This One’s for All the Good Christian Kids

Allen Winterfest Ct Jan 2005

I was a good Christian kid.

Maybe even that good Christian kid.

And sometimes it was terrible.

Terrible?  Really?  Am I serious?  The fact that I need to explain myself constitutes part of the problem.  I know many of the challenges that people have faced make mine look laughable, but that’s a portion of what made being a good kid difficult. Sometimes being good meant forgetting about being relatable.

It also meant missing out on things.

Things like smoking, drinking, and having sex before marriage; the kind of activity that your friends swore was overrated, but not overrated enough to stop doing.

And the not-so-obvious things like lying, cheating, and using people.  Being a good Christian kid meant getting worse grades on tests when you studied harder than many of your classmates.  It also meant avoiding situations that involved making you look good at someone else’s expense.

And letting go of any sense of pride which “being good” might bring, because following Jesus meant embracing humility.

However you slice it, I felt like I was missing out… and no amount of AWANA could blunt that feeling, even when it psyched me up out of my mind.

Allen - AWANA

Allen AWANA 2

Allen AWANA 3

Things felt bad often.

Then I met Psalm 73.

Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart.  But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked (vv 1-3).

This was me.  I believed that God was good and that God looked favorably upon good people…

But like the author of Psalm 73, I didn’t see it. Being good didn’t seem to get me anywhere. Others didn’t have to deal with the crappy parts of trying to please God, but they still ended up with success, status, and fulfilled desires.

For they have no pain; their bodies are sound and sleek. They are not in trouble as others are; they are not plagued like other people. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them like a garment… such are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches (vv 4-6, 12).

But what did I have?

All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence (v 13).

I was missing out.
For nothing.
Or so I thought.

I spent some time very bitter at God, only to realize that God hadn’t stopped considering me.

When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant; I was like a brute beast toward you. Nevertheless I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me with honor (vv 21-24).

Missing out meant gaining something far greater.

I had God. 

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (vv 25-26).

I’m aware that this process isn’t finished; being a good Christian adult is pretty difficult too.  I’m continuing to learn about the depth of my dependence upon the love of God and my inability to find anything else comparable to it. That old feeling of “missing out” still creeps up, but God is still my portion.

And that is certainly enough.

Allen Marshall O'Brien

Allen Marshall O’Brien is the pastor of a UCC church in Northern California and co-host of the Irenicast. He believes in the importance of education, peace, and ecology, throws things to his border collie Sonata, and writes for multiple platforms.

Latest posts by Allen Marshall O'Brien (see all)

Share this:
  • kathsprout

    Thank you 🙂 I feel I missed out on having a wild and exciting youth, but I suspect that a lot of people feel like that, and some of the ones who had one wish they hadn’t! I guess in a way it’s a situation where the grass looks greener on the other side, and sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn’t.

  • Anonymous

    Dude.. one of my faorite psalms man! Thanks for posting.. genuinely encouraging. P.S. I miss you.
    Scott McD