One spring day during my university years, I entered our chapel service, thumped my backpack on the ground, and slipped into the auditorium’s cushy seats, waving hello to friends.
I remember a speaker–holding up a glass jar–laughing while singing a snappy tune.
It’s the fun jar time, it’s the fun jar time,
Everybody loves the fun jar time.
Here’s the story.
I was a girl uprooted from New England, replanted for collegiate purposes in the Midwest, where fields of tasseled corn grew tall and stretched wide. Folks from Indiana spoke in a leisurely drawl. Buggy instead of grocery cart, pop rather than soda, and tennies in place of sneakers. My roommate, upon seeing something she liked, squealed Oh, for cute!
I was dwelling in a foreign land.
People here also tended to dabble in aggravating sentence structures: Kristin, want to come with?
It drove me mad in a fingernails-down-the-chalkboard type of way.
While this entire Midwest culture was slower, softer, and informal in speech, it was nosiness that ruled the day. Private property and solitude? Flung to the curb! Everything was fair game–wide open for discussion and dissection. It felt unnerving to my bones–persistent and borderless.
My new friends could not believe I was from New England–Where is your Boston accent? they ribbed, before saying Park the car in an overly-clipped manner, abandoning all letter r’s.
I told you I am not from Boston, I sighed, laughing while rolling my eyes.
The differences did not end there.
I was spiritually floundering. Although I attended both chapel and church services regularly and nodded appropriately during our hall’s weekly Bible Study, I rarely opened the Scriptures. My heart flip-flopped as I sat alongside girls who comprehended so many interesting Bible truths. I felt exposed–for the first time grasping how little time I had spent with God.
The dark bottom line? I was a baby Christian who had remained an undernourished tadpole, circling in the shallowest of waters.
The week I arrived on this pretty university campus, staff herded all freshmen into the university’s chapel, treating us to a summary of the Bible taught through rapid hand motions. Creation! Fall! Flood! Nations! the folks on stage chanted, hips swaying, hands whirling. The one I remember best–namely because they screamed it–was: Moses said, “Let my people go!“
What were they even talking about? The entire scope and sequence of the Old Testament, following original sin in the Garden of Eden, was mysterious. I certainly remembered scattered stories from my childhood–Noah’s ark, Abraham wielding a knife over his restrained son, Isaac, Samson (of long and flowing hair) toppling columns in mesmerizing strength, and David slinging a stone, striking Goliath squarely in the forehead. A sudden, thumping death for this formidable giant.
These were stories centered upon brave men, not God.
I stood in that whipping Indiana wind–a girl clutching her satchel of random tales about an obscure, ancient people–completely missing the crucial, overarching truth of a sovereign, unchanging, and holy God. A good and mighty Creator who never ceases weaving his magnificent tapestry, generation by generation, with brilliant, eternal purpose.
So yes, I lacked context. Truer still? I lacked the Bible.
I did not pine for the breath-taking story of Redemption, a steadily flowing stream from Genesis to Revelation. Why? I was not tending to my soul, digging into the deep, rich soil of God’s Word. Even now I can still recall that hollow, destitute feeling.
How was I supposed to climb out of this dank, inky pit and into the sparkling sunshine?
I languished for a time, floundering in nonsensical helplessness–before reaching to fix myself by trying harder rather than reaching for God himself through his Word. After awhile, my worn-out, broken-down bootstraps could no longer be yanked up, even as I persisted, jaw set–You’ve got this, Kristin.
But of course I didn’t have anything, other than a pile of sin, sorrow, and a pathetic fix-myself mentality. My neglected bridge to God remained creaky and weed-infested. A draw near to God and he will draw near to you, but in complete reverse. I was hurting.
During that spell I could not even have articulated the meaning of repentance, which was the precise remedy my withered soul needed–in the very way a parched, dying man requires water.
So when I meandered into chapel that morning, please understand that I was perfectly ordered in appearance– pretty clothes and shiny hair and tended makeup–smiling, laughing with friends. I’m fine! I’m fine!
My soul was anything but.
The speaker that particular morning was delightfully engaging, a consummate wordsmith who seized our attention. After a few minutes of verbal pleasantries, he opened his Bible and read. My eyes filled–I was pierced by the verses and did not know why. I remember thinking:
Tell me something true.
Please—tell me something true.
He paused and quipped that this was a lengthy text, especially for exhausted college students.
Wake up everyone! It’s the fun jar time! he began singing the little song, laughing good-naturedly as he grabbed his glass jar and plucked one of the many pieces of paper from within, reading a scripted joke.
Fifteen hundred people roared.
I probably smirked too, keeping up appearances even as a catastrophic feeling crept over my throbbing heart. Jokes weren’t going to help the state of my soul and I knew it. He chose to carry on with feel good speech–eclipsing the meaning of the text.
The fun jar was a stealthy diversion–glossing over truth in favor of popularity, humor, and applause.
I could blame my collegiate lack of Bible knowledge on a plethora of things, such as–please take your pick–lack of structured Bible training, lack of accountability, a youth group that fed us pizza and took us skiing and offered glow-in-the-dark frisbee games, smothering our group with pleasure (Fun Jar time! Fun Jar time!) before doling out a serious, lengthy list of Thou Shalt Nots, fingers pointed.
But the honest-to-goodness reason for my lack of godly living was this: I did not pick up my Bible and dive in. Reading and meditating to commune with God, reading to know and understand what pleases him, reading to order my life under his authority, reading to saturate my thinking with truth, reading to nourish and change my heart.
The Bible is life. And while each person must work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, (an individual task), remember that Christ died for his people.
He did not die only for me.
If only I had seen the significance in college as the Bible leaders chanted: Moses said: Let my people go!
God placed Pharaoh squarely on the throne to resist the Almighty himself, so that God’s power would blaze in unequaled majesty. God had a plan to save his people, to bless them as a nation. A familial line ultimately leading to Christ Jesus, our Redeemer.
Today God is still rescuing his people from every tribe, tongue and nation.
Have you considered that we, as Christians, do not know who these people are? It could be anyone. God has chosen, and that is his perfect doing. Our work? To tend to our own souls, to be spiritually well, feasting on Scripture and generously sharing the rescuing power of Christ Jesus.
We do not exist for ourselves, but for God and for others.
Think of it! Our Maker chooses to use us to speak truth about himself. What we say, what we write, what we teach, and what we pray matters. Always. It is not only about our own souls, but for the bride of Christ, his people, his church.
I was that college student desperate for truth. A girl pulled in by the Bible verses read in chapel, and of course I was— For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
Living. Active. Sharp. Piercing. Discerning.
We cannot thrive without it. Consider your soul, which will outlive your temporal body. Tend to this space, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit by dismissing him, but instead rightly order your life by the precious Word of God. It will look different from the world, and it should. Strive to be winsome, but at some point your sober-mindedness will offend, and that is as it should be.
I remember being that floundering collegiate girl who slowly awakened to the depths of God as the Holy Spirit worked in my soul. A flicker that in time became a candle that became a torch as God pursued me. In His kindness he transplanted me firmly back into the pages of Scripture, completely reordered my priorities, my soul, and my entire life.
There is a time and a place for Fun Jar games.
But in Church, Chapel, Sunday School Class, Bible Study, or Youth Group?
We need God’s Word in order to truly live. Speak it, write it, pray it, share it–without apology.
And tell me something true.