Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shutting Out

Sometimes, I hate the world.  The unquantifiable grief and pain I feel for the things I have experienced in the past 15 years, alone, tempts me and calls me to a watery grave of isolation and burial -preferring to say, "@#$ you!" to the world, to shut myself out and refuse their entrance, even while knowing that it means a life of punishment and isolation and loneliness for me.  And it takes more than what it is in me to convince me to turn back and abandon my post in the tower of isolation.  It takes Christ in me.  It takes someone calling me forward.  It takes Christ in me calling me out and showing me how he bore with the world and did not shut it out.  It is there, with Him, that I see it is the smallest of people who matter most... who are most worthy of my heart and my light.  They don't live with all of the pretense of the world.  Children, the poor, the broken, etc.

But there is more.  While there are people out there who are dull and callous and who live on the pretenses of the world, there are also those out there who will receive the light and love I have.  There are those who see it and value it.  When I shut myself out from the world, I shut myself out from them.  And I lose out on love.  I lose out on them.

The best thing you can do for someone?  Receive their love and their pain.  You want to help someone rise from the ashes?  Love them but receive what they offer you, as well.  Receive the little pieces they give.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Peace with Others

"Peace" at the cost of your own soul is not peace but slavery.

The drive to have things go smoothly with a difficult person can be strong, but if you give up all of your convictions and values in the process, you have won nothing.  You have merely betrayed yourself in order to have them like you for a time.  And each time the challenge is put on the table, you will give up more of yourself until there is nothing left.  Compliance is a false peace.  But peace and truth and mutuality are friends.

This does not mean we should seek discord, but it does mean that we must swallow the difficult reality that we must press on toward what is right and true and bear the consequences of doing so.  There is a cost in both cases, in self-betrayal and in staying true, but only in staying true do we stay free as God intended and eventually reap a reward.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, "If at all possible, live at peace with all men."  Sometimes it is possible.  Other times it is not.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

All Men are But Grass...

A voice says, “Cry!”
    And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
    and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
    when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
    surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
    but the word of our God will stand forever. (from Isaiah 40)

No matter what you've gone through, no matter what injustices you have suffered from the hands of others or witnessed by others, no matter how lofty those people may seem for a moment, they are all like grass.  Their "glory" blows away and dries up.  But God's word -His promises, His purposes to redeem and make everything right- stands forever.

There are two responses we can find ourselves in with regards to this:

We can camp in place, dig our heels in, pout, and demand of God, "I will not move until you do something about my situation right now!  I demand that you address these injustices immediately, or I will not follow you, I will not trust you, and I will certainly not leave this stump I'm sitting on!"  It's all on our terms.  And in that, we whither and die.  We turn against God, and yet we believe that He has turned against us because He does not operate on our terms.

Or we can finally give up our demand for control and come to the place where we say, "Oh God, their glory is their shame.  Their strength is weakness and it stands for but a time.  We are all like grass, blown away in the wind of your breath.  But there is a time when you will make it all right.  Your purposes will stand.  And until that day, I will follow you.  I will follow and trust that you have something more and something new for me.  I will trust that following you will make it all worthwhile.  Here I am, Lord.  I follow."

One is death. One is life.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Living or Dying

I have a step-son who is a young adult, and I've watched him grow through many different ways of thinking.  At one point, I remember hearing him say things that I hear a lot of young people say.  The image to the left summarizes one such statement pretty well: "Are you really living life... or are you just paying bills until you die?"  Granted, most of the people who say things like this are kids who couch-surf from place to place and have no job.  Their anti-establishment idealism of 'living life' versus being a 'slave' to the establishment seems to loosely cover, like Adam's fig leaf, a deeper shame of feeling lost and both unable and unwilling to find a place in this world.

But I understand the feeling.  I understand what it's like to feel like you belong nowhere.  And I certainly understand what it's like to feel like life is just a long sequence of pay-periods.  Everything revolves around paying your bills and keeping afloat, if you can.  But recently my son said something that was astounding.  He said, "I get it.  The reason why you work is so that you can have things and provide things so that you can enjoy them with the people you love."  That was one of my proud dad moments, for sure.  So could it be that when there is something greater to live for, you become willing to pay those bills that seem to be so restrictive?  Hmm...

The image above was used today in an online forum that advertizes people looking for used things things or selling used things.  One man, a younger man that seemed to come from the marijuana crowd, shared this image with all of us after being railed on by an older gentleman who basically told him to put down his pot pipe, stop looking for handouts, and find a job like everybody else. 

Both of these men revealed what they live for and what they believe freedom to be.  The younger man believes that freedom is about not being tied down.  That is "living."  So, he winds up looking for handouts and snubbing his nose at the establishment.  The older man believes that "freedom", if you can even call it that, is found in being a responsible, contributing member to society and to a family.  That's what "real living" is.  You get a job.  You work.  Someday you die.  That's a good life.  It may not be "free", but it is at least respectable.

Regardless of the fact that I lean toward the latter man's point of view, if for nothing else than the fact that his point of view seems far less self-centered, both of these points of view (as far as they are described here) are wrong.  And they are wrong and misguided for one simple reason:  Any ultimate worldview that seeks to establish a freedom and ultimate purpose in the things found in this world will ultimately fall upon itself.  It will fail, but before it does it will lead you to turn against your brother -as I saw today, two men bickering from opposite sides of the fence.

The bottom line is that if we live purely for this world, to create a heaven-on-earth by our own power, we will not only be disappointed... we will be fools.  What we call "living", no matter what formula or self-salvation scheme we apply, will be eventually shown to be futile.  It will die.  In other words, if you live for this age, everything you do -not matter how much it seems like living- is actually just drawn-out dying.  But if you live for the next age, the things of this age have less desperation to them.  They can be enjoyed for what they are because you aren't trying to squeeze life out of them.

Those who purely seek "living" in this age are dying.  In fact, they are already dead.  But those who know that this age is dying can live in it with gratitude and place their hope ahead, where life is to be found.