knew there was grime on me that was beyond me. I knew coming back complete wasn’t possible, but I wanted to do everything I could to get cleaned up before.
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever used the “waiting period” approach to God? Like waiting for the purchase of handgun to clear regulations, you think there’s a waiting period before you can come to him. Maybe if you stack enough days between now and that thing you did, he’ll welcome you with open arms.
That’s where I was. That’s what the summer was about. That’s something I still struggle with some days. Until I read a Bible verse that challenged my belief that God hated me coming to him as the last option.
In John 6, Jesus has just dropped a really difficult message on the crowd. It was about eating his body and blood and folks were freaked out. They all started to take off and you get the sense that while Jesus watched their backs he talked to the disciples without even looking at them. In John 6:67 Jesus says, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”
In my head, I imagine the disciples telling him, “Us leave you? Never. You’re our number one. You are Christ. We are down for the long haul.”
But Simon Peter doesn’t.
That’s not what he says.
Know how he replies?
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
I love that. We are out of options. That thing, that love you’ve got, that hope, nobody else has that. We don’t have anywhere else to go. You are not our first or our last option. You are our only option.
I think God wants to be our first option. I think his heart breaks when he watches other options break us. I think he longs for first, but above that, I think he longs for you.
He doesn’t keep score. He doesn’t count your other blown options. He doesn’t tally your mistakes.
Because you should never underestimate the love of a God who sent his son to the cross for you.
Your wildest, “what if this was true?,” craziest, most imaginative vision of his love is a thimble of salt water next to the ocean.
I hope you’ll stop worrying about what option you’re on. I hope if you’re dirty you won’t waste time scrubbing your hands before you turn home. I hope you’ll embrace repentance and grace.
I hope you won’t be satisfied with being a card carrying Christian.