Numb and Number

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I had a vasectomy.

My father said there are two things I should never try to buy cheap: Shoes and mattresses. He missed one.

A friend of mine found a clinic that performed vasectomies for guys on a budget. This was in the day before online reviews, so I had to rely on my buddy’s experience. He seemed to come out of it okay, as well as one can from having the private area invaded with a scalpel.

I did all the necessary prep, which in itself requires surgical-like precision, and showed up to my appointment. The doctor and nurse staff seemed confident and competent. By the time I was numbed, I felt as if I was nothing more than one in a series of routine operations.

In the middle of the procedure, the anesthesia wore off.

I know it wore off, because the pain caused me to bolt upright in a manner worthy of Frankenstein’s monster, accompanied by monstrous screams and horrified looks.

I had a natural vasectomy.

“Oh,” said the doctor.

A few weeks later, another friend scheduled his procedure with the same clinic and asked me to drive him home. I forget if I told him about my experience. Honestly, I just can’t remember. My friend was an athlete, a tough man’s man. His pain tolerance was high. No big deal, and what are the odds his anesthesia would wear off?

It didn’t.

 His procedure was free of difficulty, so I was wondering why he was moaning and groaning. As I assisted him to the car, you would have thought he had gone natural the whole time. I had the common decency to offer sympathy like any caring friend would.

Until I couldn’t take it anymore. So as we drove, I turned on the radio, just in time for us to hear The Righteous Brothers singing: “You lost that lovin’ feelin’, whoa that lovin’ feelin’, you lost that lovin’ feelin’ now it’s gone, gone, gone, whoa.”

Have you ever lost that loving feeling?

It takes us by surprise. We start in a new career full of promise, and one day we pull up into our parking spot and just sit there. The energy to get out of the car and walk one more time into the building is gone; we fight the urge to just turn around and call it quits.

Something that once held our interest now does nothing for us. A best friend forever is now nearly forgotten. The artist within us keeps the supplies locked away. We realize a dream and discover it to be an illusion.

John Cheever said, “The main emotion of the average American adult who has had all the advantages of wealth, education and culture is disappointment.”

Have you been there?

Jesus said to one of his churches, “You have lost your first love.”

King David once prayed, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.”

We have been there.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, in the commitments and the disciplines, in the giving and the serving, in the contending and the pretending, in the divine appointments and the disappointments, we realize something is off; something has worn off. We allowed religion to cool our relationship with God. We became frozen chosen.

Few are immune to the experience. We love Jesus, but so much of what goes on in his name makes us think “such awful thoughts that I cannot say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish (Anne Lamott).”

The problem isn’t Jesus. We are just tired of the lack of genuineness and the insincerities and the positioning and posturing. It happens in big churches and small churches and good churches and bad churches. Like Charlie Brown, we want to scream “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is all about?”

The experience is so prevalent, pollsters have coined a new name for people: Dones. These are people who love God but have left the church, or, if they are still attending church, have withdrawn from any significant involvement. Dones wonder, “Is this it?”

I have met a lot of Dones. One thing true of each is their continued desire to be used by God to make a difference in this world, to know more of Jesus and to be more like Jesus. But they rarely know what to do about it. Many parents have children who are done. They are friends with Nones, those who have little to no spiritual background or church affiliation.

Done or not, people are disappointed because they know deep down that there must be more. Are you a business leader who wants your influence for Jesus to be more than financial support (What does it mean to do business with Jesus not just for Jesus)? Have you been leading a women’s ministry that is mostly status quo while a vision for what women can truly be burns deeply within you? As a pastor, are you trying to understand how to navigate the cultural shifts around you, how to bring real transformation into people’s lives, and still anticipate the changes your church faces in years ahead?

We want a different experience of Jesus and his church.

We want God’s best in us and through us.

We want back that loving feeling.

And that’s Advocate. We start with you and what God is doing in you, and we build from there: Your personal growth, your relational health, your life purpose.

God in you. God in your relationships. God in your ministry.

Because the love of God is always waiting to be found.

(Much of the above is an excerpt from Advocate, Copyright 2017, Joe Woodruff. Used with permission).