The Dialogue on Christianity
How Things Began
Bryan wasn't sure of all John had stirring in his mind. It was true that he was different now and he was aware that the difference was apparent, but this was the first time anyone had made much of it to him face to face.
Bryan: So everybody knows about the changes, huh?
John: I guess everyone has been able to tell the differencenot that everyone likes it, mind you. Look, I thought you might be willing to talk about it. Don't hesitate to tell me to leave if I'm being too personal.
Bryan: It's OK. I'll tell you what happened.
With this, Bryan looked carefully at John. He wanted to be sure that he wanted to know and could tolerate what he would likely have to say.
Money is the beginning place, John. You're probably aware that money was first for most of my career. I was so completely wrapped up in getting things, and just the intrigue of the chase for it, that I never really considered Christianity at all. I don't mean that I never entered a church, but that going to church never meant anything. I'm not sure now that I ever heard the truth anyway in those church services back then. Going to church was a function of respectabilitykind of an unwritten policy for the management of the company. Had I continued the way I was going, though, I guess I would be a good candidate for a pretty hot hell.
There is that word again. John had never liked using it even as a curse word. But lately the word had more significance. He thought he could go thereif it really were there.
I don't suppose that other people would have considered my lifestyle so unusual at the time. I guess you have always thought of me as fairly normalat least before the changes. But now I feel very badly about it all. I was just totally focused on myself. I lived a type of double lifepretending to be kind, respectful, generous, etc.but it was all just a means of getting what I wanted. That was the heart of it.
I had to lie sometimes to get things going my way. At times the lies grew. I'd feel fairly rotten if I were caught, but I would rationalize it all and keep right on being dishonest. It was standard practice in my work. I didn't mind falsifying the paperwork at the office to make the company look betterand me look better.
There were also some relational problems I let myself get into. I won't go into that. My wife and I have promised not to make the details public knowledge. At any rate, my marriage survived, but sometimes I wonder how. It was quite a mess around our place for a while. I felt some remorse but soon got over it.
And, oh yeah, I had the typical laughs at the Christiansjust feeling superior because I wasn't troubled with all the things that bothered them. They seemed so different from the rest of us. There were a few pious types at the office. We had a lot of fun with them. I'm honestly not sure all of them have the best views of Christianity to this day, but I don't ride them like I used to. I wasn't concerned then about anything but what made me look goodand the money. This sort of thing.
John: We've got some "born again" types in my section. Our office is a comedian's paradise, and those guys really get it. To be honest with you, one of the reasons all of this has never appealed to me was that being a Christian seemed to invite such ridicule from everyone. I mean, they have even laughed at you, especially on the trips when you won't go out like you used to. I've kind of secretively respected you, though. I mean, I laughed, but I wasn't laughing inside.
Bryan: You know, I didn't have much conscience about my life at that time. Compared to others I thought I was doing as well as the next guy. But now and then I would have a considerable bout with my thoughtsyou know, in those reflective moments when you can't help but think about how you are living life, what you are missing, and all thatwell, during those times, I almost had to shake my head and force myself to forget the way I really was as a person.
John: Was this God working on you? I mean, did you think of it like that?
Bryan: Not really, at first. I was totally ignorant of that sort of thing. I didn't know that by waking a person up to his sin, God was possibly beginning His work of converting him. And I have to admit that I loved my sins so much that I didn't want to leave them. I just didn't like what they produced as far as bad feelings or painful circumstances. I wouldn't have known how to quit them anyway. Besides, all of this deep thinking was so troubling to me that I would rather have forgotten it alllike I said, I would shake my head and toss the thoughts out.
John: So could youI mean, could you forget them?
Bryan: Yes, I could for a while at least. But then they seemed to come back worse than they had been.
John: I have some similar kinds of feelings sometimes. Not really sometimesoften! That is, I've been feeling like all of my actions are being seen by Godlike He even understands my motives and doesn't miss the slightest move I make.
Bryan: Of course, you've never let me know that before, but that is exactly what began to happen in my case.
John: What sort of things would get you started?
Bryan: A lot of things really. Somehow sickness or the death of a friend would bring it all back. My father's cancer hit me pretty hard. I thought I would never be able to get over the question, "Where is Dad now?" You knew him. He didn't care at all about God. I had a lot of nights of weighty thoughts about that. And then I would say, "What about me?"
John: Could you shove those thoughts out when you were ready?
Bryan: Not as well, because by then the thought of my own sins was beginning to get quite a good hold on my conscience. If I ever did think about going on like I always had been (even though I really wanted to live the old way), these kinds of thoughts would torment me twice as much.
John: So what did you do?
Bryan: I did what I thought was logical. I assumed that reforming my life would help ease it all. Seriously, I thought that if I didn't do that, I would be in bad trouble with God.
John: So, did you reform?
Bryan: I did. I quit some of my sins and even stopped spending time with some of my friends. I also started some religious activities, such as praying, reading the Bible, trying to be sorry for sin, speaking more truthfully, attending a more serious-minded church, etc.
I really did make some apparent progress...for a while, but finally all those thoughts of dying and emptiness and guilt came back to me no matter how much I tried to reform.