No, I am not pregnant. But this secret is even more significant than that. Secrets kept untold for too long begin to burn until they are ready to burst. And I am about to burst.
We work with college students, most of whom have never had any experience with Christianity or the Church, some of whom have had very unChristian experiences with those who call themselves by that name.
Not too long ago, I myself stepped foot on a college campus, having just heard the gospel of Christ a year prior. I came in dubious about the whole Christian scene and the Church. I wanted to love Jesus, but I was pretty certain I was more cool than the Christians on my campus who watched movies or played Capture the Flag while the rest of the campus partied at the fraternity houses.
Standing on the outside looking in, the whole Christian endeavor looked like a lot of rules. I was secretly afraid that going all in on this whole Christianity thing would kill all my joy and fun.
From the outside, the world seems to have the corner on the satisfaction and adventure markets, while the Church seems to have the patent on rules and regulations.
But here’s the gigantic secret: within what appears from the outside as rigid standards, Christianity is teeming with joy.
From the outside peering in, Christianity looked like a damp towel that would snuff out the barely flickering sparks of fun and joy in my life. And I’m still not quite sure how I got within the walls of Christianity, other than the fact that God gently pulled me over my hesitations and into Him. But this much is clear, once within the walls of Christianity, those sporadic sparks were not only not extinguished but were actually fanned into full out flames.
G. K. Chesterton, a great thinker who came home to Christianity after a long and detailed search of truth, came to this same conclusion nearly a couple hundred years ago.
He wrote, “And the more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and an order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”
Standards and structures and absolute truths look so rigid and repelling to our postmodern hearts and minds which are cynical towards power and authority. But once you have seen and experienced the freedom of Christ and the abundant life He alone offer, those standards and structures become safeguards and containers for all that teeming life.
Chesterton captures this as only he can in his book Orthodoxy.
“Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground. Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the please of paganism. We might fancy some children playing on the flat grassy top of some tall island in the sea. So long as there was a wall round the cliff’s edge they could fling themselves into every frantic game and make the place the noisiest of nurseries. But the walls were knocked down, leaving the naked peril of the precipice. They did not fall over; but when their friends returned to them they were huddled in terror in the center of the island; their song had ceased.”
In my experience, this has proven more than accurate. Christianity truly has been the noisiest of nurseries. I am not saying that the Christian life is a smooth, easy progression into comfort and prosperity. Among the things Jesus promised His people most clearly was that in this world there would be trouble, persecutions, hardships and suffering, even and especially for those who would follow Him fully. I am just saying that the deep, abiding joy and laughter and hope found within this nursery can be found nowhere else to the same extent.
Chesterton says it better than I ever could. “Joy which was the small publicity of the pagan is the gigantic secret of the Christian.”
And that’s a secret I am just bursting to tell broadly.