Joseph Brazil | @blackdog575
We’ve all heard of them. Chances are you’ve seen them on Sunday morning, or your kids go to school with one or two. They’re just different enough from others their age, yet they’re difficult to single out of a group. Strangely, they’re the only classification of today’s youth commonly recognized by an acronym: P. K.
They’re the behind-the-scenes, Sunday morning utility players, who always seem to get those inglorious, but always essential, tasks, such as moving tables in the fellowship hall or spot-checking the bathroom trashcans before Sunday School.
I’m one of these P. K.’s., being born to parents who willingly entered the front lines of ministry. I owe them a great deal of thanks for understanding the need to raise up children to follow after Christ personally, not just by example or because it’s what they were being paid to do.
I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. From somewhere inside my seven-year-old heart, I felt the tug. No one forced me into it. I knew in my heart it was time. I found my dad in his office at the church, and, a little bashfully, I conveyed to him what I was feeling. Now, being a freshly minted parent myself, I can only imagine the thrill my dad must have felt in that moment as he led me through the prayer of salvation.
I was raised in Sunday School, attended and later worked in Vacation Bible school every summer, was active in the music and youth ministry in our church for as long as I can remember. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll probably tell you I’m an overall good guy. I’ve never had a problem with substance abuse, or with taking what isn’t mine. I’m not an abusive person, nor do I instigate trouble.
But inside, I’ve struggled with a spiritual condition that seems to have taken root in those early years when life suddenly punched me on the chin.
I was about ten years old when my family moved to the eastern side of the state. I was going into the fifth grade and put into public school for the first time. With the move came a version of the world I’d yet to encounter outside a relatively sheltered life. Once my new peers at school and around town learn what my dad does for a living, I attract attention from them that I’m not prepared to deal with. As a result, I learn a new vocabulary, and I’m asked to elaborate on practices I’ve never heard of just to get a reaction.
Here it all begins. To put it simply, I bought into the lie.
My pride and supposed “need” to fit in to make friends caused me to compromise what I’d been taught since childhood. Instead of standing up for what I knew was true and representing myself as an ambassador for Christ, I chose to distance myself from that image for fear of what my new peers would think.
Peel back a layer and you’ll find another degree of my spiritual warfare. First, you have to understand a common problem I’m sure most preacher’s children face. For example, imagine for a moment your dad standing at the pulpit every Sunday morning and evening, and then again on Wednesday night, preaching the Gospel to his congregation. During those turbulent teenage years, I had a hard time listening. I love and respect my dad, and this is by no means a slight against him or his ministry. It was the fact that my dad also served as my pastor.
As a result, I found myself growing numb to most of his sermons, convicting and insightful as they must have been. But Satan had found an open door, and he was all too ready to expound upon it. There was no separation between minister in the church and father at home that I could discern then. Instead, the master of confusion helped me buy into the world’s philosophy for where lasting fulfillment could be found.
Even though I was finding myself struggling to keep God at the forefront of my young and developing life, I never abandoned it entirely. How could I? There wasn’t a spare moment that I wasn’t surrounded by helping out in some church function. But things began to blur the older I grew. Sunday morning sermons and youth group discussions became flavorless; one and the same. There wasn’t much I hadn’t heard my whole life.
Soon, I came to develop a real inability for putting God’s service ahead of my own wishes and demands. I simply couldn’t move myself outside this created comfort zone and answer the urge to witness to those around me. The feeling of knowing I’d turned God away left in its wake a sour sickness I still remember. There are times when I confuse His will for my own personal wishes, but there are other times when I can interpret His will clearly.
It’s then my defiant nature intervenes.
I’d like to say I’ve overcome these spiritual defects; that I’m more obedient to His will and that I have greater control over temptations for putting myself ahead of His calling. It saddens me to think of the lost chances I let slip by because of selfishness and pride.
A wise person once told me that if they were perfect they would be rich. Well, I’m not rich in material wealth, and I’m not perfect. But I’m what the Lord has made me to be. All He asks of me is a ready and willing spirit. It’s a daily battle, and if I focus on attacking these hang-ups each day instead of with a long view mindset, then I set myself up to be of use to the Lord’s service.
I’m sure I’ll struggle to overcome these issues the rest of my life. That’s a consequence of decisions I made early on. But what’s important is that I try each day to be a little more like Christ and less of my old sinful self.
Join me in striving to listen to what the Lord is moving us believers to do. Prepare yourself with the gifts He has supplied you with so that you might share your talents and contribute to the spread of the Good News.
If you’re like me and struggle with indecision and being stuck in neutral, keep the following scriptures close at hand. Pray over them, and meditate on their message throughout the day so that the Lord might speak and move you in the direction He has designed just for you.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Jesus replied, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does.
Joseph Brazil is a teacher from eastern New Mexico. He enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter, watching sports, and studying blues guitar. He is a student of history, and likes sharing with his wife in a good period-piece flick. You can find him on Twitter at @blackdog575.
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