Monday, March 15, 2010

My Life

I remember going through a particularly difficult time a few years ago.  I'd rather not discuss the details right now, but there was one experience (among many) that stuck with me and which I see still in myself and in the lives of others.

I was having a rough day -lots of strife inside and outside, lots of emotional pain ringing through my bones.  I went into the bathroom and locked the door, turned on the shower, and thought for a minute while I was waiting for the water to warm up.  I lamented inside with a mixture of anger, exhaustion, and despair, "I hate my life."  It was a sigh, a desperate and frustrated complaint, a defeated admission.

Immediately, another voice spoke within.  It wasn't an audible voice, and it wasn't from me although I "heard" it inside me.  The Voice said, "Your life?  What makes you think it is yours?"  I was immediately stilled by those words and convicted.  I am still convinced by them as I look at the things I walk through every day.

Obviously, when we say, "I hate my life," it is in the midst of suffering of some kind.  I don't want to minimize that.  But still, no matter how much we are suffering, to what degree are we making our experience of suffering worse because of that attitude which I was convicted of on that day? 

Usually, "I hate my life," means, "I hate how I'm not getting what I want (the things I think will make me happy, the things I want, the way I want things to be).  I hate how my plan for my life is not working out.  I hate how everything I set my hopes and dreams on keeps getting wrecked or taken from me."  Not many of us would admit to "hating" our life like that.  We try to avoid and ignore the obvious cries of our hearts and cover them over with things like denial, "positive thinking," busyness, you name it.  Yet still it eats at us inside.  Why?

God's Word makes two things very clear.  First, we are blind fools with a heart that is so deceitful we don't even know ourselves.  We just plain don't know what will make us happy.  Second, we think real life will be found in everything we want and not God Himself and what He wants.  We have an inward bent toward self-soveriegnty and all the alleged rights and entitlements that come along with that false notion.

Sometimes we get the foolish idea in our heads that God is like Santa Claus -He exists to fulfill all of our wishes if we've been good little boys and girls.  When He doesn't, we have a crisis of faith: God isn't like what we thought.  The sober truth is that God is in the business of smashing the cup of our self-sovereignty to replace it with something better, more enduring, and more beautiful and satisfying.

When you "hate your life," you need to ask yourself at least four big questions:
1. What is it that God or others didn't give you that you find so essential?
2. Why do you think this life you have is yours? 
3. What would be different about your life if it belonged to Someone else and you were, in effect, "using" it for them for a time?
4. Why don't you want to let that happen?  What things would you be forced to let go of that you don't want to let go of?  How would that threaten you and your plans?  (Hint: see your responses to question #1)

The big issue here is sovereignty, for ownership here implies sovereignty.  See, if you believe the life you have is "yours," then that means you believe you have certain rights and entitlements.  You should, for example, be entitled to decide how you think it should go.  And if people, things, situations, or even God happen to thwart your plans for "your life," then you have a "right" to be bitter about it.

A. W. Tozer explains...

"For [fallen man], God's dominion ends where his begins.  For him, self becomes Self... Because man is born a rebel, he is unaware that he is one.  His constant assertion of self, as far as he thinks of it at all, appears to him a perfectly normal thing.  He is willing to share himself, sometimes even to sacrifice himself for a desired end, but never to dethrone himself."

What if this life of yours isn't your life?  What if a supreme, eternal, and completely independent Being created you, a very, very dependent being, for His own purposes?  What if it isn't all about you getting to call the shots and decide what your life should entail and how it should play out?  What if you aren't the one who gets to decide what should be most important and what things are essential for your life, your particular little blip on the screen of human history, to be meaningful and "worth it?"  What if you wake up one day and discover that you... are not God?  Hmmm....

God calls us to "hate" our lives in a very, very different way.  Instead of being focused on our wants and lamenting our life out of frustrated selfish desires and foiled plans, God calls us to demote "self", putting God and others first.  Jesus put self aside for us, and following Him means doing the same.  And He calls us to recognize that our lives are, well, not "ours."  We belong to Someone else in a double-sense: as creatures created by God and as those who belong to the One who died and bought us.

"Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." (John 12:15)

"...You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Cor 6:19-20)

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