Ethics, Self Image, Family, and Foundations

Teaching ethics I am often confronted with the fact that I am a horrible person. This is not to say that I am completely without the traditional virtues. I have a modicum of wisdom (though I’m always amazed when people actually listen to me), some small measure of courage, a fair amount of patience, and a little self-control. However, I am not an excellent leader, nor am I a man of impeachable moral character, or incredible internal strength. I am certainly no sage, though I do always find myself drawn to the Chinese sages (…I suppose that’s pretty obvious by now). I’m not a particularly skillful leader, and all to often I allow exhaustion to impede my ability to live up to my responsibilities. I care about people, but far too often I don’t stop to help when I could. I try to do what’s right, except when it’s too hard and then I’m all too happy not to. I want to be a good person, but when not living up to that standard seems easier, more fun, or more profitable I’m not unlikely to chuck my morals out the window.

Scripture tells us to have a right view of ourselves, but it also tells us to view others as better/higher/more worthy than ourselves. I struggle with the latter. I want to be the best, to be the one who’s admired, chosen, looked up to, lauded… I want to be important, and I’m still struggling with the fact that I am, always will be, and always should be nothing. If I am to allow God to live in me, to work his will through my life, to act through me in the lives of others, then I desperately need to get over myself and step aside. I think that the man who’s funeral I attended yesterday was very good at this. He was good at being nothing, at getting out of the way and letting God work. I find that I am thoroughly not good at this. I am good at getting in God’s way. Forcing him to move me out of the way before he can do anything that he wants done. I am good at causing problems. I wish I was better at living for him.

This afternoon I messaged a friend of mine (actually the mother of my young friend at Church) to ask if I could take her children to a movie sometime. I love her kids, and I have always wanted a family. The older I get, the less likely that seems. Honestly, it might just be a result of some melancholy left over from the funeral yesterday, but at the moment I feel as though it will never happen. Even if I do someday find a wife, the chances that she’ll be young enough to easily have children is unlikely (though Sarah did have Isaac in her 90s). I wanted to cry out to this woman: ‘Let me borrow your family! Just every now and then! Please, help me to feel less crushingly lonely!’ Of course, I didn’t. I have a feeling that this would come across as creepy and desperate. Of course, her children aren’t the answer to my loneliness. That is, in itself, a ridiculous notion. I love both of her children, and I want to spend time with them, but time with them (or with anyone else) is a temporary fix for an emptiness that only God can fill.

And that is my foundation. Whether I have a family or not. Whether I am humble or not. Whether I am a good person or not. Whether I spend time with her kids or not. Regardless of any of this, it is God in which my joy lies. It is him who fills my emptiness. Him who dries my tears. Him who heals my pain. God is , and must be, the foundation of my life because there is nothing else that can serve that purpose. This doesn’t mean that I don’t desire, but in the midst of my desires, in the midst of loneliness, of despair, of emotional turmoil and pain, I can know that tomorrow will be a new day that will bring with it new joys and new treasures. God always provides, and this doesn’t simply mean that he provides for our physical necessities. God’s provision is ever sufficient for the whole being of man. In this too I know that he will provide.

My Day Started With a Funeral

One of my college professors died this weekend, and honestly I don’t think it actually sunk in until I was sitting at his funeral. This is a man who I never really knew particularly well, but was still extremely influential in my life. Amazing how that works isn’t it? I hadn’t seen him in probably six or seven years, but I still practice things that he taught me on a daily basis. So, I was sitting there at the back of the church in blue jeans and a dress shirt because I wasn’t particularly close to the family, and it hadn’t occurred to me that people would be wearing suits and ties until I’d walked into the building and seen them wearing suits and ties. Honestly, I doubt the dead man would have remember my name even if I’d seen him a few days before he died. So, I sat there in my completely inappropriate clothing wondering who might be sitting at the back of my funeral wearing inappropriate clothing? Who have I influenced without ever realizing it, and who’s life have I changed, even though I don’t remember who they are?

We all influence people on a daily basis. In 1 Peter 2:11-12 the apostle exhorts his audience to live righteously so that those who would malign them will see the truth of their virtue in their daily lives. Paul does the same thing in Titus. It might be one of my students, or someone at church, or a person whom I met at a local coffee shop. It might be someone to whom I’ve taught martial arts, or a neighbor, or someone I ran into at the mall. Regardless, there are people to whom my life matters that I will never know about, and I have to wonder how I’ve influenced them. Have I spurred them towards righteousness? Driven them away from the faith? Made them give up on a dream? Or pulled them back into reality? I wonder what kind of role model I’ve been, because I can see how this man influenced me.

Of course, if I spend all of my time trying to be a strong role model to whom others should look in awe, then I invite pride, hypocrisy, and deceit into my life. The man who died wasn’t a perfect man. He wasn’t even close to it, and he didn’t hide his flaws, but he was also humble, forthright, and consistently inspired me towards Christ. He was a navy man, and I remember something he told me about serving in Korea. He told me that it was always easy to tell who the Christians were on the ship. When the shop docked at post most of the crew went into town to get drunk and visit prostitutes. The Christians were the ones who came back and felt horrible about it. He pointed out to me that the mark of a Christian is not that he is morally perfect, but that he is convicted of his sin, and that he seeks repentance.

I have often heard the argument that repentance is a turning away from sin. That a part of repentance is to not do the same thing again, and this is true to a degree. Christ did tell the adulterous to go and sin no more (assuming that this story is a part of the original text), and he does hold us to a higher calling. However, he also offers us grace. There is a difference between repeated sin and willful sin. I may stumble in the same fashion many times, but this doesn’t mean that I have chosen to live in that sin. However, this is a difference of the heart that only God can judge. I can’t look at someone else’s struggle with a particular sin and judge whether he truly repents and stumbles again, or whether he’s simply stopped caring about that particular sin. I can point out to him that it is something he needs to avoid. I do everything in my power to help him to avoid it, and I may gain some insight into his motives. However, I can’t truly know his heart.

So, I think, using this professor as a model once again, that the best way to be a role model is to pursue Christ with everything that I have. To put him first and do everything in my power to live my life for him. I try to do this, and I hope that I succeed. I hope that I am a good influence on the people around me, and that I stand out as a Christian truly pursuing the father, and as a man of virtue. Maybe when I die I’ll find out if I did.

P.S. I’ve had more posts than followers for a while now :). It makes me feel like I’m winning.

Plato, Jesus, and Nice Guys Everywhere

Nice guys finish last. It’s a cliche for a reason, and in my experience it’s very true. Honestly, I have yet to date a woman who honestly wanted to be with a nice guy. I know lots of women who say they want a nice guy. Who say they want to be treated well, cared for, etc, etc, etc. However, show them a nice guy who will do all of those things and they’re gone within a month or two. Jobs often go to the people who are willing to be underhanded to get them. Money goes to the people who don’t care about others. Suffice it to say that our culture isn’t particularly kind to nice guys unless they also happen to be incredibly rich or incredibly handsome.

Of course, part of this is because there are a lot of people out there who put on the guise of a nice guy when they really aren’t particularly nice at all. Some of them are trying to be kind and caring, but are failing. Honestly, in the world we live in this is pretty understandable, not ok, but understandable. Some people pretend to be a nice guy, but actually have no intention of being nice. They use this guise to find victims for whatever their particular version of cruelty might be. Some of them use their disguise to lure women into bed, some of them use it to advance their careers, some of them use it to trick people out of money. Then there are people who actually are nice guys, some of the time, until something happens and they pull a Jekel and Hyde. Ultimately, I’m not convinced that anyone is just a nice guy. We all have issues, problems, struggles, insecurities, etc. We all have things that people will, and probably should, run away from… unless they’re willing to love us. Last week I wrote about about the nice guy with a chip on his shoulder (a.k.a. me). The post was then used in someone else’s post about how it’s pointless to be a nice guy in this world and we should all strive not to be nice guys.

Nice guys get a bad rap. They are often seen as weak or pathetic, clingy, needy, false-faced, and fake. The general perception seems to be that if a nice guy isn’t perfect in every way then he isn’t really a nice guy, he’s just a bastard waiting to happen. As I write this I’m looking at the ‘related content’ page and of the many posts there are exactly three that have anything positive to say about nice guys. That being said, honestly most of these posts (even one of the ones about how nice guys are good) don’t seem to have a particularly clear idea of what makes a nice guy. I know many other nice guys, like myself, have often been lost when trying to figure out what a nice guy actually is, and the standard often seems pointless (because no one seems to want them) or hopeless (because it’s unreachable). So, what does it mean to be a nice guy?

Both Christ and Plato (two very important thinkers, even if you don’t believe that Jesus was the incarnation of the second person of the Godhead) spoke of the privilege of the virtuous. In a world where the powerful, the cunning, and the ruthless are the ones most likely to succeed in most forums, both of these men called us to be better. To put aside the world’s definition of success and seek something higher. Christ called us to abandon the pleasures of this world and find insurpassable joy in him. Plato called us to pursue virtue before everything else and seek eudaimonia (or human fulfillment or flourishing). Neither of them promised that the person who did this would receive wealth, gorgeous women, or worldly success. However, both of them promised to lead their followers to joy despite the lack of these things.

This is the key. This is what being a nice guy really means. The nice guy is the guy who doesn’t need all the trappings of success to be satisfied. He is the guy who can meet with tragedy or triumph and treat them both the same. He is the guy who will put you first, not because he’s trying to get something, but because he doesn’t need to be first. Does this mean that he’ll be perfect? Of course not, none of us are, but it means that he’s trying. That everyday he’s trying to be better, to be virtuous, and to put other people before himself. It doesn’t mean that he’ll never be hurtful, but it does mean that he’ll apologize when he is. It doesn’t mean that he’ll never get angry, but it does mean that he’ll handle it as well as he can. It doesn’t mean that he’ll never get hurt, but it does mean that when he is hurt he’ll give the one who hurt him the chance to explain. Ultimately, being a nice guy means being a guy who honestly cares about others. Who is willing to pursue virtue in his life, and inspires virtue in the lives of others. The nice guy is the guy that may not be particularly noticeable, but who is there when you need him.

The thing is, it’s easy to walk away from him. When the nice guy gets rejected he doesn’t get angry and throw things, instead he gives a smile and a hug, and tells you that it’s okay. It’s easy to say no to him, because you can be confident that he won’t hate you afterwards. It’s easy to hurt him because he’ll be okay. It’s easy to forget about him because he’s not loud and obnoxious, telling you everything that you need to do to make him happy.

This doesn’t mean that he’s weak, or that he doesn’t need your attention. It means that he’s willing to put the needs of others before his own needs. If you find this guy, you should do the same. Ask him what he wants and what he needs from you. Show him that you care about him. Take the time and make the effort to take care of him as much as he takes care of you, and when you find his flaws don’t write him off. Instead love his flaws in the same way that he’s loved yours.

I can’t honestly say that I’ve always been this guy. There are times when I’ve been needy, clingy, possessive, angry, frustrated, etc. There are times when I’ve been hurt and unwilling to forgive, and there are times when I’ve been angry and not handled it particularly well. That being said, this is the guy that I’m trying to be, that I want to be, and I hope to find a woman who will help me become this guy, even as I help her become the woman that she wants to be.

The Pursuit of Life

One of my bible professors died a couple of days ago. It wasn’t unexpected in any way, but it’s still surprising. That’s probably a little bit difficult to explain. I think that we are always surprised when someone dies. I remember my grandfather dying. He spent several years dying, and we all knew that it could happen at any moment, but it still came as a surprise when it did. Compare this to my Grandmother, who had relatively few health problems, but quite suddenly died of a stroke, or my friend Robin who was quite a bit younger than I am, but died quite suddenly in a car accident earlier this year, and it really seems like my grandfather’s passing should have been much less painful. It was expected, we were even kind of waiting for it, but when he finally died I still couldn’t believe it anymore that I could when Robin died. I think that death, even when it’s expected, always comes as a surprise.

The man who died was a truly amazing man. He provided the foundation for everything else that I’ve learned and understood. More than anyone else, excepting God of course, this man taught me what it meant to grow in my knowledge of the Lord, and that is something that I will never forget. I’m hoping to be able to attend his funeral service this week, and I don’t really see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to go, unless I simply forget about it, which is entirely possible I suppose.

At the moment things are going fairly well for me. Yesterday was a wonderful day, even though I only got a couple hours of sleep on Saturday night, and I was able to thoroughly enjoy every part of it. I had the chance to tell my young friend at church how proud I am of her, and what an honor it has been to watch her grow into the young woman that she’s become. She seemed very happy to hear that. I got to have lunch with some wonderful friends, new and old, and I got to enjoy my afternoon with very little work to do. I also got to spend a very sweet hour with the Lord before the evening service.

I’m hoping that today goes as well, and it’s off to a fairly good start. There is a woman on eHarmony that seems fairly interested in me, though we’re still just beginning to get to know one another. I suppose that we’ll find out what will happen with that when it happens. There’s also a young lady who’s been coming to my church that I find myself somewhat interested in. However, I rather doubt that she would return my interest. I was interested in her once before, a couple of years ago, when I was in a very bad place, and I handled it very poorly. 

There is no way to know what will come in life. However, we can be sure that neither the good times, nor the bad times, will last forever. Much like the endless revolutions of the Earth create night and day, our lives revolve through a cycle of events that bring both wonders and horrors. However, we must seek God’s hand in all of them and pursue him.

We All Have Those Days

It’s been a rough weekend. Not actually a bad weekend overall, I’ve been very productive and I’ve had a lot of good times. I’ve enjoyed my evenings with friends as well, but it’s also been one long struggle with lust. A struggle that I’ve been losing badly. Admittedly, this hasn’t actually taken up much of my time. The struggle has been off and on, repeated, but off and on, as have the failures. Of course, in the middle of all of this I’ve been thinking a lot about Syria. Why wouldn’t I be thinking about Syria with everything else going on in my life. I mean, obviously Syria’s important, but why the hell is it important to me, personally?

Honestly, I think that I have to side with President Obama on the whole Syria issue. I don’t think that another war is a good idea. Honestly, I think another war is a very, very bad idea. That being say, I believe very strongly that a rule that isn’t enforced isn’t a rule at all. If we as a world actually mean to ban chemical weapons, then those who choose to use chemical weapons must pay a price. At this point the vast majority of the evidence points to the fact that President Assad commanded a chemical strike against rebel targets, and the international community shouldn’t allow this to go unanswered. That being said, we shouldn’t be the only people involved in this. If the international community as a whole isn’t interested in upholding a ban on chemical weapons, then the ban shouldn’t exist. While I do think that a forceful response is necessary in Syria, it has to be a communally forceful response. As a nation we can’t put ourselves in the place of single-handedly upholding international laws.

That being said, I still have no idea why I’m thinking so much about this. I try very hard to avoid politics, mostly because I think it’s a giant cesspool of misery, but apparently I’m not able to avoid it entirely. I have to admit that I also haven’t been spending as much time with God as normal. I’ve been doing my devotions everyday, spending a half hour or hour in prayer, but ever since about halfway through The Practice of the Presence of God I’ve been doing everything I can to spend my days focused on him. This weekend I have definitely not been focused on him.

I’ve been focused on work, on enjoying time with friends, on reading, television, lust, sometimes on fear, but not on God. I should have been focused on God. That is the focus of my life, it’s where I want my heart and mind to live. I fail a lot, a whole lot actually. Failure is probably the single most consistent thing in my life, whether its spiritual, moral, romantic, or otherwise, I fail all the time. I want to do better, to be better, to succeed in pursuing God. I want to be a Godly man, and I want to be a good man. However, I prove to myself daily that I’m not. God’s far from being finished with me. He has so much more to do, and I still want all of it to happen right now! It’s not going to. I know that it’s not going to because these things take time. However, I look around and see people that I admire. People who are better than me in so many ways. I don’t say this insecurely in any way, but I see people who I can’t compare myself to. I compare myself to Christ, and I understand exactly what failure is.

That Little Chip the Size of the Moon

I’m the guy who’ll do your shopping for you. I’m the guy who’ll give you a massage when you’re tired. I’m the guy who’ll catch you when you fall, and I’m the guy who’ll make sure he’s on the bottom if we both fall. I’m the guy who opens doors, let’s you go first, and pays whenever he has the money. I’m the guy who will hold you when you cry, respect you even when he doesn’t want to, fight for you even when he thinks you’re wrong, but let you know what he thinks to. I’m the guy who’ll make dinner and clean up afterwards. I’m the guy who’ll wait ’til your ready for a first touch and a first kiss. I’m the guy who’ll buy flowers for no reason. I’m the guy who’ll text you in the morning to let you know I’m thinking of you. I’m the guy who’ll take the lead when everyone else is lost. I’m the guy who’ll apologize when I’ve screwed up, and the guy who’ll ask for your forgiveness when I’ve hurt you, even if I don’t think I should need to. I’m the guy who’ll forgive you when you ask, usually before. I’m the guy who won’t hold the past against you. I’m the guy who’ll love you even when you don’t deserve it. You say I’m not what you’re looking for? What’s wrong with you?

… Yeah, I know, it sounds pretty arrogant, doesn’t it? This popped into my head and it’s true… well, most of the time at least. I am all of those things and more. I was thinking about posting this on my facebook page, but my goodness it sounds so stuck-up. Proof that I’m also a jackass I guess. That being said, I think I’m fairly solid evidence for the saying that nice guys finish last. I am a genuinely nice and I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a girl tell me that I’m ‘just not what she’s looking for’.

I probably have a chip on my shoulder. Honestly, I think that’s what happens whenever someone has a repeated pain in their life. I’ve known lots of people with chips on their shoulders, and I have yet to find one who got rid of it on their own. We are all weak people and we all have pains that we can’t deal with on our own. It’s easy to assume that this pain is valid, that other people have done this to you, or that it represents the way the world ‘really is’. It’s easy to not even notice that the chip is there, and even when you do notice it, it’s very difficult to get rid of.

The chips that people carry around generally have a good reason, and they generally take a mixture of love, patience, and truth to heal. Until a person realizes their carrying around this thing that looks ridiculous to everyone else, there really isn’t anything that they can do about it. And even when they do realize it, changing the way you look at the world is incredibly hard, even when you have help. It’s that much harder when you’re trying to do it alone. It takes people, sometimes lots of people, of the right type and temperament to help lift that chip off of your shoulder and help you see the world the way it really is.

So, I am a genuinely nice guy, but I think I have a chip on my shoulder about it. I’m frustrated, even angry sometimes, especially when I see women choosing not-nice guys over me. Guys that treat them poorly, guys that are controlling, emotionally and physically abusive, or that demand sex at the earliest opportunity. Yeah, it makes me really mad, not just at the guys, but at the girls who choose them over me. I’m also simply frustrated with the consistent rejection that I’ve received from women. It’s hurtful, it’s frustrating, and it has created quite a chip on my shoulder. It’s also tempted me, many times, not to be a nice guy. Honestly, I’m happy that I haven’t done that. I’ve been a confused guy who didn’t know what I wanted, but I’ve never used a woman to make myself feel better. I hope I never do.

Lies, All Lies!

This afternoon I was overwhelmed by the crushing certainty that I am always going to be alone. I am old (well, comparatively to many of my friends) and still somewhat overweight, even though I exercise regularly and work hard not to overeat. I don’t make much money, and a lot of the time I still feel like I don’t have much to offer. I understand that it’s unlikely that I will ever marry a young, beautiful woman. Sometimes that hurts, and sometimes I’m honestly not sure that I want to. However, this emotional certainty that I would always be alone filled a part of my day with pain. It passed quickly enough, much like the majority of such lies, but left behind desires that I would rather not entertain, also much like the majority of such lies.

Life is often painful. We all have lies that we’ve built up over the years, lies that are buried deep in our psyche and help to form our fundamental self-image. These lies might come from old pains, from rejections, from childhood traumas… whatever. The lies that we believe can spring from any number of sources and none of them make those lies valid or true (they are two different things). I’ve often believed the lie that I have nothing to offer women, that I’m just not what women want, by citing the many rejections that I have under my belt. Honestly, this often seems like a valid defense for this lie, but sometimes I have to wonder. There have been times that this challenged my trust… honestly there are still times that it challenges my trust. Rejection can be very difficult to deal with. It can tear you apart quickly and easily, and sometimes that leaves you with little to hold on to. Enough rejection and it’s easy to start assuming that you will be rejected. This isn’t just true with women, but with every aspect of life. It’s easy to assume that you’ll be rejected at everything you do.

Honestly, I can count the number of times someone has tried to set me up on one hand. Heh, I used to ask some of my closer friends to set me up. I had one friend who used to tell me repeatedly that she ‘didn’t know anyone good enough for me’… I quickly took this to mean ‘I don’t know anyone on whom I’d inflict you’. The thing is this has more to do with me than it ever did with her… well, a little… honestly I’ve never been very sure that this particular friend likes me very much. I know that she loves me, but I’m not sure that she actually likes me. Still, it’s probably likely that this is more me than her also.

As I said, all of this has challenged by trust for God in the past, and it continues to challenge that trust. I still wonder if I’m going to be alone forever. I’m still not comfortable with that thought. I know that God should be sufficient. That I should be joyful in the midst of my doubt and in my loneliness. It’s still a challenge though. I am getting much better at rejoicing in the midst of pain, but this is still something of which I’m terrified. I even pointed out the other day that God told me to wait, that it wasn’t time yet for him to bring the right woman into my life. Of course, this all implies that there is actually reason to hope. Still, there are days when I trust and hope, and then there are days when I’m thoroughly terrified of being eternally alone.

I’m also just afraid of rejection in general. I finally started my application to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (for next fall) and, halfway through, was thoroughly convinced that there is no way they will let me in. I’m too old, I don’t do enough in the church, I don’t read enough, my grades are too low, I’m in too much debt, etc, etc, etc. I think about a hundred reasons why they would reject me ran through my head. Needless to say, I didn’t quite finish the application, though I got through more than half of it. Nonetheless, I knew that starting it would be difficult, this is why I started a full year before I hope to start. My goal is to have the application done my the end of the month, and then go from there. I’m terrified, and fairly certain that I won’t be able to hack it even if, by some miracle, they do let me in.

Here’s the thing though, with both woman and with seminary. I’ve been rejected… a lot… in both areas of my life, but God has grown me in the past seven years. Part of that growth has come through repeated rejections. Nonetheless, I know that if he wants me in seminary, then he will put me there, and I know that when he will put me there. It will probably take a miracle to get me back into school, and it will probably take a miracle for any woman to fall for me. However, God is in the business of miracles. It’s what he does, and he knows when best to perform them. So, all I can do is trust him and wait.

Reasonable Religion

Several authors have done a wonderful job of defending the rationality of the Christian faith (Alvin Plantinga, N.T. Wright, Francis Schaffer, and C.S. Lewis [even though I’m not really a fan of the last] all come to mind). They have thoroughly defended the historicity of scriptural texts and the rational foundations of theistic belief in general and of Christian belief specifically. However, there is a huge difference between warranted, rational Christianity (i.e. Christian belief that is philosophically and historical defensible) and reasonable Christianity (i.e. Christianity that fits into our ‘normal’ conception of life).

I cannot count how many times someone has told me to ‘be reasonable’ about my faith. By ‘reasonable’ they meant ‘I know that you feel like God is telling you something, but you shouldn’t do it’. People told me this in college when I sold my computer to pay for a missions trip. They told me this when I changed majors, when I decided not to pursue a pastoral position, even though I had a degree in Christian Leadership. They told me this when I quit a job at Walmart to substitute teach, and when I was convinced that God was pushing me towards a 17 year old girl (I decided that I wouldn’t actually pursue a relationship until after she turned 18, but she shot me down regardless… I’ll have to write that story sometime). Each of these decisions has led me into some difficult times, but in each of them following God and allowing him to guide my life has led to significant spiritual growth and has helped me to better understand God. It is easy for us to doubt, to convince ourselves that our reasonable decisions are a better guide to life than God’s will. However, I’ve also made some reasonable decisions, even when God was telling me not to (that’s what led me to Walmart in the first place), and they have never turned out well.

While our faith is absolutely rational and defensible, it is rarely reasonable from a human perspective. If you are ever convinced that God’s will is always going to be the reasonable thing try reading Genesis, or Exodus, Ezekiel, Hoshea, personally, I think my favorite example of the unreasonableness of the Christian faith is the crucifixion. Throughout scripture God asks those who are willing to follow him to do entirely unreasonable things. To sacrifice their own happiness and well-being for his glory. To sacrifice themselves for the good of others, and to trust God in impossible situations. Remember when God told Abraham to get up and leave everything he’d ever known? No idea where he was going, or what he was going to do, just leave. Or when God commanded him to kill his only son, the son of the covenant he’d made with God? Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling is an excellent discussion of this.

Ultimately, the greatest argument for a reasonable religion is the pursuit of comfort. The American dream tells us to pursue our own comfort, our own ends, to take care of ourselves first, and that true strength comes from taking what we want. However, scripture tells us something completely different. Scripture tells us to put God first, and then others. To pursue God’s glory rather than our comfort. To leave off our own ends and pursue the ends of the kingdom. Lastly, scripture tells us that God doesn’t value the strength to take what we want, but the weakness to put others first, even when this means allowing them to take advantage of us.

The reasonable, Americanized church often rejects these concepts. It tells us to be hard and forceful, to defend our rights rather than live up to our responsibilities. It tells us to ignore God and do the culturally acceptable thing. To focus on this world instead of the next. All to often we develop the wrong priorities and the church encourages us in this development. So, one of the most fundamentally difficult aspects of Christian living in America is to avoid the trap of easy, reasonable religion that surrounds us, and instead to pursue ‘the upward calling’ of the faith.

Water, Water Everywhere

I was going to give this post another title, but if you actually know the poem it would have wound up being fairly dirty. I’ve had two full nights of sleep, which have been magnificently wonderful in every way, and I’m looking forward to sleeping again tonight. A friend of mine actually prayed over me yesterday concerning my sleep problems, which was completely appreciated. As much as I talk about the power of prayer, sometimes I’m honestly not sure that I believe it. Only sometimes though. I absolutely believe in talking to God, and in listening to him, but there are times when I wonder if my prayers have an actual effect on my life. Needless to say, I prayed often for ease in sleeping over the past few days, and yet I still went three days with almost no sleep. That is always unpleasant at best (though I have to admit that it’s good to know that I can still go that long without sleep and function).

Saturday morning I went for a hike (Yay! my knee’s better and I can hike!) and I had a long talk with God. We talked about many things, but one of the things that we talked about was marriage and women. I cannot say that I have prayed for the woman that I will marry everyday since I was saved. However, I can say that I have been praying for her since I was saved. I have prayed for her for the past thirteen years. Sometimes that God would teach her, sometimes that he would bless her, sometimes that he would give her joy and happiness, and sometimes that he would bring her to me. Often my prayers are fairly general. I trust God to know what is best. Sometimes though, whether because he has laid something specific on my heart, or because I have a specific desire, they are not general at all. Saturday, I asked God to let me be in a relationship with my wife before the end of the year. His response? It’s not time yet.

Honestly, I’ve had this response many times over the years. Marriage and relationship is a desire that I struggle with (obviously). It’s a desire that I’ve given to God multiple times, that I’ve asked him to take from me, that I’ve wrestled with, and that I’ve submitted to. There have been times when I put that desire before my relationship with God (the last girl I dated God flat out told me that she wasn’t good for me). There have been times when I set it aside in order to pursue God. There have been times when I trust him with it, and there have been times when I don’t.

Last Tuesday I had coffee with a young women. It was fairly fun. Not stellar as far as dates go, but certainly not bad by any means either. She expressed some interest in doing it again, or perhaps going out with a group of people. So I called her and asked if she’d like to see a movie with some friends and I a few days later. She didn’t return my call until my friends and I were walking out of the theater. Normally I would accept her excuse of business, and optimistically keep trying. I would hold on to the thread of a possibility that she was actually interested, or that she might be, even though she didn’t seem interested. I decided not to do that this time. It might be a missed opportunity, I honestly don’t know if this is the right decision, but she doesn’t appear interested, so I’m going to assume she’s not.

Honestly, I’m considering simply taking till December and telling God that if I’m not going to pursue anyone unless he specifically tells me to. When it comes to women I’m still fairly lost. That being said, I actually know what it means to be loved. I can point to multiple people and say ‘I have no doubt that he/she loves me’. Their love might not be romantic, but I know that this is what I want in a relationship. I want someone who loves me, completely and with a whole heart. So, I think I’m pretty much done until I find that. Honestly, I might change my mind tomorrow… it happens often enough, but I might not.