Lacking Certainty

I like to be sure about things. In most ways I’m not a control freak (though I absolutely used to be), but in this way I still very much am. I like to be certain of the outcome before I do something major… like ask out a friend. The flowers I sent the other day met, according to my inside source, with a mixed reaction. They were viewed as sweet, but also a little odd and possibly kind of creepy. This isn’t the reaction that I expected, and to make matters worse I had a wonderful conversation with the young lady in question that very evening (though flowers were never mentioned). This conversation made me want to pursue her even more, but at the moment the only thing that I’m even remotely confident of is that she is completely oblivious to my interest.

This does not jive (yes, I just used the word jive) well with my need for certainty. I want to know how things are going to turn out, not guess. Of course, this desire isn’t limited to my romantic endeavors. I want to know many things. This has been a consistent struggle between myself and God. When he asks me to do something my first question is always ‘why?’ I have to know, and I fight him on it like mad until I do know. I’m sure some of you remember the occasion a couple of months ago when God asked me to invite a young woman to lunch. I fought with him about that for days simply because I didn’t understand why. The question ‘why’ is often my obsession. I always want to know why, and it is excruciating for me to be kept in the dark.

Of course, this obsession is often antithetical to actually trusting God in things. The absolute need to know ‘why’ contravenes the willingness to actually trust his wisdom. It is, needless to say (or at least I hope you could come to this conclusion on your own), quite frustrating. God has taken a lot of time to teach me how to trust, and still I am often very bad at it. Instead of simply trusting him and following, I obsess over the why questions and tear them apart. I will play out scenes in my head a thousand different ways trying to understand the whys and predict the outcomes. I’m usually wrong.

I think that I am slowly learning how to obsess less over things. Still, this morning (when I found out about this woman’s reaction to my gift) was particularly bad. I wound up pushing a friend (my source) for information (that she didn’t have in the first place) much harder than the situation warranted, precisely because I wanted to know. I have argued in a number of places that it is fundamentally impossible to know anything about the world that we live in. Knowledge=creative authority, and man does not have creative authority over the world. We interact with the world through our perceptions, and form beliefs based on those perceptions. Then we develop those beliefs into certainties, and act on them (not necessarily in that order). However, at no point in this process do we actually know anything about the world.

Nonetheless, even though I believe that it is fundamentally impossible, I want to know! This has caused me plenty of trouble in the past, and I have no doubt that it will continue to cause me trouble in the future. Nonetheless… while I can work on this issue, as I do often, I can’t simply wave it away until and unless God decides to intervene on my behalf. So, instead I focus on doing my best to be the best person that I can be, and to love others (this woman included) as best I can. I focus on glorifying God as much as I am able, and be his forgiveness, and the forgiveness of others for my failures (as I must do of my friend tomorrow).

I also do my best to do the best. Which means that I am going to stop agonizing over certainty and just ask this woman out. I’m going to try to keep it simple. I’m not going to make a great confession of love or anything. I’m just going to ask her on a date and see what she says. Hopefully it won’t blow up in my face.

Humbled Like Christ

I’ve always loved the beginning of the second chapter of Philippians. Christ humbled himself for us because, though he was equal with God (i.e. he was a co-equal member of the Godhead, of which no member has primacy), he did not view that equality as a thing to be taken, but instead he gave it up to become a man. Not only did he become a man, but he became a poor carpenter’s son who, thirty-three years later, was crucified by the Romans to pacify the Jewish religious aristocracy. This picture of complete humility, from all-powerful creator of the cosmos to condemned man, is the ultimate example of Paul’s charge in the same chapter to view others as higher than ourselves, and of his charge in Romans to view ourselves with right minds. Christ, though he was the second person of the living God, did not view himself so highly that he refrained from becoming a man that would be shamefully hung on a cross (for in Jewish culture this was a shameful way to die). Why then do I think so highly of myself that I believe others should gather around my feet to be taught, or that women should love me, or that I am, in any way, deserving of respect or love.

Today we are enamored of the concept of human rights. I blame this largely on the enlightenment, culminating in the Declaration of Independence – the first wholesale statement of rights rather than responsibilities. We focus on what we deserve as individuals: I should be loved, I should be respected, I should be given work, I should be happy, I should be…, I should…, I…, I…, I…. In this obsession with selfishness we lose one of the most fundamental aspects of the Christian faith: life is not about me. If Christ can put aside his rights as the creator of all things and subject himself willingly to torment and execution, then can’t I put aside a few of my rights? I’ve been up all night, vacillating between prayer, watching Lindsey Stirling videos (the young lady I’ve mentioned introduced her to me in a facebook conversation last night), and looking at porn. In this case, two of the three have the same impetus: I am afraid. I am afraid of getting hurt, afraid that putting myself out there will lead me to another heartbreak, and all God keeps saying is to ‘trust him’, which generally isn’t helpful when I want emotional reassurance. So, after a night’s worth of struggle, sin, repentance, and pleading, my devotions this morning were Philippians 2.

Christ, in all his deific glory, found himself worthy to be born as a man and die a painful and humiliating death so that God could be glorified through our salvation. And here I am gnashing my teeth over the prospect of getting my heart broken again. Honestly, it really is incredibly ridiculous. If it is God’s will that my heart be broken again, and I truly hope that it isn’t, then I should rejoice in that as it glorifies him, and he will use it in my life to make me better. This is a part of what it means to be humbled. To give myself entirely over to the calling of God in my life, no matter what that calling might be, and allow him to shape me as he wills.

So, now (finally… you’d think I’d catch on sooner) I find myself praying that God give me peace, whatever he leads me to. Instead of begging him for someone’s love, or pleading with him to protect my heart, or raging at him for putting it in danger yet again, or fleeing into sinful comforts, I am simply asking for his peace through everything. The truth is that I hate the beginning of things when it isn’t clear which way a relationship will go. I want to be in a comfortable, committed relationship that is going to turn into marriage, and I’d honestly rather skip the ‘getting to know you’ phase entirely. However, in this also, I will ask for peace.

Flowers

So… I may have done something stupid today. Of course, it could also be something awesome. It’s all kind of up in the air. Remember that young lady I mentioned (yesterday, I think… I don’t remember what I write in these things)… well, I sent her flowers today. Anonymously, of course… I’m still worried about making things awkward for her, and I’m worried about getting my heart broken again. I’m really not a fan of getting my heart broken. Here’s the thing, every time I pray about this lady (and I’ve prayed about her a few times) God tells me to ‘just love her’. He tells me not to worry about whether a relationship will come out of it, or whether she’ll like me, or whether my heart will get broken, but to just love her. In keeping with that idea, the flowers were anonymous, and I’m trying to keep in mind that I’m nothing more than her friend until she says differently. I’m not trying to win her heart. I’m not trying to seduce her. All I’m going to do is do my best to make her life better. I’m trying very heard to guard my own heart through all of this, not to get my hopes up or to fall in love or… anything like that really.

Honestly, I find the entire thing both exhilarating and terrifying in the extreme. I have no idea what she thinks of me, and I’m not sure that I’m really comfortable putting myself out there again. That honestly makes me wonder if I need to spend more time being intentionally single. Nonetheless, she’ll get the flowers in a couple of days, along with an encouraging note, and hopefully it will make her day a little bit better. Seriously though, flowers are expensive! I’m not going to say how much I dropped on this, but man… expensive.

Honestly, there is a part of me (a small part) who wants to ‘make sure I get my money’s worth’ here… whatever that actually means. The thought has crossed my mind that I spent all this money and I deserve something in return. It’s ridiculous, of course, she doesn’t owe me anything, and I honestly feel ashamed that the idea ever entered my head. I did this to make her life a little better, not to get something for myself. However, there is that selfish part of me that wants to get something for myself anyway. Honestly… that part of myself is pretty disgusting, and extremely exhausting. I’m really tired of him making everything about me, and that is one of the reasons that I’m trying very hard to keep my focus here on God. I keep telling myself, ‘just love her, don’t look for anything in return, just love her’. It’s harder than it sounds, which is kind of strange.

I have a number of friends who I care for deeply (heck, I was going to drive one of them to a town an hour away so that she could pick up a new ID), and with them I don’t have any trouble with expecting a return. It’s just not an issue. However, with a woman for whom I have feelings… it’s far too easy to do things in order to get things, and I don’t want to do that. I have no interest in manipulating the people that I care about, and that makes me wonder why it’s so easy for me to want to do exactly that.

Honestly, God still has a lot of work to do in me.

Strange Days, Rest, and Decision Making

Well, I’ve spent the entire day sitting in a medical facility with a blood catheter in my arm. This is all part and parcel with the drug trial that I mentioned yesterday, but it’s still been a strange kind of day. Both odd, because I’ll have 27 vials of blood drawn by the end of the day (which is a freakin lot of blood), and oddly familiar, because I’ve been sitting in the facility doing my job all day long. I have to admit that I truly love the ability to take my job with me pretty much anywhere. However, it’s both a blessing and a curse because this ability also means that it is very hard to stop doing my job. For a long time (and still every now and then) I found myself working at all hours. I would be up at 3 am grading papers, I would work seven days a week and just never stop. Obviously, this isn’t the healthiest thing in the world. However, I got over a quarter of my week’s grading done today, which is great. Both yesterday and today have been extremely productive, which I am very, thoroughly glad about. I’m hoping to get everything done by Thursday so that I can take most of this weekend off to spend some time with my nephews.

Rest is extremely important in our lives, and I usually take Tuesdays off, so I haven’t had a really thorough day of rest in a while. I think that in America, and even more so in Japan and Korea, we don’t recognize the importance of rest enough. I know that I was raised to assume that taking time to rest was simply being lazy. It was wrong to relax, to just sit down and do nothing important, because in that moment I wasn’t being productive. Now I make sure to take time to rest (time that seems sufficient to me) and I still have a lot of friends who think that I’m working myself to death.

Here’s the thing that I’ve learned. No matter what I believe or choose to do, someone will think that I’m wrong, and somebody will be disappointed. This part sucks. Some people are going to tell me that I need to slow down, to relax, to rest more, and let myself heal, but others are going to tell me that I’m a lazy bum and that’s why I’m poor. What I’ve learned the hard way is that no matter what you do, someone is going to think that you’re wrong. This is always true. However, this is why Kipling encouraged us to trust ourselves even when everyone doubts us. The key is to not simply trust ourselves, but to be willing to listen seriously to the doubts of others. When it comes to rest, jobs, marriage… anything really, we have to be willing to listen to the advice of others, and then make our own decisions. If I simply do what everyone else tells me to do (which is all to often the case with me when it comes to women), then I will be lost in a maze of conflicting opinions and advice from which there is no escape.

I have to trust myself, and really I can only trust myself if I am willing to trust God. My goal, my quest, my responsibility, is to seek God in everything, and rely on him to guide me through my life. So, what I have to do is discern, trust, and follow. Which winds up being a whole lot harder than it sounds. Still, I think it’s worth the effort.

Speak the Truth in Love

I haven’t met many people who are particularly good at this. I know people who are good at speaking the truth, but it often doesn’t come across as loving, and I know people who are good at loving, but they don’t generally rise to the challenge of telling people the hard things. I tend to fall into the former category. I’m good at confrontation, good at telling people what is true, but I often have to work at the loving part of it. I’m good at loving people that I like, but then.. that’s generally pretty easy for almost all of us. People that I don’t like, I have to work hard to love them, and I can’t honestly say that I always succeed. However, I do have an excellent example in my pastor. He is a man who can speak the truth in love on a consistent basis.

I’ve found that people who are good at loving others don’t like to speak the truth, because it hurts, and people who are good at speaking the truth don’t like loving others, because it hurts. Something that I see continually throughout Christ’s ministry is the combination of an unending desire to see all men come to him, and an unyielding willingness to let them walk away if they are not ready. I have yet to figure out how to combine these two qualities without wanting to kill myself from the sheer grief and stress that they cause, which (of course) makes my estimation of Christ skyrocket. He was, and is, the almighty God in the flesh, and I can’t live up to that, much as I might like to.

My pastor is one who does an amazing job of speaking the truth in love. Don’t get me wrong, people will still get upset with you if you speak the truth in love, but the difference is that they won’t have an actual reason to get upset with you. We all tend to get frustrated when someone disagrees with our point of view, tells us that we’re in the wrong, or that we can’t have what we want. I know I do. I get frustrated when someone tells me that I can’t have what I want, and when I’m told I’m in the wrong I’ll often argue my point ad nausem. However, eventually, I usually get it. Eventually. If people stick around that long. I suppose that’s one good test of a true friend: are they willing to be your friend when you’re wrong, and they know you’re wrong?

So, a little good news to share: I got into a medical study that is going to pay me a LOT of money (around $2000) for very little work. I’m pretty excited about this because it will actually put me in striking distance of having my credit card completely paid off by next spring (possibly by Christmas if I wind up getting a lot of classes). It’s honestly hard to explain exactly how excited I am by this. I’ve been in debt for a pretty long time, and getting my card paid off won’t get me out of debt (student loans are kicking my tail), but it will get me closer, and it will be very good for me. I’m starting to create (or God is starting to create) noticable change in my life, and it’s not just this. I find that I’ve been happy lately, not just happy about circumstances, but just… joyful. I’ve had moments in which I feel like I can fully understand Plato’s eudaimonia, and that is a wonderful thing.

There is also a young woman of whom I’m rather fond… I’m not really ready to talk about her yet, because there is (at the moment at least) still a very good chance that we’ll wind up being nothing more than friends. I have no idea if she returns my feelings in any way, or if she’s even realized that I have feelings at all, but I suppose I’ll find out eventually. I am doing everything I can to leave this in the hands of God. We’ll see what he decides to do with it.

Meaningless Thoughts

The last few days have been pretty awesome. Not because of anything particular that has happened, but because of where my focus has been. I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple of days about the grace that God has given to me. Not just forgiveness for things in my past, though there is certainly a lot of that, but the opportunities that he’s given me to become a better person, to live well and joyfully, and to pursue him with everything that I am. Honestly, I don’t really have a whole lot to say right now. I have spent the last two days exceptionally thankful, and I think that being thankful is an important part of the Christian walk that we often allow to drift to the wayside in the pursuit of more important things.

It’s easy to go to God when things are bad, and it’s often hard to find things to be thankful for when times are hard. When times are good it’s easy to forget about God. I’m constantly amazed at the number of unsuccessful people I meet who excuse themselves with comments about bad luck, and never getting opportunities, and to some degree these are true. Opportunity is certainly not equal in our country, and we really shouldn’t pretend that it is. However, I am also amazed at the number of successful people who credit their success to their own abilities, insight, and perseverance. Rarely have I met an unsuccessful person who credited their own choices for their current problems, and rarely have I met a successful person who credited luck, chance, or God’s providence for their situation. It seems that unsuccessful people all have bad luck, and successful people are all insanely talented.

This isn’t true, of course. There are plenty of successful people who owe their success entirely to luck (or God), and there are plenty of unsuccessful people who made bad choices in life. Of course, there are also incredibly talented people who’ve never been given a chance, and people who built their success thorough trial, sweat, and tears. That being said, we like to take credit for success, and avoid credit for failure. Some of this, I think, is inherent in humanity. Some of it is due to a culture that judges us on what we have instead of who we are. However, regardless of the reason, we desperately need to take responsibility for our failures, and thank God for our successes. We also need to trust his providence in everything. If God truly is sovereign, then he does have a plan for this world, and for us.

Of course, we could argue for a deistic God who is sovereign, but just doesn’t care what happens to us, but this (in my opinion) would not be the God of the scriptures. We could also argue for an intellectually acceptable God who operates within, and is governed by, natural law (i.e. the laws of physics, chemistry, etc), but again, I don’t think this is the God of the scriptures. The God of the scriptures is both sovereign and caring. He is both transcendent and immanent. He stands above natural law, apparently outside of time, and his word serves as the fulcrum upon which all things turn. This God is not governed by the rules, he is the creator of the rules. He cares deeply for his creation, and especially for mankind, but he is also coldly willing to sacrifice millions to make a point (just look at the conquests of Israel and Judah). He is both loving and just, caring and wrathful, merciful and jealous. That is to say that, ultimately, God is an enigma.

However, this doesn’t mean that we should give up, throw up our hands, and simply say, “well, we’ll never figure it out, so why try?” There are many questions in the Christian faith that can’t be answered, and many men have gone astray in their instance that there must be an answer. However, this doesn’t mean that we stop asking those questions, that we stop considering them, discussing them, mulling over them, or attempting to understand the complexity that is God and his relationship with man. This is something that is worth doing. It always has been, and it always will be, and the greatest men of the faith wrestled with these questions. Certainly they are worth our time.

Media Influences and Satisfaction

Sometimes the media makes me feel worthless. I was watching an episode of the sitcom New Girl today and the entire focus of the episode seemed to revolve around the idea that money is what makes us worthwhile. Having money means being an adult, and if you aren’t doing something that the world considers worthwhile, then you’re just a child. Of course, to emphasize this point a rich, successful older man is contrasted with two ‘boys’ in their thirties who spend their time partying, drinking, and trying to have sex with twenty year old women. The idea that these boys represent those who haven’t grown up is quite strong, because they haven’t grown up. In the episode they act like children. However, the idea that growing up means being rich isn’t quite right either.

I am currently playing a bit part in the stage version of It’s a Wonderful Life, and much as I hate the movie, I have to admit that it has a good point. Unlike what modern media tells us, and unlike what my generation grew up hearing, life doesn’t have to be special to be worthwhile. The truth is that I appreciate the movie more now than I ever have in the past. It’s still chalk full of horrible theology, but the overarching point of the movie is about satisfaction. George wants to kill himself (tries to kill himself) because he isn’t satisfied with his life. He feels worthless because he hasn’t accomplished any of the things that he set out to accomplish. Instead he got stuck in his hometown, running his father’s business, and his life has been thoroughly small. Honestly, while I don’t think I’d want to run a building and loan, George’s life has always seemed pretty good to me. He has a beautiful wife, loving friends and family, and a fairly stable business. He’s always seemed like a bit of a pussy for wanting to kill himself. At the same time, I’ve been suicidal, and I have no doubt that (if that story were made into a movie) there would be a lot of people out there thinking that I seemed like a pussy. So, I suppose I have no place to judge.

However, all of the theology and complaints about George aside, the movie is really about being satisfied with what you have. George worked hard, cared for others, lived up to his responsibilities to family and community, and through the movie he comes to see how much value that has had in his life. The episode of New Girl did exactly the opposite, and I see this in a lot of modern media. Where It’s a Wonderful Life encouraged us to embrace the lives that we’ve been given and learn to be satisfied where we are and with what we have, a lot of modern media encourages us to want more, to always be looking for what comes next, and to never be satisfied with where we are.

It strikes me that this is an extremely unhealthy message that perfectly fits the attitude of my generation. We grew up easy (financially at least) and were promised that everything we did would be amazing. We weren’t told that we had to be satisfied. We weren’t told that we had to work hard. We weren’t told that we might not get what we want, or that we might not be good enough. Well… a lot of us weren’t anyway. Those of us that were told these things were generally told that no matter how hard we worked we would fail, or that we would never be good enough for anything. In other words, most of us weren’t raised with any in-between space. We weren’t raised to understand that we have to work hard, try our best, and be satisfied with the results.

This isn’t to blame my parents, or parents in general for failing in their duty. Certainly they did fail us, but the culture as a whole failed them. I don’t think this is an issue for which any particular party can bear the blame. We are all at fault, and especially those of my generation because all to often we haven’t done anything. We look around at our friends on facebook, twitter, linked-in, etc and the amazing careers that they post online, and fail to realize that, on-line, most of our careers look equally amazing. Simply put, instead of going out and doing something about our dissatisfaction, we puff ourselves up in an attempt to compete with the images we see. We lie about our lives because we think everyone else is being honest about their’s, and we all remain dissatisfied.

A few day ago my roommate’s girlfriend said something that took me by surprise. She’s young (20 something I think… maybe 19) and works at a local fast food establishment. I was sitting in my favorite recliner (… well, really it’s the only recliner in the apartment that actually works…) grading papers when, on her way out the door she looked at my computer to see what I was doing. In passing she commented, “This is what you do all day? Man, I wish I had your job, that would be awesome!” This girl knows how much I make (or at least I’ve told her), and she is still envious of my job. I’ve said many times here that I love my job, and her comment brought to mind a simple thought: My life isn’t that bad.

There are things that I want, and only a few of them have anything to do with what media pushes on us, but all in all, I have been greatly blessed. I spent a good fifteen minutes today just thanking God for the life that he’s given me, and that isn’t something that I used to do.

So, if you’ve managed to read this far into my ramblings, take a moment and think about your life from someone else’s perspective. It’s probably pretty good.

Suffering, Hardship, and Certainty

Sometimes the bible sucks. Not the whole thing, mind you, just parts of it. There are parts of it that really, thoroughly suck… at least, from a selfish American perspective. 1 Peter 2 is one of these passages that calls us to things that we just don’t want to do. Peter starts off the chapter well enough by reminding his reader’s that they’re not actually alone (remember that the book was written to Christians spread throughout Asia-Minor and currently undergoing persecution). However, then he gets into issues of obedience, specifically obedience in the face of suffering.

As Christians we are going to suffer. Paul makes that perfectly clear in 2 Timothy 3 when he tells Timothy that those who follow Christ will suffer. Of course, for many this has led to the question: since I’m not suffering right now, does this mean that I’m not really following Christ? Of course not, but… maybe. The fact that Christians will suffer does not mean that all Christians will suffer at all times in all places. Christians are not promised constant suffering, nor are we promised universally equal suffering. We are simply promised suffering. If you consider yourself a Christian and you have never suffered for your faith, then the above may be a valid question. However, the fact that you haven’t suffered yet doesn’t mean that you won’t suffer in the future. To assume a constant or universally past quality in this would be a mistake.  That being said, Christians will suffer persecution. This persecution may come at the hands of people who disagree with us, people in authority over us, or people who hate us and are powerful enough to make the authorities look the other way (certainly this is far from a complete list), but it will come.

Not every Christians suffering will be equal. One Christian my be bullied in school, another may lose a promising career, another may be beaten, and another may have he hands and feet amputated. However, any suffering for the sake of the cross is a reflection in our lives of the suffering of Christ, and thus a thing of honor in which we should rejoice. This is a part of Peter’s message in 1 Peter 2. Of course, he also reminds us that there is a difference between suffering in general and suffering for the cross. If you are imprisoned for murder, you are not suffering for the sake of the cross, you are suffering because you killed someone. If you were lazy in school and thus have lackluster opportunities, then you are not suffering for the sake of the cross, you are suffering for you laziness. However, when we do suffer for the cross, it is a wonderful thing… this doesn’t mean it’s a pleasant thing.

I am always amazed by the (generally very young) Christians I see running around singing and praying and talking about how they want to be broken. I am often tempted to add to their prayer’s something like ‘God, please make so and so’s girlfriend dump him and kill his grandmother…’. Anyone who honestly, truly wants to be broken is insane. I have been broken, multiple times. Consider the meaning of the word here: to be broken, at it’s most basic, means that a thing no longer works correctly. When I am broken, I stop working. Being broken… hurts… to an unendurable degree. No one in their right mind finds this desirable. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t necessary. There is a huge difference between wanting to be broken, and being willing to be broken. If I truly trust God, then I must be willing to allow him to break me, because I know that being broken is the path to being better, and I want to be better.

Now that I’ve finished my rabbit trails, 1 Peter 2 calls us to submit to those who would persecute us. This is antithetical to the American mindset. An American, even most American Christians, is convinced that his/her rights and freedoms are paramount. However, 1 Peter 2 calls him to cast aside his rights, even in the face of unjust actions on the part of those in authority over him. American’s value independence and freedom to the point of making selfishness a virtue. However, the scriptures claim that we should think of ourselves as less than others, give of ourselves by putting others first, and allow ourselves to be treated unjustly and thus rejoice in sharing the sufferings of Christ. This is a hard shift to make.

A few years ago, I was fired from my job for unjust reasons (I think I’ve shared the story before). The company that fired me only gave me half of my last paycheck. They had deleted the rest of my hours. It took about a month… maybe a month and a half… to get everything worked out, and at first the company didn’t appear to be willing to handle the situation at all. For a few weeks I didn’t think I would ever be seeing that money, money that I sorely needed. I had a number of friends tell me that I should sue the company, and I wanted to. I had my schedule, and I had kept track of the hours that I worked (the company was notorious for losing hours). Moreover, I had a desire for vindication. However, I prayed about the issue repeatedly, and repeatedly God told me that I was not only not to sue them, I wasn’t even to mention the possibility. No suggestions or threats to create leverage or put an emphasis on getting things worked out. Even after mentioning this to my friends who suggested that I sue the company, they continued to push me to sue… I should mention that all of these friends were Christians. They cared about me, and they wanted me to take the ‘wise and reasonable’ course of action. However, in doing so they encouraged me to flout God’s specific will. They put human reasoning and my rights above the glorification of God, and I honestly lost a lot of respect for several people because of that experience.

God is trustworthy. Whether we are in times of plenty, times of hardship, or times of persecution, he is faithful to care for us, and he has not forgotten us. He has been, is, and always will be faithful to work everything to his glory and our good. This is something that we are all to prone to forget, and we shouldn’t be.

Little Things Lead to Big Things

This is a concept that is very true and works in multiple directions. For instance, I have a young friend that I’ve mentioned several times… I’m not sure I’ve ever given her a name… let’s call her Shelly… I’ve known Shelly since she was very young, and I’ve never really done anything all that special for her. I’ve given her a few birthday presents here and there, I’ve spent time with her, and I’ve comforted her a few times when things at school were upsetting, but I haven’t done anything really major. I’ve never saved her life. I never bought her a pony. I never did much of anything besides be myself. The thing is, over years of being myself, this little girl has decided that I’m a really great friend, and a close bond has formed. The same is true with her younger brother… Timmy…, for whom I’ve also never done much of anything special. Little things, over a long period of time, lead to big results.

This is true in the opposite direction as well. When I was young I was given constant negative reinforcement. I can’t say that my parents ‘never’ did anything majorly wrong (I almost made my mom move out at one point, and that is the one time that I can say that my dad just plain beat me), but they didn’t do many hugely wrong things. They weren’t drug addicts, they didn’t sell me to strange men in alleys, they didn’t smack me around on a daily basis. Nonetheless, little things, repeated over a long period of time, lead to a massively screwed up kid. When I turned twelve I was in my eighties, and I didn’t reach my teens until I hit 20. Thus my twenties were filled with all the emotional crap that teens have to deal with. It was all very annoying.

So, little things+time=big results. When a gorgeous woman whom I’ve never met and who has many pictures and few connections ‘friends’ me on Facebook I tend to take one look at the profile, decide it’s not a real person, and deny the friend request. … …Of course sometimes I take the time to look through the pictures of said gorgeous woman… I generally regret that afterwards. Today has been one of those days. Ever since the friend request I got this morning, I’ve been wanting to Google ‘the girl next door’. I don’t particularly want to do this, but the idea keeps popping back into my head. I push it out, and a few minutes later it pops right back in. Then I push it out again… and repeat. This frustration has persisted through grading, martial arts classes, and a friend’s party. I suppose I could have named this post ‘and the cat came back…’ If you know what I’m talking about then you know… if not… it’s a thing, don’t worry about it.

At this point I can’t say what will happen, and I hate that feeling. I can say that I’m going to take my frustration to God and ask for help. I can say that I’m going to do my best to keep my mind and heart focused thoroughly on him. I can also say that little things lead to big things. Little blessings lead to big blessings, and little problems lead to big problems. …And there it goes again :(. Anyway, we all have desires. It’s a normal part of life. We want things. Sometimes we actually, legitimately need things. We long for things. However, ultimately, it isn’t the desires that pop into our head that matter. It is what we do with those desires. Which desires will I choose to dwell on? Which desires will I choose to pursue? Which desires will I choose to focus my heart on? I know which desires I want to focus on, but all to often want and will are two different things.

So, for all of you who are struggling with some desire that frustrates the crap out of you: it happens to all of us. You are not alone. So get your head back in the game, beat the shit out of whatever is pulling you away from God, and focus on pursuing him with a complete heart and mind. I’m going to go do the same.

P.S. What the heck! I was winning! I go away for two days and I’m back to barely breaking even! Seriously people…

Emptiness is What I Long For…

I don’t know how many of you remember the song “Holiness” by Micah Stampley (as far as I can tell, though I found websites attributing the song to three different people). Honestly, I had to look it up because all I could remember was the first line of two verses. This isn’t a bad song, holiness and righteousness are things that we should long for, and they are things that we should pursue. God commands us to Holiness and to Righteousness, and this is what sanctification is all about. However, when I was in college we used to use this song to mock one another horrendously. Whenever someone was struggling, frustrated, down in the dumps, the lyrics of the song were replaced with whatever that person was feelings at the time. We would sing out ‘bitterness, bitterness is what I long for’ or ‘lustfulness, lustfulness is what I long for’, and we weren’t entirely being mocking. A part of the reason for this was to remind one another of where we should be. Clearly bitterness and lustfulness are not what God wants from me, and they are not what I should be pursuing. Nonetheless, we often do. In our human hearts we often mistake bitterness for righteous anger, lust for love, pleasure for joy, etc and we convince ourselves that this is the way that we should feel. We convince ourselves that this is a good thing, even though it is clear to everyone around us that it isn’t.

Last night I was at a get together with a large number of very young people. There were a few people who were my age, but most of the attendees were between eighteen and twenty-one. Part of the evening (a large part actually as there were a lot of people) was a kind of popcorn sharing of meaningful events over the summer. We were asked to share what God has been doing in our lives, and it quickly turned into people being chosen to share by others. Honestly, I spent most of the night thinking about what I might say, and as it ended I’m really not sure whether I would have said that I didn’t have to share or that I didn’t get to share. Honestly, and I hope my journal reflects this, God has done a lot over my summer. Certainly too much to share in a short tidbit.

God tends to use the summers in my life to do work on me, whether I want him to or not. I was during the summer that I started learning how to trust him. It was during the summer that I let go of my anger. It was during the summer before I converted that the Holy Spirit started drawing me himself and out of the sins that I was so comfortable with. The summer has always been a special time for me, and I honestly don’t think that’s likely to change any time soon. This summer one of the things that God has taught me is that I need to empty myself. I need to let go of my pride, my self-esteem, my self-importance, my desires, my hopes, my longing, and give them all to him. I’ve let go of some of these, but certainly not all of them. Pride is probably the most significant thing I need to let go of right now. It consistently gets in the way of following God and obeying him. Whether I’m too prideful to go to a Sunday school class, too prideful to ask out a girl, too prideful to accept being second best, too prideful to see the qualities of others… ultimately, something that God has shown me this summer is that I am often too prideful to obey. I can think of two major fights that I had with God over the past three months that were based entirely on my pride.

So, this is my song for the moment: Emptiness is what I long for. I want to be empty of myself and filled with the Holy Spirit. Somehow, I have a feeling that’s going to hurt.