A year ago when I wrote a book for teenagers, it was extremely intimating for me. Speaking to teens = easy, but writing a book that they would actually read, enjoy, and be challenged by? that seemed like no easy task. And I wanted to write a book that embraced them in the midst of their questions, whatever those questions and doubts might be. When I wrote, The Amazing Next my goal was to ease them into seeing how the faith is adventurously expectant, spiritual, and highly intellectual. It's wholistic and it's wide and there's room for them and their hang-ups, their questions, and their way of thinking. But it also had to be a book that they'd enjoy and keep coming back to as a reference and as a guide. In today's post, I want to show you one of my favorite chapters with it's goal being, to draw the reader in. Maybe the reader has a strong faith or maybe they are really struggling with doubt. It's a chapter for both of those people. I wanted them to begin to open their minds up to the question, "why Jesus?"
Here's this short sample chapter entitled:
Crazy Things Christians Believe
We met at the Taco Bell across the street that morning from the best break at Huntington Beach. It was just shy of 6am and we still had sleep in our eyes, but we were stoked to be getting there so early, beating the crowds of surfers. We crossed the street and stood on the edge of the beach looking at where we’d enter the water for our weekly surf session. I was standing there with my good friends Nelson, Reed, Anthony and a new friend of ours, John, who was becoming more well known in the surfing community as one of the up and coming young great surfers.
I first met him when a bunch of us grabbed breakfast burritos at the pier a few months earlier. Since then he and I had started to cultivate a bit of a friendship. Something you should know about John is that he’s not just an amazing surfer, he’s also brilliant and studying philosophy at Long Beach State. He thinks it’s odd that someone like me is a follower of Jesus.
So we got our gear, put on our wetsuits, and headed to the water; Me a little slower than the rest of them, which is typical for a novice.
I watched as they paddled up and over the waves, just missing the breaking water and the explosion of its aftermath between us. I stood there with chills all over my body. I felt a hint of fear and excitement.
“O.K. Brock, get out there”, I whispered to myself.
I made my way out and joined them in the quiet, waiting for the first set. We sat there on our boards as the sun was rising to the East, causing the Pacific to transition from dark and ominous to a beautiful emerald green. The waiting is actually my favorite part of surfing, just sitting there in all of the beauty. I took a deep breathe with my eyes closed, waiting for the first set to come rolling in.
John paddled over to me and we sat close together on our boards with our backs to the beach.
“Brock, I still have no idea how you’re a Christian,” he said with a smirk.
This conversation was ongoing over the past few weeks.
“Dude, I’ve got my reasons,” I laughed and splashed him with water. Then we heard Reed yell, “Sweet! Here they come!”
They were slow rollers with a nice gentle throw to them, which was good for me. We all jumped on the first break. I stood and road for a few seconds before losing my balance and slipping into the ocean under the swell.
We all paddled out again and then the waiting game began a second time. John and his questions or, more accurately, remarks was right beside me.
“I mean, how can you even be one of those Christians? Just to be associated with organized religion...”
“Why do you say that?” I responded.
“Well,” he said, “don’t you realize all the hateful things that they have been a part of? All of the crazy sh*t that they have believed which has led to them promoting slavery and violence and wars. I mean, just look at the Crusades!”
I sat there with my heart pumping, wondering what to say. Then inspiration came.
“I know.” I said, “I mean, there have been so many embarrassing things that Christians have done. Do you remember when that televangelist in the 80’s that preached health and wealth and how God wanted just to make us happy? Then he got caught with that prostitute? Dude, the worst was when Jim Carey impersonated him on that TV show In Living Color. I wasn’t sure if I should cringe or laugh.”
“Ha! I totally remember that and I loved that show! We never really heard from that guy again.” He smirked.
“Yeah, I guess he lost his career and then his wealth and then I’m guessing his happiness.” I said with a smile.
I went on, “I remember when I was in 4th grade and some Christian at the time had predicted the end of the world, a dooms day sort of thing. I was going to a Christian private school at the time and our teacher brought it up. It actually kind made me scared and so I spent most of the day trying not to think about it all day. “
“What kind of teacher would tell kids that?” John shook his head.
I continued, “I mean, this guy was a famous Christian and so he must be right, right?”
I laughed. “Of course that day came and went and I realized that there are some people who truly believe some pretty crazy things. I even heard that this guy is still out there predicting the end of the world.”
He laughed, “But here we still are.”
“I know, it just seems like too much, ya know?”
“Dude, here’s the next set,” he said.
I looked and saw huge ten footers coming right for us. I yelled, “Not me!” and I paddled further out into the deep before these massive waves crashed on my head. John laughed and paddled out with me, skipping the set, and our conversation continued.
He looked at me and said, “See you do get it. That’s what’s crazy. I don’t understand how you can be a Christian when you agree with me.”
I looked at him a bit puzzled and said, “I do agree with you, and yes, Christians have believed and done some pretty insane things over the years. But I think that is also true of humans in general. We’ve always believed, done, and participated in crazy things!”
“Yeah maybe you’re right,” he said.
I went on, “Did you know that there was a woman named Emma who had her named changed to Frank Thompson?”
“What?” he looked at me quizzically. I could tell he did not know where this was going.
“Yeah, she was a woman who lived during the time when slavery was booming in the 1800’s. She loved Jesus and because of her relationship with him, she felt compelled to join the abolition movement. “
“Really? What does that have to do with Frank Thompson?” He asked.
“Yeah, she actually moved to the Northern states from Canada and ended up going undercover, dressing as a man to get secret information for the abolitionists. Many credited her for getting information that was key for the North and they won many battles because of it. She did it because of her faith.”
“Or if you think of the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Alcoholic Anonymous, even most Ivy League schools, or companies like Toms – these were all started by Christians who were overwhelmed by God’s call to do something significant in the world. But I totally get what you’re saying. I am ashamed at many things Christians have done in the name of God and it breaks my heart. But the opposite is just so true as well. Go to Africa today or Haiti and meet people who are caring for the broken, the poor, the hungry and the sick. More than likely they are quiet, humble followers of Jesus working in the ghettos and villages and trash heaps where the marginalized live.”
I went on, “And John, I do have intellectual and logical reasons for being a Christian, but ultimately I think I have just kind of opened my mind up to God and he has truly shown up. I mean, look at what we’re doing today, and how our group is becoming family, and we’re living life together and surrounded by all of this beauty. The sky, the ocean, and us, it’s kind of miraculous. Some people in the world, maybe you included, look at us and all of creation and think it is all a big accident. I just don’t see it that way, you know?”
He looked at me in deep thought and said, “Yeah, I guess I get it. But why Jesus?”
I looked at the water. It had grown flat over the past few minutes. Each ripple shimmered in the early morning sunlight. It’s the question I had been hoping he would ask for a few weeks now. Now the moment was here and of course my mind went blank. Slowly the blankness gave way to calm and a few thoughts took shape. I gathered them together and continued the conversation.
“I knew that there had to be a cause for all of this. Cause and effect. Someone had to do all of this. But one day I heard a guy speak about Jesus in a way that I had never heard anyone speak before. And this guy was really cool. The way he described Jesus was in a way that seemed like Jesus was knowable, like he was his friend. And I thought, if this is true, then I want it! I want what he has. So I just opened my life to Jesus. The crazy thing is, he showed up.”
John’s brow furrowed. A breeze picked up and some spray dusted our faces causing us to laugh. Then he got serious again. “How? In what way?” he asked.
“Well, initially in subtle small ways. At first, and this might sound weird, but I was overwhelmed by a presence. I can’t really explain it, but I felt supernaturally loved, accepted, and cared for. I know, I know, it sounds crazy!” I said.
“Actually no” he smiled. “I went to a camp when I was in middle school and I felt something like that, but I just kind of chalked it up to eating too much sugar and not getting enough sleep that week,” he laughed.
Nelson came paddling way out to us, “Guys you’re missing all of this surf!”
He turned his board and straddled it, facing us. “What’s going on over here?”
“Just talking about how crazy I think it is that Brock’s a Christian.” We all laughed.
“I was just getting ready to tell John how I did a scientific experiment to see if Jesus was real,” I said.
“Oh good,” John said, “Do tell.”
“Well, like I was saying, That guy told me about Jesus and I just decided to take all of my doubts, questions, and skepticism and put them to the side for a minute. Now I came back to those doubts, because they are an important part of having an intellectual faith, but initially I just sat them to the side and said a little prayer, ‘Jesus if you’re real, then you’ve got to show up and work in my life; You’ve got to give me peace, I need that right now. ‘ I kept praying that prayer and embraced the mystery.”
Nelson spoke up and said, “Oh yeah, I heard Bono from the band U2…”
I interrupted, “Oh no, there he goes quoting Bono again!” We all laughed.
“I know, I love U2, but Bono said something about how he felt it was very plausible that Jesus actually was who he said he was. And then he opened his life to God, and Jesus has been a presence in his life ever since.”
“John,” I said, “Look, there are so many valid reasons not to believe in God and I get that. I’ve had to wrestle with those things in major ways ever since I opened myself up to God. But ultimately, we’re all on a journey and we’re all smart people, and we all arrive at different places on this topic. I just hope you take your shot, ya know? Just take a shot and see if God’s real.”
At that we laid down and started paddling, “Come on, lets catch some waves!” The three of us paddled back into the break. John caught the first wave, leaving us behind. We just sat there watching him, as the strength of the water pushed his board and shot him out the other side. Amazed at his seemingly effortless ability Nelson yelled, “Dude, that was sick!” Under my breath I prayed, “God soften his heart, reveal yourself to him. Help him to take his shot. ”
And then I caught my second wave of the morning.
For more information on the book click here.