Field Notes From A Prayer Warrior

The Diet Coke of Christians…

-How long, Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me?…Turn and answer me, oh Lord my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die!

–Psalm 13: 1,3

-“Because you’re not quite evil enough. You’re quasi-evil. You’re semi-evil. You’re the margarine of evil. You’re the Diet Coke of evil. Just 1 calorie. Not evil enough.”

–Dr. Evil, talking to son Scott

-“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

–Matthew 28:20

Do you ever feel like your faith has abandoned you?

Scratch that…

Do you ever feel like your faith has…fizzled out…overnight?

April 2022…

I opened my eyes, looked up. “Thank You, Lord, for another day! Shelby Fortin, reporting for duty, Sir!”

*snappy salute*

My world had become an echo chamber.

I knew He was there…somewhere. I could kind of sense Him listening…but…He was really far away. There was this…wall…a wall of impenetrable fog between us, muffling and dampening the connection. Stymied, but undeterred, I soldiered on with this awkward dialogue/monologue…


Okay…switch to gratitude practice!

A pipsqueak spot of light, winking out in an instant.

Ugh! go to the Word!

Nada. Bupkiss. Words on a page, running together. He was unreachable.

I was unreachable.

It was a handful of days before Easter…the Super Bowl of Christianity!…and I was stuck in a traffic jam of the spirit, miles from the stadium.

I dragged myself through the week, grasping at the shredded threads of my routine…morning Bible study, prayers, praise…to no avail. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t seem to stop this relentless slide toward abject apathy. Yet, I KNEW I couldn’t give up…the whole perseverance thing (or maybe the stubborn Norwegian thing). So I trudged on…day after day…and with every forced grin or cheery greeting I delivered, I’d think, “Phony. Liar. Poser.”

I was the fakest Jesus follower on the planet…inauthentic, counterfeit…proclaiming a peace that was far from present in me…

“Oh, yeah, you are a true believer…filled with the joy of Jesus…yup…”

An inner Dr. Evil taunted me mercilessly…

“Because, Shelbo, you’re not quite Christian enough…you are quasi-Christian…the Diet Coke of Christians…just 1 calorie, not Christian enough…”

“Shut! Up!” I’d yell.

Um, sometimes out loud.

Then I’d start praying again, about anything, just to keep it moving…

“…and for the scruffy stray dogs, that they are given a home…”


That was my life before I had Jesus…the life of a scruffy, homeless dog, alone and rejected and kicked around.

And this was worse.

Having Him in my life…and then losing Him.

I told Him once, if I was left with nothing (a la Job), as long as I had Him, it would be enough…and, in reverse, if I had “everything,” but not Him, it would be, in the words of Solomon, utterly meaningless.

Without warning I’d received confirmation of this.

“Lord, this sucks. Sucks, sucks, SUCKS.”

Lacking reverence?

“Lord, this doth truly and verily sucketh,” lamenteth the Shelbo.

Following that confession came a random/not random snippet of a song…

“Even when I don’t see it, You’re working, even when I don’t feel it, You’re working…”


I sat up straighter.

“I do have Him. I do! I am not lost to Him.

I believe Jesus died to save me, and I am His.

Through this ordeal, I have been reminded, have experienced anew, the hopelessness of those who don’t have Him, or who followed Him and then drifted away. Those who have been THIS CLOSE…and didn’t recognize Him…like the crowds that came to see Him when He still walked this earth…how could one be in His presence, and not know who He is?

I have to do everything that I can to inspire others to seek Him…as fervently as I have been seeking Him in this holy week.”

So I let go of what I thought the season was supposed to look like, and came to Him, and said, “Lord, this is where I’m at. I’m depleted. I’m weary. I’m confused. I’m desperate to see You and feel You here. I don’t know if I’m blocking You, or if it’s something else…I don’t know, Lord, but I miss you so much right now! I’m not going to fight this anymore, or try to figure out what I need to do. I’m handing it over to You.”

Easter Sunday, dawn…

“Hey, Lord, good morning! Today I want more than anything to be filled with Your love and Your purpose for me. I feel like everything I’ve built with You is just…gone…and I’m back to square one. I’m as empty of a vessel as I’ve ever been. Lord, please take this little clay pot and do what You will. I’ll try to get out of the way! Thank You, Lord, I love You!”

I set off for church, way ahead of time…if not giddy, at least resolute. Entering the lobby, I spotted other early birds. I conjured up something approaching a genuine smile, and thought, “I’m gonna cheer them on, even though I’m not feeling it!…Oh, that volunteer needs help in the sanctuary! I’ll help her! I can move this body in service and maybe this heart will come along!”

And it did.

By the time we started the worship, there was an ember that started to glow, and then…flame.

And that Easter joy was…even more magnified…because it had come from a place of such emptiness.

As empty as a tomb.

Psalm 13: 5-6–But I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for He has been good to me.

He is risen!

He is SOOOOOO risen!



2 thoughts on “The Diet Coke of Christians…”

  1. Thank you for sharing!!!!! We have all experienced this but have hit been able to express it so eloquently and in such a relatable way! God is so good! His timing is perfect!! Love you!!♡♡♡ He is risen!!

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