It's 4:40 a.m. I've been wide awake since 3:00. I enjoy sleep a lot, so this is not like me.
We're leaving on Sunday for seven days of vacation, and I think I must be worse than the boys about being excited. I awoke at three a.m. thinking of things to take care of tomorrow before we leave. Then I thought of things to take care of when we get back. Then I thought of the last six months or so and how it's just been a great year for us. We settled into the changes associated with my new job and a new school for the boys, and life's just been, well, easy.
I found myself with a grateful heart and then I started thinking of something else. When was the last time I was up in the middle of the night pondering spiritual things? Thinking of things I could do for others or to increase my witness to those around me? I've got to be honest, if I've ever done it I certainly don't remember it.
By this time it was 3:30, and I was wider awake than ever. I thought of my mother who would probably get up and start cleaning house, and I promptly decided that was a bad idea.
So I grabbed my ipad and began browsing "Christian-y" stuff. If I'm feeling less connected or lukewarmish (for lack of a better made up term), then I need to do something about it. After all, God is always the same, and I know that if I seek Him he'll be there.
I went to my Twitter account and read some Max Lucado tweets, which then led me to his web site where I read some devotionals, which then led me to sign up for a daily email which will allow me to read the Bible in a year. I have often laughed at myself (tongue-in-cheek, I suppose) about wanting to read something about faith and first turning to some author or preacher instead of the actual Bible, and tonight was no different.
At that point it was 4:20, and I decided I should try to sleep, so I crept back into bed to stare at the ceiling.
Then I remembered the sermon from two weeks ago. A sermon I vehemently disagreed with about 80% of.
It was over the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, and our minister interpreted it to mean that one could lose his salvation if his metaphorical oil ran out. I firmly believe that salvation is a result of God's unending, uncomprehendable grace, and that the belief that salvation can be lost by lack of works implies that it was somehow earned in the first place. Christ did not ask me to earn my salvation. He asked me to accept it on faith.
I was so worked up over the sermon that I came home and began studying. How could a learned minister and student of the Bible believe this to be true? I was troubled. Disturbed, even. I went so far as to contemplate whether this particular dogma was inherent to the Methodist church, and questioned whether or not it was a deal-breaker for me in a community of faith. I want my children to be taught about grace and service, not about a God who is just waiting for them to mess up so he can bring the hammer, as it were.
I discovered that according to theologians there is scripture supporting both sides - the lose your salvation side and the once-saved-always-saved side. I read lots of scripture and commentary that day. Probably more than I have in the last wonderful, easy six months of my life.
And so, at 4:35 a.m., I was grateful for a sermon I thought (and still think) was wrong. I remembered that challenges are what makes us question and reaffirm our belief systems, whatever they may be.
(How many times have I preached this to students or parents who disagree with high school novel choices? Good grief! I don't think I could count.)
It appears I need a challenge. I need to find some book or something that is a little "out there" in order to dig my own heels in a little and allow God to continue to shape my own spiritual journey. I need to find out how others continue to challenge their own faith and learn from them. I need to be challenged. All it took for me to realize it was one sermon and being wide awake at (now) 5:06 a.m.
Perhaps I'll go stare at the smoke detector light in our room again.
PS - In the interest of fairness, you can make your own judgments about the sermon in question. Go to this link, launch the media player, and listen to the 6/24/12 sermon on "The Wise and Foolish Virgins."