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Faith like a ninja


The Life Less Traveled


July 20, 2011
When I was 11 years old, I wanted to be a ninja. I had thoroughly weighed my career options at this point — doctor, lawyer, teacher, ninja — and found that the ancient art of ninjitsu was the best fit for my particular skills. Sure, you can make a lot of money as a doctor, but can you take out a room full of battle-hardened soldiers and disappear in a puff of smoke? Doubtful.

Ninja was totally the way to go. Yeah, I was overweight, clumsy and didn't know any karate, but I had some black sweats and a ski mask that I was pretty sure would make up for it. Now all I needed were weapons.

I talked my parents into taking me to a martial arts store and buying me a set of wooden nunchucks and a couple of throwing stars. The thing they don't tell you when they sell you nunchucks is that it's really easy to crack yourself in the head with them and really hard to hit anyone else. I'm sure if I had a CAT scan today, it would reveal multiple skull fractures dating from 1983.

But these are the lessons you learn along the way to becoming a world-class ninja.

When I first began to follow God back in college, it was a little like my ninja days. I was so excited that I went out and bought all the gear: a new Bible, lots of books and T-shirts with cheesy, Christian slogans. I never got the fish bumper sticker, though, because I didn't want to make God look bad when I ticked people off in traffic. But other than that, I was set.

I had all the God stuff I needed to be a world-class believer!

Over time, though, I got cracked in the skull with my own spiritual immaturity. Sure, I had a clever T-shirt that told you all about Jesus, but, in a lot of ways, I was still a jerk. I cared more about fitting in than doing the right thing and excluded people who needed connection so I could spend more time with my friends. In short, my God-gear said one thing, but my character said another.

You want to know the coolest thing about ninjas? They're stealth warriors. They don't wear ninja T-shirts or drive around with ninja bumper stickers. In fact, you wouldn't even know they were a ninja until it was too late.

The most spiritually mature people I've ever met are like that. They just live out their faith in simple, quiet obedience, demonstrating God's love through acts of kindness and sacrificial generosity. Their God gear isn't a T-shirt. It's a bucket and a mop. They're servants at heart, and it shows in everything they do.

I have nothing against people buying merchandise that helps encourage them in their faith, but, as for me, I'm done with it. I'm ready to go stealth. I want to grow in a faith that surprises people because, like my ninja counterparts, you never see it coming.

Jason Byerly, a 1990 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School, is the children's pastor at Southland Christian Church near Lexington, Ky. He and his wife have two daughters. For more from Byerly, visit www.jasonbyerly.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/jasondbyerly.

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