The scissors I wielded were not tangible. They were different things in different seasons of my life: the cutlery of my inconsistent ways, my sarcastic tongue, and my resistance to maturity. In too many moments, when I knew full well that someone was watching, I selected selfishness—to make decisions in a manner that would benefit myself most of all. I tossed about my acidic words like Agent Orange on a rice field. I snubbed my nose at others whose sin or failure was simply a nuanced variation of my own. I aimed for godliness as an idea, but was quick to snag the do-over of grace when my intentions proved
faulty. I judged. I condemned. And I thought it was okay because the people of the church were still impressed with me.

But the world was watching.

Funny. I always thought my attempts at godliness wouldn’t make all that much difference to the world. In light of the mammoth sunshine of Christ, I was at best a tiny blip of a moon. Miniature and reflective. Barely a dust mite in light of that massive star. Unfortunately, that tiny moon is capable of blocking out the light of the sun almost entirely. It’s called an eclipse, and it is what happens when the vastly smaller moon is hovering too close to the observer and in front of the sunlight. Yes, most nights we moons reflect the light, claiming its grandeur as our own—but occasionally, through a sudden collision of random happenstance, we make the sun seem to completely disappear.

This should come as no surprise to me because my own faith journey was marred by a number of moons blotting out the light. One religious leader in particular had many profound God-ideas that transformed me—but he also used to call me “lard-ass” on a regular basis. He was joking, of course, but due to my ongoing neuroses regarding weight gain, I was never able to hear any truth out of his lips past the moon of that repeated statement. This was unfortunate, because I wasn’t very large and my derriere was made of neither margarine nor shortening. He also had some very good things to say.

This knee-jerk reaction to criticism and insults developed a defense mechanism inside of me. Ironically, this defense was my wit. If I could insult and get a laugh before the other person, then I never had to be called fat or weak or worthless again. So I manufactured the very same set of scissors that had cut me. Kindness had been ripped from my person and replaced with something akin to coarseness. A leathery coating of intellect and cleverness that would hide the ugly fear and mask it with uglier pride. This was my weapon—and I daily saved myself by harming everyone else.

The root of the problem—and the real damage—is that while I lived in this dysfunction, I called myself Christian.

I never really liked the name Christian. I was told it meant “little Christ” and as a thirteen-year-old, that sounded (at best) presumptuous and (at its basest) freakishly cocky beyond all measure. In all honesty, I didn’t want to be a little Christ. It seemed both insulting to God and too much pressure for me. I didn’t want to be a souvenir of Jesus. I didn’t want to be His homeboy—a bobblehead version you buy at the gas station that cheapens the real deal. I wanted instead to be a follower of Christ. I’d heard that phrase bandied about and I thought it sounded accurate. And cool. I would vastly prefer to be an arrow pointing to the Great Question, rather than have someone mistake me for the answer.

My take on the matter was unfortunate because the truth actually lay somewhere in-between. No, I do not believe Jesus desired for me to be mistaken for Him. He did not intend for my singular actions to be the sole picture of who He truly is. But He did and does fully urge me to pursue being one of the many earth-pictures that cause people to see Him at work in their lives.

This was a risky move for God. By making each and every one of us who calls himself “Christian” an active parable of His love, He is hazarding the chance that some (or even one) of us won’t take that symbolism very seriously. Somehow, in the scheme of the passage of time, we have placed the issue of “example of Jesus” into the hands of evangelical religion as a whole, living as if “together, somebody’s got everything covered.” But this is not reality. Reality beckons a weak-link theory: that even a singular one who calls himself little Jesus, and yet lives the opposite, damages the whole caboodle—and in effect, damns the world that is watching.