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.

What Are You Looking Forward To?

I’ve been trying to keep this question on my mind lately. It’s a good question to consider on a regular basis. However, it’s not always an easy question to answer. I’ve had times in which there wasn’t anything that I was looking forward to. I was just existing, waiting to die, and often during those times rather hoping that death would catch up with me fairly soon. It’s easy to lose track of the things that you might have to look forward to, and it’s easy to forget that there is something to look forward to. Sometimes it’s difficult to think of anything to look forward to. I look into the future and see wave after wave of sameness. The same struggles, the same pains, the same frustrations, and the same lack of answers, and in those times trying to maintain hope is more painful than just being contentedly miserable.

So, this is my question for you today: what are you looking forward to?

My answer: I’m looking forward to a coffee date that I have tomorrow, and I’m hoping that it goes well. I’m looking forward to filling out a seminary application next month, and I’m hoping that the timing is right and it is finally God’s will for me to go back to school. I’m looking forward to getting some miniatures painted and playing a couple of very fun new games with friends. I’m looking forward to the new Thor movie and I’m hoping that it’s as good as it looks. I’m looking forward to my bible study this week, and I’m hoping that we get to really delve into 1st Peter. I’m looking forward to feeling better, and I’m hoping that I don’t need to go to a doctor. I’m looking forward to my Aikido-Jujitsu class this afternoon. I’m looking forward to getting some writing done tomorrow, and I’m hoping that my muse sees fit to fill me with creativity. I’m looking forward to getting into Isaiah again tomorrow, and I’m really enjoying the commentary that I’m working my way through. I’m looking forward to seeing my family next month, and meeting my new nephew, and I’m hoping that I have the chance to get together with a friend at the same time. I’m looking forward to meeting the right woman someday, and I’m hoping that it’s soon. I’m looking forward to publishing a second book, and I’m hoping that I have the energy to work on it consistently.

I think I’m done listing things for now. Honestly, I had to wrack my brain for some of those. This probably isn’t an exhaustive list of the things I’m looking forward to. There’s a new Riddick movie coming out, for instance. However, it is a fairly thorough list of the important things. However, there is one thing that I left off of the list intentionally. Mostly because I think it needs to be separate, and because I want to talk about it a little bit: I’m looking forward to spending each day with God.

It is important to keep in mind the things that you are looking forward to. It’s important to be able to look at the future and be excited, instead of incensed, terrified, or hopeless. However, none of those things are going to fulfill me. None of them is going to bring me eudaimonia. While they are all good things, and all things that I am sincerely looking forward to and excited about, they are just things. They are events, experiences, etc some of which bear more importance than others, and some of which aren’t really important at all. However, none of them compares with actively spending time with God, and this is something that I should always be looking forward to. I can’t say that I always am, but I always should be.

Spending each day with God is something that will complete me. It is something that will bring me complete joy. It would be easy to say: ‘when you’re listing the things you’re looking forward to, don’t forget time with God’, but it would also be hypocritical and legalistic. Simply including God in a list of things I’m looking forward to doesn’t mean that I am actually seeking him or spending time with him. Christ told us to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all to often we think this means that God should be at the top of our list, the first thing we do in the day, or the word that comes out of our mouths most often. None of these is a bad things, but it is the quest of the heart that matters. I can easily make sure to always include time with God on a list of things that are important to me, but it is significantly harder to actually spend every day with him. The former requires a little mental effort while the latter requires a continual adjustment of perspective and priorities. So, what are you looking forward to?