(If you’ve not read Part One yet, you probably should so this will make more sense)
As soon as I got my own car, I went to Starbucks almost every day after school. I became fast friends with people that worked there and had a crush on all the boys because they were musicians with cool tattoos. One day, a friendly barista asked me if I had ever listened to Matt Chandler. For all I knew, Matt Chandler was a rockstar or maybe a classical violinist… I didn’t know he was a pastor. Furthermore, I was baffled that someone would purposefully listen to a sermon outside of church on Sunday morning. But because this barista was a cute musician with cool tattoos, I responded back, “I don’t know who he is, but I’ll listen to almost anything!” He sent me a podcast from Matt Chandler entitled “2009, part 2.” I listened to the first thirty seconds, realized it was a sermon, and didn’t touch it again.
Six months later, I found myself crying my eyes out with a broken heart. The details aren’t terribly important, but this is the first time I can remember being depressed. Keeping true to my dramatic personality, I locked myself in my room for days until my eyes were puffy and bloodshot. One night, while continuing to weep like a pathetic little puppy, I thought about the podcast I got from the cute barista at Starbucks. Looking back, it’s clear that God was orchestrating this entire thing…but at the time I was like, “WHY AM I THINKING ABOUT A SERMON WHEN I JUST GOT DUMPED.” About to be forever changed, though, I wrapped myself in a blanket and listened to “2009, part 2.”
I’m not totally confident in how to explain the next hour of my life. It was as if God opened up my eyes and shouted, “You’re mine!” And that was that. I couldn’t have stopped it even if I wanted to.
Within minutes of listening to this sermon, I fell in love with Jesus. Something shifted in my heart and God’s grace and love and redemption made sense. At one point in the message, Chandler talked about how God’s affections for me are not wavered by my shortcomings because of the cross. I remember crying and crying because I never realized the grace of God freed me up from trying to earn the grace of God. I couldn’t work enough or hide enough or wear enough costumes and masks. His death paid for me in full, covering every ounce of addiction and shame and rebellion. It reminds me of the famous verse in Romans 5: “But God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” If this kind of love doesn’t make you drop to your knees in awe, nothing will.
For the next year or so, I found myself continually coming back to this truth: I cannot contribute to my own salvation. I cannot reconcile myself to a Holy God. Even if all of humanity’s good deeds were put into the same lot, it would not be enough to pay for one person’s salvation. I can either humbly submit to the mercies of God or spend the rest of my life enslaved to self-righteousness and religion.*
What a concept, right? To think that you and I do not split the cost when it comes to salvation? It’s not like God contributed 50% on the cross with the expectation that we would cover the other 50% by means of good deeds and mission trips.** I had been living in a vicious cycle of dead religion: doing everything I could to suppress the anger of God, just to fall short and earn the anger of God, just to work even harder in order to suppress it again. That night, though, Jesus called me out of chains and into mercy; out of darkness and into light.
I’ve laugh-cried like six times while writing this because I still can’t believe Jesus saved me through a podcast from a random pastor in Texas while I was crying over a goofy boy. And the only reason I had the podcast was because I was addicted to venti iced passion tea lemonades from Starbucks. COME ON.
*I really hate the “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” fad because there are many ways in which Christianity is a religion. In the context of this post, though, I mean religion in the negative sense—man trying to reconcile himself to God by means of good works.
** I call this the “halfsies mentality” in case you were wondering. Sometimes it feels good to use complicated theological terms, you know?