On Waking Up When Your Faith is Asleep
By Robyn Rison Chapman
Hear Him Louder Essay Series: Robyn's Story
“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.”
Or so said the poster that hung on my Mom’s Sunday School classroom door. I believe the quote is attributed to Keith Green, but that was of little consequence during those years when I spent plenty of time staring at it with my best unaffected teenage face.
It was necessary to have a focal point that wasn’t my mom. Teenage me was not thrilled to spend even more time in an enclosed room listening to the person who already seemed to spend the better part of her days judging mine. Plus, it felt like we were at church a lot. I’d heard all the stories – or more accurately was “volunteered” to read them out loud. I was pretty sure I had a firm grasp on everything churchy I needed to know.
It was my normal. I always went to Sunday School, Vacation Bible Schools, youth groups, teen conferences. I was saved and baptized. I went to college and became active in the various campus groups with Bible studies and mission trips. I’ve been to lots of women’s conferences, revivals, gospel sings, Contemporary Christian concerts. I’ve read the Bible through many times. I’ve prayed.
As I write this, I’m 46 and I’ve always regularly attended church. The longest I’ve ever gone without attending church services were in the weeks following the births of my children. Even during the pandemic when the church building physically closed, we watched online as our pastor delivered sermons via Facebook from his home office.
I say all of that, to say that I might as well have been a hamburger at McDonald's for many of those years. While I am exceptionally thankful for parents who insisted on making Jesus a priority and equally grateful for God’s keeping grace, Jesus didn’t die for me to simply be a fast food Christian living under a heat lamp.
I was sleepwalking through life. Anyone can go through the motions. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe. It wasn’t that I had backslidden in some terrible way. I’m as much of a sinner as anyone and of course have made my share of mistakes, but I didn’t have a big dramatic story to tell. I just hadn’t been tested, and I certainly wasn’t listening closely. I was treading water. It was a way of life that was so ordinary and so normal that I could sleepwalk right through it. And that’s exactly what I was doing until God used the deaths of my parents to throw a bucket of ice water right in my face.
I am reminded of Jarius the ruler who sought Jesus saying his daughter was about to die. Others followed and said she is already dead. After making His way to the child, Matthew 9:24 (NKJV) says, “He said to them, ‘Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they laughed Him to scorn.”
Following Christ means believing in resurrection. I do. And I don’t just mean His resurrection from death. I mean believing in Christ’s power to resurrect all sorts of things that people presume to be dead. I wasn’t dead but Christ came in the middle of my darkest moments, lifted me out of that sleeping state, and brought me back to abundant life.
It cost me my parents, a childhood home, a hometown, a job, an income, and stability to follow Him like I never had before.
But as I began to wake, I started to hear Him louder and louder.
He was a calling me to a fuller life of writing and speaking and telling others about how we don’t have to be three-days dead in a tomb.
Jesus’ resurrection power also covers those of us who were practically bored to sleep in the church pew.
My friends, we don’t need a traumatic childhood or a dramatic experience to hear Him or have a story to tell. Jesus’ story is plenty dramatic – tell His. The Bible promises that we will each deal with our own seasons of suffering when our beliefs will be put to the test. If you haven’t experienced it yet, you will. Take heart. He has a plan for you (Jeremiah 29:11) and a purpose for the protection He has provided.
If you’ve just been following the churchy blueprint and not listening for Him, if you spent years just going through the motions to the point that you fell asleep wondering if that’s all there was, I have good news.
Jesus is saying to you exactly what He said to that little girl: Arise (Mark 5:41). Wake up, fellow sleepers.
His resurrection power covers all of us. There’s work that He has prepared you for, and there’s an abundant life waiting to be lived.
Photo credit: Unsplash, Lukas Zischke.
The Hear Him Louder Essay Series is a guest writer series where God's daughters share their stories of hearing God’s whispers in their every day. It’s meant to serve as an encouragement for the times when God feels far and seems quiet. When we read each other’s stories of how He meets us, it reminds and reassures us that He is near. May this series be an invitation for us to listen for His voice together.
Don't miss any posts in this series! Subscribe to receive notifications for each new essay, posted every other Thursday. When you subscribe, you'll receive a link to a FREE five-day devotional (45 beautiful pages!) called, “Closer: Five Days to Hearing God Louder.” Each day features teaching on one posture and a guided journaling section to help us practice taking steps toward hearing God louder in our every day.
Learn more about each of these five postures:
1 | Seek: If I Seek God, Will I Really Find Him?
2 | Know: Will God Speak, Even to Me?
3 | Expect: Can I Expect to Hear God?
4 | Listen: How Do I Listen for God?
5 | Connect: Is God Really Right Here?
New to this series? Check out the rest of the series!
Interested in contributing to the Hear Him Louder Essay Series? The call for submissions opens twice a year. To submit an essay outside of those windows, contact me.
Robyn Rison Chapman is a finder of hope and passionate encourager. She was an award-winning journalist and successful grant writer before leaving those careers to spend more time with her family. It was during a season of family grief that she began to feel God calling her into more faith-filled writing.
She is the author of the devotional book, “Ordinary Walks With An Extraordinary God,” writes regularly on her blog, and occasionally provides guest posts for other sites. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram. Robyn is active in her church and has taught numerous Sunday School classes and Bible studies. She also enjoys baking, traveling, sports and deep conversations. She lives in southern Ohio with her husband, Derek, and sons, Jack and Max.