A preacher, arriving in a small town to speak at a local church wanted to post a letter to his family back home. He stopped a small boy and asked him where the post office was. The boy gave him directions.
Then the preacher said: “If you come to church this evening, I’ll tell you how to get to heaven.”
“I don’t think I’ll be there,” replied the boy, “You don’t even know your way to the post office.”
I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years and have been seeking directions to the fabled land of the Victorious Christian Life (the VCL) for all that time. Call me a jaded old-timer if you want, I don't mind. I have been called worse.
This blog entry is mainly intended to help the Christians out there. But feel free to read on whoever you are.
Firstly, I do not live the VCL. And I'm unable to offer anyone directions on how to get there. I know this is a bad start, but what I am able to do is to give you some directions showing where this fabled land is not to be found (based on 20 years of bitter experience).
The 'fabled' land of the VCL is well known to exist by Christians. For a start Christ lived it. St Paul lived it. There are countless biographies of Christians who live it. I've met Christians who say they live it. The VCL involves miracles and a success in everything that you do. If something goes wrong then a supernatural event makes it go right again. Things don’t fall apart and everyone there gets healed and prayers answered.
This blog entry is not for Christians who have already discovered that secret elixir – the hidden fountain of VCL living.
In fact, I have come to the conclusion that Christians who do live the VCL are unable or unwilling to share directions. Actually, to be fair, they do share directions, but the directions always turn out to be wrong, as if blurred by some subtle irony, or some mystical force. As if it is a spiritual law that the way to the VCL can never be shared. They will say 'just reach out and receive' or 'you can't do anything to find it - you simply have to accept it as a child will accept a present'. The fact that the present is invisible and they never actually tell you how they have arrived is, surely, part of the subtle spell which blurs any kind of meaningful communication.
So it is just as well that all I am doing is sharing with you the places in which the VCL is not found - to spare my remaining readers a lot of trouble.
Anyone who is anyone knows that the VCL is self-evidently to be found via a ‘heal-all’. This is obvious. There is one single act, one single change in direction, one single change which will result in the VCL. Some of these single acts can change things for the better but they do not result in the fabled VCL.
So here we go patient readers!...
Heal-all number 1: The VCL is not found by becoming a Christian.
Becoming a Christian is a huge change. Some of us old timers still remember how intense the experience was. There are huge, often unpleasant, changes which are made. Friends are lost. Lifestyles change. It is the one significant act that a human being can make to side with good. A kind of vote for Christ, made through prayer. It is immense and it is usually hard, like relocating to a new country. But it isn’t a heal-all. Everyone knows that. It can make things better (sometimes it makes things worse), but it doesn’t automatically lead to the VCL.
Heal-all number 2: Go to church.
For us jaded old-timers there are often periods of non-churchgoing for one reason or the other. When you are in church you are told: “Coming to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a cup of McDonalds coffee with a free buy six get one free sticker.” Sad to say, in my experience, going to church does not result in the VCL. It is no heal-all. Some people there claim to have found the land (but once again, their directions get blurred in the spell which prevents the way ever being shared). Damn you, foul spell!
Heal-all number 3: Pray for an hour every morning.
I’d be losing my cool if I said I did this for any great length of time. But I have tested this theory (albeit briefly). I don’t regret the relatively small amount of time I’ve spent in prayer but I have discovered that having quiet time every morning does not result in the VCL. I hate to say it, but for the devoted, praying can get out of hand. I know that everything will conspire to keep people from prayer and I believe in prayer, but there comes a time when praying ‘without-ceasing’ is a kind of addiction. And when you fail, you will feel vile. Please be balanced in this. I’m not the devil, tempting you not to pray, I’m someone who has learned that quantity does not equal quality.
Heal-all number 4: Get rid of that dubious stuff!
This is the most attractive heal-all road to the VCL. It's a beauty. It's simple. All you have to do is scourge your house or flat from everything that some Christians say is dodgy. For Christians this goes beyond the obvious of getting rid of hard drugs and firearms (and that secret two foot high idol we all have in the cupboard (?)). To perform this heal-all we need to get rid of those 'bad' DVDs and Blu-ray discs. We need to delete any ‘doubtful’ music from our iPods. Then you can delete all the ebooks which are clearly too racy or too horrific. Don’t burn those books, though, take them to a charity shop. Purge the house, purge the garden, purge the TV and radio!... Except it doesn’t work. Sad to say I’ve had at least two 'Christian purges' on my happy, happy VCL-less journey and they simply don’t work.
Heal-all number 5: Tithe.
I don’t tithe. I may or may not have done so in the past. If I said I did it may or may not make me want to look good. I don’t tithe and I very much doubt that it leads to the VCL – it may make things better because giving enriches us in many ways. You can test God in this and you discover for youself whether it leads to the VCL or not. My guess is that it makes some things better but I bet you it doesn’t result in the VCL.
Heal-all number 6: Support Israel. Publically.
This is a fun and happy aspect of certain circles within the Christian community. Those of us in the know understand that all those who bless Israel will be blessed (and vice-versa (oh happy religion!)). Another simple road to the VCL! Simply be supportive of Israel and never say anything critical of the Jews. Bonus! A blessing on both their houses? (Well, that could work). How can this fail!? It can fail and it does. This is an esoteric heal-all so be careful with this one. Also, people get obsessed about Israel one way or the other.
Heal-all number 7: Fill in your own option to the VCL here.
I know - there must be a lovely easy, instant way to enter the land of the Victorious Christian Life!
It may involve saying a particular prayer with just the right words. It may involve performing a great deed. It may involve doing one particular thing. People, you all know what that thing is supposed to be – so insert it here! (just not in the comments please - this was once a respectable blog). Maybe it is the true way to the VCL. I don’t know, I’ve never lived the VCL. How would I know? I'm mad as a box of frogs having a bad trip.
And maybe even these non-directions will get blurred by some spell over the land. Some cruel irony which prevents all meaningful communication from occurring. But as we all know, failing to live the VCL is user-error. Has to be. Because if we are not to blame, it just doesn’t look good for some people does it?
One possible way to the VCL...
We can strain at gnats all our lives but I would say that I believe the VCL is to be found by making gradual shifts towards love and mercy. But as I say - even that doesn't work (especially if you are a grinch like me). In fact, it's just possible that I'm not doing even that very well (it would explain a lot). But my guess is that if the VCL exists then love is the way.
So, busy reader, be careful that the anti-VCL spell doesn’t make even this blog sound like gobbledegook. And in the meantime, while you’re searching – try to get up one more time than you are knocked down.
Think happy thoughts.