Only One Life

preachingI avoid “Christianese” like the plague. I can speak it fluently, but it’s not my native language. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bona fide Jesus follower. It’s just that those who speak in code seldom reach anyone but themselves. Still…

When a heart is ready to hear, it can hear in any language.

The Institute of the Arts was a tiny academy offering classes in dance, drama, music, and art. And I was its new Artistic Director. I was too young, but that didn’t matter because I was 20-something and knew everything.

We occupied the middle floor of a three storey building on California’s Pacific Coast Highway. The bottom floor was home to The Church of the Highway.

It was also home to the restrooms.

I stopped by with some supplies the Sunday before we opened, and went downstairs to use the men’s. As I entered the lobby, I heard a painfully un-tuned piano, and peeked through the church’s doorway at Mrs. Potter leading Rev. Potter in a final hymn.

Rev. Potter then got up and welcomed the congregation (Mrs. Potter), led them (her) in a prayer and proceeded to preach loudly and fervently, rolling his r’s and pounding the pulpit, while Mrs. P shouted hallelujahs.

I ducked into the restroom and saw a plaque that read, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last” (C. T. Studd). I was not a believer at the time because, as I said, I already knew everything. So I took the plaque down and put it in a drawer.

That was a proclamation of war. Every day Rev. Potter would put the plaque back up. And every day I would take it down. Sometimes several times a day.

Meanwhile, The Church of the Highway was running out of money. A congregation with only one member can’t last forever. Neither can an arts academy with only a few dozen students. Rev. Potter must have been losing confidence.

I know I was.

More and more, my smoke-and-mirrors sense of purpose was beginning to fail. Who was I? Why was I? (I write about it in greater detail here). My foundation of self was giving way and I was starting to fall through to the floor below. So, I started reading the Bible.

One night, after reading the words, “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3), I rushed downstairs 5f27b753a95b2b1ccbfec8cabdc3fd15and pulled Rev. Potter’s plaque off the wall. But I didn’t put it in the drawer. I held it to my heart and recited, “Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” And then I cried. Because as corny and religious as those words were, I’d finally realized they were true.

I’ve never doubted my purpose since then.

So thank you, Rev. Potter. Your congregation has two members now.

But you have to get that piano tuned!

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Only One Life

  1. Great insight, Mitch. Like you as an avid Jesus freak I avoid “Christianese”. It seems to muddle a very simple message.😎

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I too am turned off by Christianese, and I can speak it somewhat fluently, although belonging to a church with a couple hundred seminary students leaves me with a few words I still can’t quite translate. Like “hermeneutics.” I’ve been studying the Bible for half a century now, and I STILL don’t know who Hermen was. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mmyselfni3 says:

    Nice when we receive that Ah Ha moment ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Heidi Viars says:

    Hmmmm … piano tuner …. Many years ago, after I had made a royal mess of my life, I decided to learn to play the piano. A piano tuner came to my house and asked me a question that catapulted me on a journey toward God, “Who is your authority in life?”
    I got so angry at this man’s audacity … for weeks and months the question haunted me. To this day it is still is the most profound question I have ever asked of and answered for myself.
    I imagine the piano tuner and Rev. Potter would make a great team 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. map195 says:

    really nice post

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had been longing to return to the faith I’d lost in college, but to no avail. My voice teacher and a Quaker professor of religion opened the door unexpectedly at “just the right moments.” We know what those are. 12 years later, I was ordained. 33 years later, my purpose is still clear.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love how God can use the smallest thing to get our attention! He is so Good!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. IanC555 says:

    Awww, Mitch! This is an amazing story. I can speak a little “Christianese,” enough to speak with conviction and to recognize conviction of what Christ exampled. It’s a beautiful thing, Mitch. By the way, it seems you speak rather fluently. I understood you exactly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mitchteemley says:

      Sprechen Sie Christianese?


      • IanC555 says:

        Ja ja, ich spreche Christianes, aber ich spreche besser Deutsche als Chrsitanese. Das gesproche, Ich spreche null kinder Deutsch weil ich habe sehr viel vergessen…Nautisch weil ich auch hat vor 40 Jähre aus Höchscheula gelernt.

        Oh man…I botched that one, but too lazy to go check for spelling…and grammar for that matter. LOL

        I love your article!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved this inspiring story!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Eva Ngelista says:

    Great to hear how you became a Christian!
    You are such a vivid storyteller and I really enjoy reading them.
    I must admit though that I don’t share your aversion against the jargon and me personally, I love speaking and hearing “Christianese” and to be honest, I try to avoid people who talk too much “Worldish”… in fact, my spirit cringes around that language and I can never relax in an environment where “Worldish” is the main language.
    I completely understand where you are coming from though, because I have seen “Christianese” spoken a lot in a manner which is very arrogant and displaying a “holier than thou” – attitude, which I, too, disapprove of, at the same time, I believe “Christianese” is the language we are supposed to speak and listen to as much as we can.
    But since this is your blog, I will write about it and why I believe “Christianese” is THE language for us to speak and listen to on mine 🙂
    Thanks for the inspiration and GOD bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Do you speak “Christianese”? – Witness for Jesus

  12. kakymc says:

    This is great! Thanks for sharing another part of your story. My mother used to recite this quote often when I was growing up. But years later, she said she had improved on it: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past; only what’s done THROUGH Christ will last” — lest we get the false impression we can actually do anything good without his help. I guess we can assume that’s what C.T. Studd meant. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. When you are young and know everything you can dismiss anything that has a chance of offering wisdom and insight for the future. Two are better than one unless you are Christ. An untuned Piano tends to be a little interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jennie says:

    One of your best stories, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ann Coleman says:

    It’s amazing what we can learn once we’re open to it!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Goodbye, Brother Cat | Mitch Teemley

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