Fearless Questions

Following our Questions to Freedom

What Was I Thinking?

Have you ever had one of those moments that you look back on and say “What was I thinking?”.  Those ideas or words you thought to say that at the time seemed like such a good idea.

My life is full of these.

Anthony Catalano – My Denim Bell-Bottoms – 1977 – flickr.com

Within the spectrum of the ‘what was I thinking’ category there are, of course, the broader generational decisions that many fall prey to.  Whether bell-bottoms in the 70’s, pegged leg pants in the 80’s, or the unexplainable draw to Zubaz pants in the 90’s…fashions certainly seem to come and go…as in: attention people…you will smile and laugh at yourself someday for the jogger pant craze. 

Chris Cactus – Self-Portrait – flickr.com

The one exception of course is the mullet…business up front…party in the back.  I did my best to rock the suburban version of the mullet back in high school (requires maintaining a properly feathered and styled look up front)…not sure I ever quite got it right.  In all probability, the mullet will never go out of style…especially if you still own a Trans-Am.  And let’s be perfectly honest…there’s more than a few people out there (I’m talking to you NASCAR) still rockin’ the look until it makes a full comeback. 

Beyond fashion, my personal history has been filled even more by words and actions that I cringe at now. 

For most of my life I have coached tennis in some fashion or another.  As a youth worker in the 90’s, I helped coach a local high school tennis team with 2 goals (I thought) in mind.  First, was to simply help them become better athletes and competitors…I love being able, in whatever way possible, to help people win at whatever their endeavor.  Secondly, I hoped to develop friendships with the students…For the sake of friendship, but also with hopes that they might become interested in my life as a youth worker and potentially jump onboard in pursuing a life of faith in God.  Safe enough I thought, but it turns out that I really wanted to convert these guys more than I ever realized.  And that’s where my Homer ‘Doh!’ moment happened.

On one of our last road trips of the season, I increasingly felt the opportunity of converting these players into faith slipping away.  This, despite my self-proclaimed altruistic motivations.  So I did what any religious person does when they are trying to play the role of God on His behalf…I preached at them.

Literally….I asked the other coach if it would be ok with him if I herded the team to the back of the bus to share some things that were on my heart unrelated to tennis.  He said ‘sure’, but the strange look of uneasiness he gave me would not be the last I received that day.

I then basically gave an altar call on the school bus.  I shared the flyby positional theological truths that I felt were most technically critical for their eternal conversion in that moment.  I shared that the reason I gave so much of my time and energy to them was because God loved me so much that it made me want to share that love with them also.  I can’t be sure, but I think I tried to tap into that ‘almost crying, but not quite’ face of earnestness in order to communicate my passion.


As I wrapped-up, I offered anyone the opportunity to come talk to me that was interested in giving their life to God.

I’d like to say that guys stood up in tears and asked me to show them how, they too, could become Christians. 

But reality was silence.  And 20 more of those same uneasy stares as the other coach.  Sometimes people are speechless at profound moments in life.  I can assure you that the players’ silence in this moment had far more to do with being embarrassed for me than it was for any sense of awe.  (Confirmed by the immediate whispers and murmurs as I returned to my seat at the front of the bus). 

Did I feel awkward in that moment?  Yes. 

Did I feel like I had done the right thing?  Not only did I think I had done the right thing, but at the time, I thought that God must have been more proud of me than ever before in my life!  After all…I had just ‘laid it out there’.  The big whammy…the Gospel! 

They didn’t like it, but I gave it to them anyway. 

Like forcefully shoving a giant Gospel vitamin into the grill of a bunch of young heathens not aware of their malady.

God told me this would happen, I tell myself.  I’ll be persecuted for my faith.  And this rejection of silence is confirmation of my growing personal faith.

Fast forward 20 years.

Looking back on that day, my only reaction is a face-palm.

My heart meant well. 

I really did want those guys to know that they were loved by God.

But man…did I get over my skis on this whole thing.

Perhaps I really wasn’t loving and serving these players with no strings attached.  Maybe my ultimate agenda really was to convince these guys to believe the same way I did about God.

Was I wrong?

Depends on what you mean by wrong I suppose.

What makes me look back and cringe now? 

It’s how much of God’s work that I felt compelled to do for Him. Not in concert with Him, but actually for Him.

If you’ve never been in youth ministry, this may not make sense to you, but I promise you that anyone who has ever spent a large portion of their lives serving teenagers will be familiar with the weight of life we sometimes try to remove from a young person’s shoulders.  We want them to be ok.  We want them to be free.  We want them to know that there is a remedy for their malady.

I still want that for others.

But what a youth worker will also be familiar with is the exhaustion that comes from trying to make it happen on their own.

For a time it is exhilarating.  People respond to you…excitement abounds. 

But when you try to rescue students on your own it can crush your own spirit and bring on despair.

We were never made to carry that load.  We were never meant to be playing God in anyone’s life.

If you have experienced freedom in your life, it’s your story to share…share it.

If you have felt passion for life that came out of your relationship with Jesus, it’s your story to share…share it.

But if you are trying to be God in someone else’s life…trying to set them free…trying to give them passion for life…

Perhaps it’s time to pause for a moment. 

Breathe deeply.

Remember the way God invited you to freedom.

And then live in that freedom.

But please be cautious in trying to play God.

He’s got it under control.

About Jeff Blackburn

Jeff Blackburn is a Spiritual Coach and passionate Truth-Seeker. An alumnus of Oxford University, Jeff is someone who advocates for Freedom and Fullness of Life for All. He believes Jesus offers good news for people everywhere today…not just eternity. Jeff is the Executive Director of Fearless Questions, Inc. and has spent the past 20 years working with people searching for God.