Salad Christians. I coined the term this past Monday while sitting beneath a canopy of tall trees with one of my most dear friends, Kimberly. We were in a nature conservation park called Powder Valley to celebrate the anniversary of our friendship that began 17 years ago when we both showed up to start new jobs at a large public relations firm; we wore identical outfits – black and white houndstooth jackets with black bottoms.
Since that day, Kim and I have spent untold hours laughing and sharing goofy moments that make no sense beyond our little world. And there have been the occasional tears mostly by Kim – who bawls at a hat’s drop – as she encourages me forward and weeps for my setbacks. I too cried the day Kim’s brother, Mike called from California to say she had taken ill – seriously so. That day in my kitchen I wiped tears and wondered whether she’d pull through, wondered whether I’d have my friend back, wondered whether we’d return to our refuge, Powder Valley.
For years, Kim and I had been coming to Powder Valley on brilliant spring and summer days to walk its tree-lined trails. The inclines are super steep and there are brooks with running water, wildlife – mostly deer, which Kim stays clear of – and, but for the occasional passing stranger, there is stillness and space to reflect.
If that oak and hickory forest could whisper, it could speak countless conversations Kim and I have shared about career, relationships, sports and God. No conversation with Kim is complete without mentioning God at least once and likely multiple times. If hearing about Jesus offends you or just isn’t your thing, you have no business spending time with my friend who I affectionately call KimNathan, a derivative of my name, Jonathan.
Calling me Jo-Nathan, Kim would talk to me about a loving God who wants life, health, provision and prosperity for his people; prosperity in the sense of wholeness and lack of want, not like one of these money-grabbing televangelist types. Kim’s entire understanding of Christ has so much more depth than that.
She and I sometimes approach the substance of faith from a slightly different view. But our seriousness about the stuff of God is rather closely aligned. So much so that our trips through Powder Valley have been peppered across the years with “sermon moments” when one of us would make a statement that we enthusiastically would say “would preach.”
In the peace of Powder Valley, Kim would get a kick out of those inspired moments of insight that would alight upon me and appear in the form of sermon moments. And when illness struck, I wondered whether another such moment would pass between us in that setting again.
Monday, unimpeded by circumstance – the wheelchair Kim presently uses – we trekked back to the park, crossed the wood bridge, sat on a bench, ate lunch and talked as old friends. And as you might by now guess, we talked about God.
We talked about Kim’s recovery. She calls the residual appearance of her brush with mortality the stuff of Satan. And she believes she is healed, even now. Then, she asked me in a way only Kim can, “So, Jo-Nathan, how are you doing? Where are you in your walk with God?” Kim has a way of cutting to the quick and subtly demanding honesty. It yanks you from your comfort zone and arrests you, making you unable to run and hide.
I answered Kim honestly. I told her where I struggle. I shared how I see great things on my horizon, but how I knew “the enemy” would like to see otherwise. If only I could marshal the faith to defeat him.
Therein lies the difference between Kim and me. On that bench, I understood that Kim personifies the faith that so many Christians claim to have but only speak of; Kim’s kind of faith moves real mountains. It’s what so many of us say we have, but in truth we don’t have that kind of faith. We shrink away and run from the least worry, test or obstacle that comes our way. We seek refuge other than God when the going gets truly rough.
We wallow in test and back our ways into testimony and wonder where peace hides.
As my friend Robin Caldwell recently shared, “How can we trust Him with our afterlife when we can’t even trust him with our current life?”
It’s true. In many respects, we’re Salad Christians. That’s the term I came up with, in my chat with Kim, to explain the space most Christians – I guess even I – operate in.
It’s like when you visit one of those restaurants that serves you something they call a “salad.” It has chunks of fried this and fattening that in it and lettuce – just enough to claim it’s “healthy.”
And so we go. We do what we’d like, say what we’d like, operating always under that empty old cliché “God knows my heart.” Then to balance things off we attend just enough church – hopefully not more than an hour; say just enough prayer – does saying grace count?; participate in just enough bible study (those who do that much) to call ourselves Christians – just enough to proclaim ourselves spiritually “healthy.”
We are Salad Christians.
I suppose that’s sufficient so long as things are going your way. If you can maintain the appearance of fitness without trying all that hard, why not do it? But when life is crashing around you, when you’re battling to leap from your wheelchair and throw down your cane, you need something more substantial than the mere appearance of spiritual fitness. You need something a bit more fortifying than a few leaves of lettuce tossed into your artery clogging salad.
© Copyright 2013, Jonathan Clarke, All rights reserved