This excerpt is adapted from the preface of Luma Simms’s new book Gospel Amnesia: Forgetting the Goodness of the News.
I used to be a Christian who didn’t think about Jesus. I was bored with him. I remember telling my husband one day that I was tired of hearing him say, “Jesus loves you, Luma.” It all seemed trite and superficial. I wanted, I needed, something deeper. Something more challenging to my mind, more impactful than “Jesus died on the cross for your sins.” That tired story, heard countless times since my father first spoke the gospel to me in a train station in Thessaloniki, rang hollow.
But despite my weakness, ambivalence, and even hostility, this same gospel has never let me go and will not let me go—through hardships, divorce, rebellion, passivity, legalism, and back again. Although I believe I’ve been a Christian since I was 8 years old, for many years my faith was accompanied by a cloudiness and distortion like that of the blind man Jesus healed: “I see men, but they look like trees walking” (Mark 8:24). It hurts to write these words, yet they must be written. They must be written for the sake of many who silently live the way I lived and think the way I thought.
Most of my life has been spent finding one way or another to atone for myself. Operating from a hazy understanding of what Christ did in his life and death to win my salvation, this self-atonement was like a vortex—a downward spiral into the depth of my amnesia. I wanted to be “godly,” and thought I had a pretty good idea of how to go about it. But the harder I tried to approximate my mental image of what a godly woman was supposed to be, the worse my depression, panic attacks, and rage became. I poisoned our household with my anger and my “holy” laws. Down I went like a dragon falling from the sky with blood and fire spilling everywhere and contaminating everything in its path. At the end of hope, feeling and believing myself to be on the receiving end of the hot displeasure and disappointment of a holy God, I crashed. And then, when there was nothing left of me, there was Jesus. Savior, Redeemer, Friend. No displeasure, no disappointment, just the blazing fire of unmerited grace.
Chastened by the wonder of his glory, I’m now able to tell you about a Savior who wasn’t ashamed to condescend to love and rescue a woman like me. A woman at his feet—a woman of the cross.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” I invite you to the same; come, and die, and be raised again to live to Christ.
My ultimate goal in Gospel Amnesia: Forgetting the Goodness of the News is expressed in Jesus’ words to the church in Sardis: “I know your works; you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up.” (Rev. 3:1-2) Some of us have forgotten the love we had at first (Rev. 2:4). Others of us are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, good only for spewing (Rev. 3:15-17). But whomever we are, or wherever our amnesic tendencies lie, we need the white-hot fire of the gospel—now, today (Heb. 3:12-15).