A New Direction

It’s been three years since I last shared life with you. Lots of things have happened since then. I met and married the love of my life. We had our first kid. I graduated with a JD, MBA, and M.Div. We bought a home. I took and passed the Bar exam and was sworn in as an attorney. I started work at a law firm and have gained invaluable experience in practice.

With it all has come so much change in how I express and understand myself, and how I think about the world. I’ve considered long and hard how to share that change and transition this blog to something I really want it to be. I guess like everything else, it starts with a story.

I spent much of my adult life living under the pretense that I had been called to be a pastor and plant a church here in Salt Lake City. It was never what I wanted to do, per se, but I’d been “called,” so what’re ya gonna do? Then God stepped in and saved me from myself, and it all started with the woman who is now my wife.

Growing up, my family drilled into me the notion that I had to be educated. Hence two master’s degrees and a (juris) doctorate. My wife, on the other hand, came from a very different sort of family. Her family emphasized character over achievement (in education and everything else), perhaps because of their background. Her dad’s side of the family are farmers with acres and acres of beautiful land in central Utah. Her stepdad is a world-class mason who works with his hands and has more muscle in a single forearm than I could ever hope to have in my entire torso. None of them are “elites.” They haven’t been indoctrinated with the throes of “higher education.” They don’t always speak in the “politically correct” fashion. But they are some of the most pure-of-heart, salt-of-the-earth people I know, and I am honored to call them my family.

At the same time, my efforts to pursue a path in ministry weren’t panning out. I had burned out leading my church’s twenty-somethings group. The Christian nonprofit where I was doing my M.Div apprenticeship didn’t value me enough to hire me, and with graduation just over a year away, I was forced to pivot to a career I hadn’t been “called” to pursue, and I applied for a summer clerkship at my law firm. The stars seemed to align. One of the senior partners saw potential in me and took me under his wing. I was told that I’m actually pretty good at this whole lawyer thing, and I was offered a full-time position upon graduation.

You know, the law is a funny business. Lawyers have a rap for covering our asses because, in one sense, good lawyering boils down to nothing more than moving responsibility off your plate and onto someone else’s. You do a good job with what you’ve been asked and then you hand it off to your client or another lawyer in such a way that you absolve yourself of any negative blowback from future decisions made by others. It’s brilliant (as long as you do a good job in the first place), and it’s one of the main reasons practicing lawyers are acutely aware of something that seems to be lost on American society today: personal responsibility.

So much of the last three years has been a total upending of the theological framework that defined the first decade of my adult life. I had to completely rethink my theology of “calling.” I had to face a lot of everyday struggles to which most church leaders are immune: working daily with those of a different faith, finding common ground with those who don’t agree with you, accepting that my value to a law firm was not in my intrinsic humanity or some abject spiritual notion but in the money clients paid for my work.

I’ve always been a conservative, although I’m not sure where it came from. I was raised in a family of “progressives,” and most of my family’s friends growing up were “elites” well-practiced in the arts of virtue signaling and political “correctness.” But somehow, out of that (and maybe because of that), I grew up a conservative.

I was always told (in part by my family) that such political views were incompatible with my faith. After all, conservatives were “morally repugnant” and “lacked compassion.” Now, that might well be true of certain individuals within the conservative movement or the Republican Party, but it certainly wasn’t true of my wife’s family, many of whom supported Donald Trump in his bid for the presidency. They reflect Christ more than the people who surrounded me growing up, even though a lot of my wife’s family wouldn’t profess a belief in Him.

That led me in turn to question what I had assumed about the political beliefs that came so naturally to me. I slowly came to embrace the fact that I’m a conservative. Then came the seemingly monumental task of reconciling that choice with the faith I hold dear, and it all boiled down to those same two words: personal responsibility.

Personal responsibility has been a defining theme in the last three years of my life. It began with the woman now my wife, who refused to let me offload onto her the responsibility for what I was feeling, based on lies I chose to believe or not to believe. It continued with a job and a career that revolve, by their very nature, around taking responsibility for oneself and one’s actions—personal responsibility.

The climax of my development in the last three years is this: I am a conservative because at the center of conservatism is a firm belief in personal responsibility, and without personal responsibility, the grace that is so central to the faith I hold so dear is rendered cheap, if not altogether worthless. In other words, it is because of grace that I am compelled to embrace conservatism because at the heart of conservative thought is individual freedom which hinges on personal responsibility, which in turn gives worth to the grace that is so central to the faith I hold so dear.

As I see it, it is no coincidence that the biblical narrative begins not with the advent of Christ, but the law. It starts with personal responsibility so that by the time we reach the advent of Christ, we realize how much we have fallen short, how badly we need Him and His grace. It almost goes without saying that the government is not Christ. Indeed, the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 13 seem to suggest that the role of the Government is not that of grace but of law…personal responsibility.

So that’s where I’ve been, and this is where I’ve landed. Expect to see more of me on here moving forward. For those of you who have borne with me these last three years, thank you. I hope it continues from here.

The Trumpy Blues, and How to Cure Them

I awoke this morning to a palpable depression in the energy around me. I didn’t need to interact with anyone to feel it. So many around me were sad, grieving the loss of someone…or something. Things weren’t any better when I went to class this afternoon. Our professor was so depressed he couldn’t teach, and so our class spent twenty-five minutes talking about the election.

As I sat observing and meditating on what I was seeing, I realized that people were literally feeling as though someone had died. Even my family snapped at me when I reminded them that I saw Trump’s victory coming back in August. (Please know that I didn’t care who won, but I know human nature enough to know well in advance who would. More on that another time.)

Continue reading The Trumpy Blues, and How to Cure Them

An Open Letter to Millennials Just Like Me

Dear Millennial,

Yes, you. The one who has no idea who you are or how you fit into this world. You conjure up grandiose dreams of becoming a “somebody,” but your story’s all about you. You live in a world disconnected from a grander narrative of family, tradition, and ultimate purpose because your parents rejected all traditions for simply being traditions. I know this because I am you. Like you, I want to be a somebody. Like you, I want a sense of grander narrative and purpose—and I’ve found it.

Do you want a story that’s about more than just you? A story that invites you into something deeper, a narrative fabric that’s been unfolding since the world began? Then dig through that attic trunk. Visit a local bookstore. Wipe off that dusty old brown book with B-I-B-L-E etched across the front. Crack open the freshly gilded pages of that faux leather find. And read it.

You’ll read of wars, rapes, murders, adulterous affairs, meaningless religion, and a humanity hellbent on running from God. But in the midst of the chaos, in the midst of the suffering, you’ll read of a God who is still at work, persistent in love and faithful to the end. You’ll read of a Man in whom God went to infinite length to have a relationship with liars, adulterers, rapists, murderers, porn addicts…people who were lost, people who wanted to be a part of a bigger story but had no idea how to get there.

You’ll read a story that’s not about you, and yet through the kinds of people woven into the narrative fabric of that dusty old book, you’ll find people who are just like you, people who wanted a story and became part of the biggest story of all.

Warmly Yours,
S. Wyatt Young

The Dichotomy of Truth and Comfort

I still remember sitting around the lunch table in Martine’s with a bunch of businesspeople, lawyers, and family as we celebrated my dad’s 59th birthday. The conversation was lighthearted and cheery as the group laughed together, reminiscing of times past and looking forward to the times to come.

Then the conversation got political. One of the people sitting around the table sabotaged the camaraderie with a jab against Republicans, and it wasn’t long before the rest of the group joined in. Having been raised in a liberal family, I was used to this, but aided by the training I’ve received at Fuller Theological Seminary, this was the first time I was able to actually be just a fly on the wall, observing the people around me and reflecting on what I was seeing.

Continue reading The Dichotomy of Truth and Comfort

Less than His Best What it Means for Women to Date Covenantally

A few weeks back, I took the time to spell out a bit of what it looks like for men and women to cultivate faithfulness to God through our dating habits and practices. In that post, I articulated what God’s best for romantic relationships (as seen in Ephesians 5:22-33) implies for the way we, as the Church, ought to practice dating in our culture.

God’s best for romantic relationships puts the man in the role of pursuer, just as Christ pursued us, and an oft-missed subtlety of the biblical story is that Christ had in mind his marriage to the Church from the very beginning of his ministry. As Tim Keller notes in a sermon he preaches on the Wedding at Cana, when Mary comes to Jesus to tell him that they’ve run out of wine and Jesus responds with, “My hour has not come,” it’s a logical non-sequitor. It doesn’t make sense, unless we understand that like most people at weddings, Jesus is thinking about his wedding to us in that moment—and all that it was going to take to get there (the Cross). Thus, before Jesus’s ministry was really underway, he was thinking about his marriage to us—and that was the goal of his pursuit.

Continue reading Less than His Best What it Means for Women to Date Covenantally

Are We Doers or Thinkers? What the Modern Church Gets Wrong About Human Nature

Back when I was in college, I was a part of a Christian student group on the University of Utah campus called Utenited. Every Tuesday night, we would meet together in the Chase N. Peterson Heritage Center for a forty-five-minute study break that entailed exceptional worship and a five- to seven-minute Bible-based message to encourage and give life to everyone gathered, whether or not they believed in the doctrines of Christianity.

As powerful as these nights were, though, they were not the essence of our mission. Our mission was to be the group that serves, and throughout the school year, we would engage in various activities both on and around the University of Utah campus to serve the University of Utah, its students and their groups, and the broader community in which it exists.

We tore down tables and chairs at PlazaFest, long after most of the other student groups had left. We rearranged an entire ballroom from theater seating to a dining room in record time and left the University’s Orientation Office perplexed at how we did it so quickly and with such joy and enthusiasm.

Continue reading Are We Doers or Thinkers? What the Modern Church Gets Wrong About Human Nature

Do We Believe in Marriage Anymore? What Our Dating Habits Say About Millennial Beliefs in Marriage

For the last two weeks, this concept of covenant has dominated my thoughts. (Some of my friends are ready to beat me over the head if they hear the word “covenantal” one more time.) Two weeks ago, covenant rocked my world, completely reshaping the way I relate to God and understand my history with him, and covenant has radically altered the way that I practice faithfulness to God in dating.

Covenant is a promise without an exit. It binds two or more individuals together, but because our culture has come to focus so much on individual freedom, the concept of covenant has all but disappeared from our habits and practices, and as I’ve reflected on both my dating history and the way our culture practices dating, I’ve come to see how an absence of covenant from our dating habits and practices is robbing us of God’s highest and best for romantic relationship.

Continue reading Do We Believe in Marriage Anymore? What Our Dating Habits Say About Millennial Beliefs in Marriage

Our Ministry of Reconciliation What It Is, and Why It's So Important to the Christian Life

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Christian practice of reconciliation, and the truth is that I don’t like it. It’s so much easier to just write off those who’ve hurt me and have no interest in owning their behavior than it is to do the hard (and often painful) work of fighting for reconciliation with them, but last night, I was writing a reflection paper on the practice of reconciliation, and as I reread the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, I came to realize just how important our “ministry of reconciliation” really is.

Reconciliation is the Christian practice of renewing our broken world by not playing fair. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive, offering a generous seven times. Jesus responds by telling him it’s seventy times seven. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when someone hits us, to go the extra mile, and to give also our cloak to the man who sues us only for our tunic. In laying out the ministry of reconciliation, Jesus is telling us, “Don’t play fair.” It wasn’t fair when the Man who had done no wrong was crushed for our iniquities, but in so doing, he began a ministry of reconciliation. To what end? According to Paul: the new creation.

Continue reading Our Ministry of Reconciliation What It Is, and Why It’s So Important to the Christian Life

What Is a Covenant? How an Understanding of Biblical Covenant Elucidates God's Faithfulness

It’s his faithfulness that’s producing this ache in my heart, the way a sore muscle cries out as it’s stretched so that it may heal. I’m having to stare in the face lies that I’ve believed for twelve years of my life and see his faithfulness shining brightly through them all.

I wrote those words in my journal two days ago, then collapsed on the table at which I sat and began to sob. But contrary to bringing sorrow to my soul, those tears brought a smile and a laugh. In a single 24-hour period, everything I’d been learning and experiencing came together to deepen my understanding of a word that is central to the biblical story: covenant. But what is a covenant, exactly?

When it comes to understanding my relationship with God, I’ve fallen into one of two camps for almost half of my life. Either God let good (or bad) things happen to me because of my behavior (we’ll call this the “punishment view“), or, because I couldn’t possibly do anything to put God in my debt, I was supposed to follow the do’s and don’t’s of the Bible based in a knowledge that God loves me without being able to expect anything from God (we’ll call this the “unbalanced vulnerability view“). Both of these views, as I’ve recently discovered, fall short of how the Bible speaks of our relationship with God.

Continue reading What Is a Covenant? How an Understanding of Biblical Covenant Elucidates God’s Faithfulness

Longing for Eden What Captain Fantastic Reveals About the Longings of the Human Heart

Captain Fantastic begins in a paradise based on Plato’s Republic. Ben and Leslie, attempting to escape from Leslie’s mental illness, have retreated into the wilderness of the Northwestern United States, where they and their children live isolated from the rest of the world—isolated from greed, ambition, and deceit, from all that is broken in the world. There, in the Eden they’ve created, they live out what they think it means to be truly free, giving their children an intense physical and intellectual education and teaching them to live off the land.

But Leslie’s illness isn’t cured by paradise, and while in a hospital being treated for the only brokenness she and Ben could not escape, Leslie commits suicide. Leslie’s father forbids Ben from attending the funeral, but Ben is quickly reminded by his daughter Zaja of the highest ideal in their Eden: human freedom.

Together, he and his children venture back into the world from which he and Leslie escaped, and in the clash that ensues between Ben and Leslie’s (extremely wealthy) family, Ben questions both his ability to parent and the education that he’s been providing his children in the wilderness. Ben even comes to question the wife he thought he knew when he learns that she helped their oldest son Bodevan apply to elite colleges like Harvard and Stanford.

Continue reading Longing for Eden What Captain Fantastic Reveals About the Longings of the Human Heart