I was privileged to be able to give a “cross testimony” tonight to the Resistance. This is a semi-regular chance for folks to come forward and share something about their faith and how they’ve connected to the Resistance, and then literally sign their name to a wooden cross. Below is what I said:
Hi, everybody. So, for those who don’t know me, I’m Robert Buck. My wife is Kirsten, and I have two boys, Sam and Nathan. We’ve been part of the Resistance since the week before the launch, and currently I serve by helping out with social media, organizing our efforts with Refuge of Hope, and being part of the “tear down” crew on Sunday nights. I’m also part of Ben’s Pocket that serves at the Pregnancy Support Center. So, I want to start out with a quote:
Man cannot live without acts of exaltation, without moments of trembling and revering, without being transported by grandeur. For weeks and months he may be confined to the routine of sensible interests, until an hour arrives when all his habits burst under the strain. Common sense may sign a decree that life be kept under the lock of average conceptions, but much in our lives is made to be burned up in a holy flame or it will rot in monstrous deeds, in evil thoughts. To satisfy his need for exaltation, man will plunge into rage, wage wars; he will set the city of Rome afire. When superimposed as a yoke, as a dogma, as a fear, religion tends to violate rather than to nurture the spirit of man. Religion must be an altar upon which the fire of the soul may be kindled in holiness.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, from God In Search of Man
I had a mentor figure in my life who used to say that he was less interested in why you became a Christian, and more interested in why you stay one. Another way of putting this is to ask the question that Kaylie answered last week: “Why follow Jesus when there are so many easier and less costly alternatives?” I would answer that in several ways. I have a pretty dramatic story, I guess you could say. I grew up in a Christian home and was very much immersed in the Christian bubble. I also grew up in a very broken and abusive home and have some pretty wild stories I could tell you. Since Kirsten and I got married almost 18 years ago our story together has been pretty wild too. My mom and her dad died within a day of each other, half a country apart. Since then we’ve tried to take care of our remaining parents as best we could until my Dad died a few years ago. When I went to seminary, for example, I was the only seminarian living on campus with my wife and my father, who came to live with us because he was really sick himself at that time, basically dying. Our son Samuel was born 4 months early, weighing one pound, five ounces. They told us he wouldn’t live through his second night of life. We’ve moved across the county multiple times, often in the midst of some trauma that was happening. Along the way we’ve really been challenged to make our faith our own or abandon it, and honestly there have been lots of good reasons to give it up altogether. I have good friends who have done just that- quit following Jesus- and they wonder why I still struggle to.
I try to be honest with them and tell them that it’s really hard, but that basically I can’t help it. Like Martin Luther, all I can say is, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Let me give you another quote that may help explain why. Frederick Buechner is a writer and one-time pastor that has been indispensable to my journey with Jesus, in no small part because of this quote. He says:
Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and the pain of it no less than the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.
You see, stories are very important to me. The best ones tell us about their content, for sure, but often they tell us quite a lot about ourselves, if only we have ears to hear. Jesus’ parables are like that. Nathan standing before King David and telling him “You are the man” was like that. And for me, Jesus’ story is very much like that. Honestly, half the time I don’t want to follow Jesus, and if love is something you do and not just something you say, most of the time I probably don’t love him very well either. But try as I might, I can’t get away from him, which would be great if he would just pop through the clouds and force us all to get along and care for and feed and love one another. But he’s not like that. He hides. He hides when we yearn for him in obvious places, and pops up instead in the most inconvenient and challenging ones. I see him in the faces of the disadvantaged special needs kids I work with. I see him in my annoying co-worker who makes my job a thousand times harder than it should be. I see him in Fred Phelps and Elton John alike. I see him in the faces of starving kids in Africa, and hungry ones in Canton. I see him in Jews and Palestinians. I see him, quite annoyingly, in Tea Partiers and the President too. So I still try to follow Jesus because I believe him. I don’t just believe things about him. I believe Him. I believe that he made me in and for love, and that because love is something you do, it only exists in community. I believe that he created the world and all of us because he couldn’t help it, because he’s so full of love that it couldn’t be contained; it needed a world with all of us in it to receive that love.
I don’t believe I was made to pursue the American dream or even my own happiness necessarily. I wasn’t made to follow a checklist of rules about my behavior or beliefs or voting practices or anything else. I was made instead to receive and express God’s love and to do so fiercely, which is necessary because so many of the world’s systems are set up in direct opposition to the kind of world that love is working to create even as we speak. I would even dare to say that I was made for all of you. We were made not to attend a church, but to be one. We were made to be outrageous fools in the eyes of the world. God wants to do something wild and crazy and extravagantly beautiful, and for reasons only God could know he’s chosen us for this holy and glorious task. It’s crazy to start a peace-loving church in a time of war. It’s crazy to use most of our resources to love people and meet their needs rather than pay for a building or our pastors. It’s crazy to insist that we have a life together as the church that is right at the very core of who we are rather than just add a few good programs and a nice worship experience once a week to whatever life we’re already trying to pursue on our own. It’s crazy to think that some of us could pool our resources and share them with the world better by moving in together, but by the grace and wisdom of God ALL of these things are happening. You see, I believe that there is nothing better, and nothing harder, than following Jesus. I also believe that it’s so hard if you’re following him very closely at all that it simply can’t be done alone. It requires community. It requires us to really be an “us.” So if you ask me today why I’m following Jesus, I’d simply say that it’s because of you.
I’m Robert, and I alone am not the Resistance, but God knows we sure are.