The Night I Drove Away From Prayer

You’re either in or you’re out: chosen or forsaken, saved or damned, the many or the few.

Some years ago I was in a Christian martial arts school. I wasn’t Christian, but it was a great school and it was confirmed every time I broke a rib or a foot or got a black eye. I liked it because it pushed me beyond my limits, further than I would have been able to go on my own.

Plus, it always felt cool to have a broken bone or a black eye. A spinning side kick that takes less than a second to execute that cracks a rib is a thrill and pain you won’t experience anywhere else (at least nowhere that you’re paying for it).

But like I said, it was a Christian martial arts school and I wasn’t Christian. I hadn’t accepted Christ. I had when I was a kid, but what does that mean? Lots of kids accept Christ into their hearts and they don’t know what it means. A person can’t know what it means when they are too young – they’re just repeating the words they’ve heard.

One Saturday evening, the leader of the martial arts school, who was also a pastor, was giving a sermon at a local church. They were doing one of those services that are geared toward youth where they draw you in with donuts, coffee, and pseudo-edgy rock music. To conclude the sermon he invited everyone to stand up and join him in a circle of prayer.

“Whether you’ve accepted Christ into your heart before or are tonight for the first time, c’mon up here and let’s pray,” he excitedly commanded through the microphone.

So everyone did. The masses left their pews and gathered around the leader in a circle. They eagerly walked up to the altar where he stood with his microphone and they put their arms around each other forming one large group. They bowed their heads in unison and listened as the leader spoke to God through a microphone.

When the Christ-acceptance prayer started I was still sitting in the pew, outside the circle of prayer. Everyone had left except for me and I awkwardly remained in my seat. I didn’t accept Christ into my heart before that night and I wasn’t going to that night either.

It wasn’t that I had any personal vendetta against Christ; it was that I did not believe the story of the Bible and therefore could not accept Christ as my personal lord and savior.

Some lighthearted, gentler folks out there might think if I should have gone up and there and joined in the rejoicing, but some of those lighthearted, gentler folks out there also don’t have a problem with lying.

That was my dilemma: should I lie and approach the group to “accept Christ,” and be a member of the chosen and saved, or should I be honest and stand alone, to be a member of the forsaken and damned, while everyone ascends to the prayer circle?

These situations are typically not easy ones. No one particularly enjoys lying and it surely makes uncomfortable situations easier to bear, but we all find ourselves situated in a moment where lying has more consequences than, “Sorry bro, it wasn’t me who drank the last beer.” How should a person react when he is confronted by a situation where he can only please the group by lying?

I didn’t want to lie so I didn’t stand up and join. I took my place among the damned, the forsaken, the wicked because it was the honest thing to do.

I have always felt on the outside of things. I have always felt like the underdog and thus, the forsaken and damned. I descended from the group. I stood up, walked outside, and got into my car. I left in the rainy, dark night while they were still praying, confirming my position among the few.

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