In college I was coming out of a really tough season of life. I enjoyed the idea of “Christian Liberty”. At the time, this theological idea was becoming popular. It focused on the New Covenant and emphasized freedom from certain legalities. To put it simply, it meant Baptists were drinking beer in public.
A friend who I held very close back then and I still hold close (he’s actually family now) had an honest conversation with me. This relationship had been a HUGE part of me really sorting things out and I trusted and respected Jason. In the midst of my own inner turmoil, we had one of these honest conversations. The phrase I remember the most was
“Chad, it might be ok…but does it make you any more holy?”
I have held on to those words for years. The phrase has provided different answers during seasons of my life. I can think of three distinct phases when my answer has changed and caused me to reflect on practices in my life.
In college, this phrase made me seriously reconsider what I was allowing myself to do, watch, talk about and spend my time doing. I asked myself about many activities “Is this making me any more Holy?” and found surprising answers. I am certain this season shaped and prepared me for my future. I found the difference between acceptable and holy. I got over hang ups and what I now consider to be serious overreactions on my part. I learned about self-control. I learned the way I acted around others mattered. I learned to think about other people.
When I was in seminary the question changed. I was digging my academic work. For the first time I was doing well in school and enjoyed putting in long hours. Complicated things became easy for me. I was excelling in certain things and experiencing joy and emotions I never had before.
Was it making me any more holy?
I was realizing I was learning a lot about God. What I wasn’t doing was consistently getting closer to Jesus. My scripture reading was for academic pursuits and not for the soul. Serious examination had to happen. It was all highly beneficial.
I begun patterns of devotion, prayer and Christian relationships to redirect my focus primarily on my own relationship to God and put my schoolwork afterwards. Funny thing, my work became even better once I did this.
When I transitioned into full time ministry the question changed again. I had found myself keeping my devotional routine. I was proud of the fact it survived a really big shift in life. I found myself only having 1 job for the first time in 5 years (instead of the 3-4 I kept in seminary). I didn’t have schoolwork to do at night. I actually could relax!
The only issue was the previous ways I chose to spend my spare time weren’t really fun any more. I ended up spending my downtime time watching TV and just laying around. At this point I also started to think intentionally about the necessity of margin in life.
Wesley talks about “redeeming the time”, putting intentional practices in our moments of downtime. I needed to redeem the time. Me vegging out wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t making me any more holy. There was a difference between a favorite television show and just scanning and constantly switching between channels.
I found new hobbies that brought in relaxation and reflection. I concentrated on creating new times and practices of prayer to use.
I am sure in the future I will begin asking myself the question about holiness again. I hope I never stop asking myself the question.
So I ask it to you.
What part of your life do you need to examine?
What practices are making you more holy?