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.

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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?

Hopes and Fears

Sometimes I’m just afraid. Sometimes, not incredibly often, but sometimes I don’t even know what I’m afraid of. That wasn’t really the case today, but it partially was. I’ve actually had a really good couple of days. I’ve been in a play that ended yesterday, and that was a lot of fun. It’s also kept me very, very busy, but that’s not really a bad thing. However, my good computer is being worked on right now, which is making all of life just a little bit more frustrating. However, back to fear.

Today wasn’t a bad day by any means. A little bit frustrating at times, but certainly not bad. Nonetheless, I found myself afraid almost the entire day. I’m honestly not entirely sure how to explain how I feel right now, but I’m going to try, and hopefully it will make sense. I found myself at church today surrounded by happy families. My church tends to have a lot of kids… we actually have a running calendar of pregnancies… at least 2 or 3 new ones every month… and we aren’t exactly a large church.  Not a small church either, but not a huge one. Needless to say, lots of happy families, and this week was the beginning of vacation bible school, which meant that many more kids running around.

The thing is, I love kids. Some of my favorite people are kids, but today… I’ve been at the place where seeing the things that my heart desired simply hurt. It’s a hurt so deep that you can’t express it. You just stop breathing and wish you could cry. Today didn’t hurt, and I think that’s a good thing. However, there was a feeling… part fear, part grief, part desire… like I said, I’m not sure I know how to put this in words… actually… I do. Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire granted is a tree of life”, and Proverbs 14:30 says “A tranquil heart is life to the body, but passion is rottenness in the bones”.

I didn’t hurt today, but I felt like I was looking at something that my heart yearns for, but will never have. I don’t honestly think that’s true, but that fearful grief weighed on me all day. I prayed about it, I actually had lunch with God today. It was quite nice, but it didn’t make the feeling go away. I’m still trying to give God both my pain and my desire. I’ve been… moderately successful so far. Still, I know that I have a long way to go, and some days are easier than others. This is the thing though, as a friend of mine reminded me tonight, it’s not supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to be good, and it has been, but it’s not supposed to be easy. I hope that by the end of the summer I’ll have learned this particular lesson and given my pain, my fear, and my hope all to God. I’m afraid that I’ll still have this yearning though. I guess we’ll see in a couple of months.

Hope

I know what it’s like to live without hope. I’m not there right now, actually I’m doing pretty well right now. I find that I’ve finally come to a place where I’m not looking for anything. I’ve always been looking for something, a better job, a relationship, someone to love me, someone to support me, a new hobby, a new degree program, or some new thing… always something. However, recently God has had me waiting. I honestly have no idea what I’m waiting for, I’m just waiting. I’m not applying to any jobs, not sending out resumes, not applying to schools, and I’m not looking for a relationship.

At first this was really hard because it felt like giving up. I thought I was on my way back to that point of utter and complete hopelessness, that God was, for some reason, commanding me to dive back into the depths of suicidal misery, and I do actually mean that literally. I’m not being melodramatic, two years ago I was suicidal for about four months. I also spent Jr. High and High school trying to get myself run over by cars. However, that’s a story for another time. I’ve found that the secret when I’m suicidal is to remember that my life is not my own. It is not my right to end my life. Only God has the right to choose when I die.

However, back on track, that hasn’t happened. It’s been hard, especially the last couple of weeks, but God is bringing me to a point where I actually do rely on him and find my meaning, my purpose, and my self in him. As I wait, I find that I am becoming more comfortable waiting. Not the hopeless, giving up kind of comfortable that proceeds suicidal desperation, but a comfortable expectation that the waiting will end at some point, and that God will use it to make me better.

I love my job, and while I’d like more work sometimes, and could certainly use more money, I know that what I do matters. I have friendships that need work, but I also have friendships that are meaningful and that allow me both to sharpen others (which I love doing), and to be sharpened (which I need). Finally, for the first time in a very, very long time, I’m comfortable being single. There are one or two women that I’m interested in, but I don’t need anyone else in my life.

I’ve been happy before, but it was always something of a circumstantial happiness. There’s nothing wrong with this, circumstances can make us happy, but they can’t be relied upon to make us happy. Circumstances change, good things come and go, but our happiness doesn’t need to do so. We can be joyful because God is with us. As the Psalmist said, he is our portion and our part. Actually, even more telling, Jeremiah says this in the middle of Lamentations, which is a book that thoroughly expresses the feeling of hopelessness and depression.

I’m finally beginning to learn to simply be happy, not because of something that I have or something that I’m doing, but because I have him. I am simply content, and satisfaction is the key to happiness. Like me, many of us spend so much time searching for one thing or another that we forget how to be content, and contentedness is not only important, but also commanded.

So, simply put, I’m learning to be happy, and to let go of pain. Giving things up always happens differently. When I gave up my hate it happened almost overnight after I first got saved. One day I hated everyone and everything, and the next I didn’t. However, God took almost a decade to change my suspicion and distrust into a complete and total trust of him, and many of those lessons were very painful. When I gave up my anger he had me fast for three days, and I gave up my anger on the first. No, this… I’m learning to be happy, learning to let go of my pain, and I am fasting, but I think this is going to be more of a process. God works in mysterious ways, but he never stops working, and he always knows what he’s doing.

Making the Cross Too Important

The cross, or rather Christ’s death upon the cross, is the only hope of mankind. It is the only means to salvation, the only propitiation of sin, and that completion that was intended and expected in the Mosaic law. This is all true. However, when I make my faith entirely about the cross, what I inevitably wind up saying is that my faith is about me, and this is the problem.

I need the cross. It is my hope and my salvation. God does not need it, because God does not need me. He’s perfectly fine on his own and there is nothing that I can do for him which he cannot do for himself. The cross has an important, irrevocable place in the Christian faith, but it should not be the center of that faith, because we should not be the center of that faith.

We often say that ‘If only one man on earth had ever sinned, Christ would have come to save him’, and I don’t actually disagree with this claim in anyway. God loves us and he wants us, this is made clear by the fact that the father would sacrifice the son so that men might be saved. However, when I hear this I often respond with this question: ‘If saving man hadn’t glorified the Godhead, would Christ have come to die?’

The answer to this is obviously no, because we aren’t the center of the Christian faith. Christ died for our sins because it glorified the Godhead. Our salvation is the primary means by which God is glorified (though certainly not the only means), and thus our salvation is important, but any attempt to make the means into the purpose is a mistake.

We serve a God that is beyond our understanding. A being of infinite knowledge, majesty, power, and presence, and in glorifying him our purpose is served. We should be obsessed with Christ, because he is both God and King. He is our savior and our hope. We should be obsessed with the cross because it was the means by which our salvation came, and that is important.

However, in these obsessions we must never forget that our highest obsession, our highest purpose, is to glorify the Lord of Hosts, and only in doing is our purpose served.

Eudaimonia

I’m jealous of people who seem like they have it easy. This isn’t a good thing, but it is a thing. I have a few friends who work hard, and they’re good people, but it always seems like things just come to them. I don’t really know how else to put it. This is a meanness in me, and I realize that, but I see these people who are happy and successful and together, and I get frustrated sitting on the outside looking in. Partially because I don’t know how to be that person. Happiness has never been particularly important to me. A year ago a friend of mine tried to coach me, well… she called it coaching, but it was really counseling in disguise. She kept trying to convince me that I could just choose to be happy, that I should go to a happy place, which has always struck me as a cop-out. There is a difference between having a peaceful confident joy that comes from God and running to some imaginary happy place that lets you hide from real life. However, she finally got around to asking me, ‘don’t you want to be happy?’ And this honestly should have been her first question. My answer… “I don’t know. Happiness is… meh.”

I’ve always striven to be better. There was a time that I was a very bad person, and I think a lot of this striving came from that. I want to be good more than I want to be happy. I want to be like Christ more than I want to be happy. However, I think that I’m coming to the realization that part of being better is learning to be happy (and by happy I mean joyful). Joy is one of the fruits of the spirit, perhaps one that me make to much of (after all it isn’t faith, hope, or love), but still it is one, and if I am devoid of joy (and I have been devoid of joy at times), then I am missing an essential part of what Christ is trying to make me.

I’ve said for a long time that Americans are far to obsessed with happiness and pleasure, and I think this is very true. However, running in the opposite direction and avoiding happiness and pleasure entirely isn’t any better. It’s like saying that Americans are greedy, so I’m going to give away everything I own and live on welfare. It might be a noble gesture, but it isn’t really the right response. So… I think I know my answer, a year later, but still I know my answer. I do want to be happy, or rather I want to be joyful. It’s something that God’s been trying to teach me for a while, and I tend to have a really hard head. I don’t listen well, but he always get’s through to me eventually.

My happiness actually does matter. It’s not the only thing that matters. Obviously it has to be held in balance with temperance, love, peace, patience, kindness, virtue, etc. Nonetheless, my happiness does matter, and I should be working to be happy. I don’t want to say that I should be working to make myself happy. I’m honestly not even sure what that would look like… a wife maybe, a few kids, an income of $50-$60 thousand a year… or maybe two or three wives and an income of several million a year… or maybe living in a monastery where I don’t have to worry about women at all… honestly, I’m pretty sure that (if it were up to me at least) happiness would revolve around women in some way.

Instead of trying to make myself happy and running from one thing to another to another, I want to be happy where I am, with what God has given me. I want to be happy with myself as the man that God has made me, even if I can’t have the things that I want. That… is something that I’m still working on. Too often I still want to be someone else, and that does nothing to help me be satisfied with him, and I think that the kind of happiness that I’m describing here, Plato’s eudaimonia, is part and parcel with satisfaction. Still, at the moment, beyond the fact that satisfaction comes from God… I have no idea how to actually be happy. Plato argued that eudaimonia comes from living a virtuous life. However, my life at present is fairly virtuous and I certainly don’t spend a lot of time in eudaimonia. So, while I agree that virtue is a part of eudaimonia, there is another part… or probably a few other parts, that I haven’t found yet.

Right now God has me waiting… on pretty much everything in life, and I think I may have just realized why he has me waiting. Of course, I could be completely wrong. This might just be another rabbit trail, he knows I’ve gone down plenty of those, he’s even led me down a couple. That, however, is a story for another time.