Friday, October 31, 2014

Two important life lessons

Life lesson:  Just because someone claims that they are your best friend, that they love you, and that they care about you, doesn't mean that they do.  Some of the most selfish and controlling people claim those things, and you will never be free of them until you realize the huge difference between real love and unhealthy need.  You will be pulled back in and lulled into a feeling that "everything is alright" every time they are nice to you, and then it will happen all over again.

Life lesson:  It is hard to be yourself.  You may find yourself in a rut where you are surrounded by people who constantly put demands on you to be a certain way, to not have your own feelings, to not stick by your own convictions, and to be what they want you to be for them.  Being in that rut is miserable.  And you get so used to it that you start to think there is no way out.  You begin to think that if you really stood up on your own two feet and stuck by what you feel and what you see that you would end up all alone, so you put up with it.  You carry the load.  But it is a lie.  It isn't true.  If you truly stood up on your own two feet, you would let go of those people, stick by your feelings and convictions, and find two things: peace and people who actually know how to love.  They exist.  You may have started to believe that there is just something wrong with you -that's why people seem so hurtful.  But the truth is that trying to carry this load and get the love of impossible and immature people is the only thing that has kept you with the wrong people and from the right people who know how to love.  It is a leap of faith, but it is worth it to stay true.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Uncomfortable Grace

It was a number of years ago at a mens' Bible study lunch group.  I brought in an article that I printed out the night before called, "Freedom from Quiet Time Guilt."  While it seems I cannot find the article as I remember it, today, the point of the article was to encourage the struggling Christian -a Christian, in this case, burdened by guilt for not having their "Daily Quiet Time" (DQT) religiously- by reminding him that DQT is not a Biblical command (even if it is useful and good) and that we live and walk by grace through faith.

Being zealous for good theology and having something of a tender conscience, I struggled with burdens of guilt and often searched and read books and articles to help me find answers and deepen my understanding.  I found the article refreshing, and I loved that it challenged conventional, often unquestioningly accepted norms (something I still love to this day).  So, I brought in the article and tried to explain what it was about to the other men (older Christian men) at the table.  I was a bit dismayed, but not overly shocked, by some of the responses.

Why wouldn't you want to have daily quiet time??

But daily quiet time is a good thing.  I enjoy my quiet time every single morning, at 4:30am, before anybody else wakes up...

Even now I look back and think, "Huh?"  The responses didn't actually deal with the issue I was raising at all.  They revealed assumptions, maybe even fears.  I was saying one thing, and their responses were clearly in response to something else... something they assumed or interpreted me as saying.  But what was the problem?

I think it boils down to this.  Even seasoned Christians can have a tendency to fear grace.  The idea of lifting burdens of guilt is assumed to mean lifting burdens of responsibility.  In other words, if grace removes guilt and fear, then the fear is that we will turn to license since we no longer have something keeping us on the straight and narrow.  But is that Biblical?  Is that the Gospel we profess to live by?  No.  "For it is the love of Christ that constrains us." (2 Cor 5:14)

I believe it is natural man's tendency is to see the world either as license or legalism.  The more legally minded religious folks fear giving up their religiosity for fear of becoming one of those sinners who believe they have license to do whatever they want.  And the non-religious people who feel license to do as they wish recoil at the idea of religion because of its "rules".  With each, their identity is a kind of security to them.  Giving it up means giving up control.

But grace is the third option that natural man is not familiar with.  It calls both of these alternatives to abandon their security blanket and find themselves smack in the midst of grace, where it is all on the terms of Another.  That is not something we like or know what to do with.  Grace it not only foreign to us.  It is uncomfortable.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Positive Thinking Isn't Enough

The Dalia Lama wrote:

"If your mental attitude is positive, even when threats abound, you won’t lose your inner peace. On the other hand, if your mind is negative, marked by fear, suspicion and feelings of helplessness, even among your best friends, in a pleasant atmosphere and comfortable surroundings, you won’t be happy."

This makes a lot of sense.  In fact, it seems to be so much common sense that my intial reaction is, "No $#@t."  But it misses something significant.  The question is really... do you have an objective foundation upon which to have true hope in the fact of threat and adversity, or is this merely an exercise in positive thinking?

I confess... my hope is not found in the idea that God is going to fix everything for me.  I've been through enough in my still relatively comfortable life, compared to many in other times and parts of the world, to know this. 

However, my hope is found in a God who will bring about what He has promised.  He will be there with me in suffering.  He will not let me go.  He will bring about a new age where everything is made right.  He will usher me into His kingdom forever.

When we have this hope, the inner state of our mind is not so much a matter of positive versus negative thinking as it is about faith versus unbelief.

Still, more comes to mind with this, for I can see how this kind of thinking lends itself to the idea that the goal of life is never to feel negative thoughts.  I agree that we ought not dwell in the negative, for it steals out joy and ability to enjoy the blessings given to us.  However, we should not buy into the false idea that life is going to be happy all the time.  I believe Christians fall into this, too.  We are looking for a theology of happiness, or at last a doctrine of numbness.  But what we fail to realize is that pain, distress, sorrow, grief, mourning, and even things like distrust and fear are normal experiences in a fallen world where our hope is NOT to be found.  This is why our hope looks ahead, ahead to an age to come.  There is no solution to the problem of pain and unhappiness in this life, but what we can have it hope -a hope which enables us to endure while remaining expectant and even joyful for what lies ahead.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Higher Calling

For years, I thought it was my job to endure excruciating situations and do anything to hold my family together.  And I did.

As that fell apart, I followed a call to enjoy things in life.  I let my hair down, I indulged in things I never indulged in before.  Some of it was bad, but some of it was good.  I learned how to have fun -and I became good at it.  I learned that I was capable of enjoying things.  But I also learned that there are limits to this.  Too much can leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth in the mourning, and still that aching hunger is left unsatisfied.

I don't fault myself for these callings.  I still see the first as good.  I chose what I chose for very good reasons.  I suffered for what is right and good.  And I see that being able to relax and have fun and explore the more social and outward side of life is also very important.  On this journey, I found my voice.  And my voice can be loud!

But what I want is that higher calling.  I want to believe it.  I want to see it in my mind's eye.  I want to taste it.  For example, I want to truly believe that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, that my light is precious and worth shining for the glory of the King.  I want that calling to take hold of me so that I am mastered by it, by Him.