I “asked Jesus into my heart” when I was 10 years old. Then I left him there for about 15 years.
There were no outward signs of “fruit” in my life. Because my Jesus was dormant. He was there, the seed was planted, but it was unactivated. Without root. Alive, but sleeping.
And then one day the damned thing woke up. My little Jesus seed stretched his atrophied arms, wiped the sleep blindness from his pretty blue eyes, and then he stood up and looked around at all the other sleeping seeds. And he was pissed.
(My friend once accurately described this stage in one’s faith as “bear mode”. The hibernation is over and has left us an unpleasant combination of both hungry and grumpy.)
So I did what all good, newly awakened seeds do. I pulled up my Christianity soapbox, lifted my Jesus megaphone to my holy lips, and proceeded to play the role of prophet in the lives of all those who would come near enough to hear.
“We’re to be known by our love!” I yelled. “Don’t you know people are starving? Don’t you know people are dying?!” I screamed. “You guys suck so hard!” was the cliff notes to my every sermon.
To speed my growth, the theology of my church dumped a big pile of fertilizer on my convictions. Except, you know, the other word for fertilizer.
Soon, my own indignation at the injustice of the world, the “laziness” of Christians, turned around to poison my own roots. Guilt was my fuel. Righteous anger was my sun. My furious little plant shot up like an arrow, trying desperately to bear fruit.
And then it hit a ceiling.
Slowly, like a confused mime, I felt my little leafy arms around the glass enclosure where I had been planted. No one had told me about this. No one had told me that I was boxed in.
I couldn’t grow any taller, bear any more fruit, without bending, conforming to fit my glass box. “This is normal” the church told me. “Don’t worry, this is where God lives. In the box.
The church was my greenhouse. It had given me just enough of the proper, safe conditions for fast and early growth. But then when my roots were ready to grow deep, when my branches longed for the freedom of the sky, I was pruned in the name of Jesus, so that I would never grow out of the box.
So my growth spurt was tempered. I withered a bit. My rotten fruit fell to the ground, unmatured.
I occasionally pressed my face close to the glass, touching, feeling, running my hands along the surface. Hoping, testing curiously, desperately for weak spots, for a patch of unfiltered light.
But mostly I just stood there, hunched over. Stunted.