When I was in 7th & 8th grade I had a teacher named Jamie Fitt, a graduate from Philadelphia Biblical University. Everyone loved him, even the kids who went to christian school because their parents wanted them to but didn’t necessarily buy into the faith on their own. Everyone called him “amish Fitt” because he had a full beard with a gottee and he looked alittle…amish #pennsylvaniaproblems
He knew how to laugh, he really knew how to teach and he believed in us enough to challenge us to tackle the “deep stuff.” He never treated us like we were young, but challenged us daily to be mature in our minds and spirits.
I was forever changed by this man’s love of scripture, and his ability to teach truth in a loving g way. In Bible class, Mr. Fitt believed we were old enough to study the book of Romans verse by verse and chapter by chapter. Here we learned the radical ideas of grace, propitiation and election. Things I will never forget.
He wanted us to be able to articulate the deep mysteries of our faith. Because of him I poured over and wrestled over chapters of life-giving theology.
Mr. Fitt challenged us to understand our faith in relation to all other worldviews and philosophical ideas. We studied the works of Nietzsche, existentialism, utopianism and scientific progress outside of Bible class. He required us all to log on to a website, Christian Apologetic Research Ministry, and talk with people online who were Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventist.I spent all my free time as a middleschooler on this open communication website discussing the deeper things of God with people across the belief spectrum. My favorite fieldtrip in middle school was to a Swedenborg Cathedral where I got to talk openly with a member of this sect about the discrepencies of their scripture and the one I read.
Throughout middle school, I would stay up late in the night in “fear and trembling” working out if I was a Christian and what I knew to be true. 7th & 8th grade led me into a place where I knew what I believed and why I believed it, a faith in Jesus that wasn’t spoon fed to me but that I had grasped on my own.
I’ll never forget the one day all the middle school teachers; Mrs. Chebra, Mr. Hall, Mrs. Cawood and Mr. Fitt all sat in front of the chapel in 7th grade and answered the question
“How do you personally know that Jesus Christ was the son of God”
Each person shared their faith-journey and what led them to the Lord. Each story was completely different. As a middle schooler, it was good to see our teachers had struggled and doubted and questioned and all came to the same answer.
I’ll never forget Mr Hall’s response. He was a man who was un-churched in his youth. He told us that faith in Jesus in fundamentally different than every other faith he studied because it’s the only religion that says you are not enough. We can’t work hard enough. Were fundamentally broken and flawed and prone to selfishness and thus, evil.
But God loved us enough to come here and to set it right. He set it right by taking our punishment and adopting us as His children. He sought us out and he redeemed us.
Mr. Hall said that one day he discovered he would never be good enough for God and that was that. The need for Jesus comes only from a deep conviction and humbling of your own inadequacy, a process that can only be done by the Holy Spirit.
All have sinned. All are messed up. All are incapable of living up to the holiness of God, and Jesus bridges the gap. He takes away all brokeness, sickness, depression and impurity.
In Jesus alone is freedom, grace and true life and the end of the scary scale of being either a “good person” or “bad person”
God himself came into His own creation and He died because I am not enough, and could never be enough and faith in Him accepts the truth that it’s “too much effort” to be a good personand we’re literally unable to do so.
Last summer working as a youth intern in Ocean Grove, Jordan Whilden and I shared with our students about our journeys coming to believe Jesus Christ is the son of God. We talked about the necessity of absolute truth in a world of moral relativism. We challenged them to seek out truth, to find what they believe and to not be swayed by the world’s espoused ideas of watered-down whatever- works- for- you- is-true- for- you- and- whatever- works- for- me -is -true- for- me philosophy. We called them to believe in one truth and to find out what it was at all costs.
We told them to question.
After the Breakfast Club service, we broke out into small groups and the teenagers of Ocean Grove asked the big questions.
“How can Jesus be the only way if so many people don’t have a chance to hear about him?”
” How does the Bible have a right to tell people the way they are living is wrong?”
and many other hard intelligent well-thought out inquiries.
Question, after hurt, after misconceptions, after honesty and hunger and realness rattled out of their precious hearts for a long while. These girls who would later meet me at a coffee shop every week and speak-out their doubts. We read the Case for Christ in tie-diet and they were able to say whatever the hell they wanted to say.
This to me is church in it’s truest form.
After our talk, I listened to a a girl who was so angry at her perceived ideas about the injustice of God, the judgement of the church and the intolerance of t’s followers she seethed with attitude. She fired off one hurt after the next, and I got to apologize for some of the churches misdoings in her life. Then I looked directly into her eyes, and told her to ask God the questions she had. He was big enough to handle it. I told her that night to call out on her pillow to God, and see if He answered because I know He would
I saw her think about the possibility for a brief moment and suddenly her attitude and bitterness turned into tears and I saw her beginning to weep. Somewhere deep inside of her I believe she knew there would be an answer. That a God somewhere would hear and love her enough to listen.
And in that moment, I thanked Mr. Fitt.