By Anthony Casperson
Have you ever thought about how a younger version of yourself would react to who you’ve become? I know that the high school version of me would look at me now and wonder what happened. There are plenty of things that have changed, modified, and not happened the way I thought they would.
First and foremost, high-school-me would ask how working as a bus driver fits in with being a full-time pastor. The thought of being bi-vocational was inconceivable at that time. And having a ministry of writing theological blogs and recording sermons without a physically present congregation would have been as foreign as aliens dancing ballet under water.
And that’s not even accounting for how that version of myself would question some of my personal preferences. The refining of my musical tastes to the hardened state that they are now was just on the cusp. Actually reading for fun was rare, and going to conventions celebrating stories would never have been on my to-do list.
And playing D&D?! Between it being, by necessity, a group activity, and my thoughts of it being evil, high-school-me would have questioned if he were actually talking to alternate-reality-him rather than future-him. No joke. A guy I knew in high school told me that he had created a D&D character and named him Preach, which was this guy’s nickname for me. I had felt very uncomfortable at the time about being another person’s character concept. I should have felt honored that he thought enough about me to actually purposefully try to get into this head.
Speaking of letting people into my mind, high-school-me would have tried to put his hand over my mouth because of how open I am about my depression, faults, and failures. I had to go through a lot of brokenness before I realized that wearing a mask was more of a soul-killer than these imaginary people who’d make fun of me.
Growth. Gradual and progressive inching toward being the man God made me to be. That’s why I'm a different person than I was in high school. Like an RPG character, that version of me still wore beginner armor and clumsily fumbled with an almost-rusty sword. I’ve leveled up since then. Not that I’ve arrived to the level cap, but I have certainly progressed in my abilities and character since then. I’ve grown in worshiping God in this holistic manner, as he’s pruned me to grow in certain directions.
Recording sermons and letting people grow in their relationship with Jesus through them came about because of a few small things that happened in my life. When I co-led an attempted church plant, we had to not meet one week. In an attempt to let everyone have a worshipful experience in the word of God, I wrote a sermon and shared it on facebook for everyone to read and pass on to others. Pruning: sermons don’t have to be live for people to worship Jesus because of them.
I learned quite a bit running PowerPoint and sound at church: in bible college, during that same attempted church plant, and at another church since then. One of the most important aspects in my learning process came from knowing what software the church used to record the sermons. It was easily accessible and inexpensive. Pruning: the skills to record sermons can be easily learned.
And when I was in seminary, some friends and I would play video games, usually celebrating the end of the semester. It was during the time that Rock Band peaked at its zenith. I bought the game so that I could be better when we played together. However, at the time I lived in an apartment building and felt bad about making too much noise for my neighbors (I liked the drums). So, it seemed like a bad investment until right when I was looking into microphones to record the sermons for this website. The microphone that came with the game actually works as a decent mic. Pruning: the tools to record sermons have already been provided.
Slow, small, seemingly-unconnected movements of God in my life have leveled me up in just one piece of what God has called me to do. He’s leveled me up in so many different ways as well. And I'm not alone. God moves in tender, mysterious ways to make people into the holistic worshipers of Jesus he made them to be. Look into the lives of biblical heroes and see that it’s true.
We can look at Moses. The man rescued by the daughter of the pharaoh who declared all male Hebrew babies to be killed. Raised in the best leadership training, but with the truth of the God of Abraham bestowed upon him. Exiled into the wilderness because he succumbed to his anger, he learned how to survive in the desert while leading a herd of sheep. God was leveling him up, pruning Moses into the man who would stand before Pharaoh, calling for the release of Hebrew lives, and eventually lead these wayward people in the very wilderness he had led another group of stupid creatures before.
Take a look at the Apostle John. A young fisherman who left his father and a highly lucrative career to follow Jesus. One of the outspoken “sons of thunder” along with his brother James, who wanted to call fire down upon some Samaritans because they rejected Jesus, but were then rebuked by Jesus for this unloving desire. Kept in close company with Jesus, he saw many great wonders. God was leveling him up, pruning John into the man who became an outspoken agent of the love of the Father, even being exiled because of this, and was given even greater wonders to behold.
God could plop down his entire plan in our laps as soon as we become followers of Jesus, but without the growth, without the intricate pattern that God weaves in our lives as we worship him with our whole being, we wouldn’t understand it the same way. God has to work with us inch by inch, millimeter by millimeter, because we are people who need tender care to grow faithfully into the creation God knows we’ll become. He’s run through every level for us, we just need to level up faithfully with his guiding hand.