I woke up this morning. That’s a pretty big deal. Sometimes I can operate in a mode of unthankfulness, but today it was sharp in my mind that this day was a blessing. I texted out to a few buddies, wanting to share the hope of the new day but I felt like it would be good to spread that more.
A new day means another chance. Another chance to take the next right step. If I’m being honest, I’ve lived too much of life focusing on the problems at hand, too scared or too full of self pity to simply do the next right thing. Dreams aren’t realized in a day. And failures litter our yesterdays. But as believers, we don’t have to live from the identity of those failures.
2 Corinthians 4
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke”, we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[c] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 5
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Today is a new day. You can grow in hope and live outside of your past fears, failures, and regrets. You can embrace the opportunity to love others courageously and speak with a boldness that comes from the identity of being beloved. You are new. Now let’s live that.
I’m sure that I’m not breaking news when saying that things don’t always go right. Dreams and plans may not be realized. Sometimes worse, they can be achieved only to have them crash down around us. While momentary pauses before success can make the victory feel that much sweeter, there are times where our loss feels unredeemable. The pain worse than any possible gain. So we hide. We don’t take ownership of our physical, emotional, and spiritual well being when speaking to those around us.
It’s amazing how unconnected we are as a society on any personal level. Want to see the proof of that? Ask the next ten people you meet how they’re doing. I’m betting chances are good that you’re getting nine or ten positive answers. Often people will reply positively before even taking the time to weigh the question.
That doesn’t scream speaking the truth in love to me. There are plenty of reasons to shy away from the truth when having a bad day. Fear of exposure, lack of intimacy, the desire to not burden another with your troubles. But love doesn’t work that way. It’s graceful in its intimacy. Forgetting the idea of dishonesty for a moment, I don’t think it’s a healthy thing for our own emotional well being.
When studying the Word, we see that there’s a season for everything. It doesn’t exclude the tough stuff. We’re to be thankful in all circumstances even when not thankful for them. Our journey with God doesn’t spare us pain but gives us the confidence to walk in faith through it. So it’s okay to acknowledge that stuff sucks sometimes. We don’t have to impress every detail on people, we can just be honest enough to say that it’s been a rough day and we could use some prayer. We can boldly go forward knowing that while the road is tough, we’re loved by a great God.
Essentially my entire childhood was spent in church. We went as a family and often. Religiously, if you’ll pardon the word choice. I remember watching X Files when I was young and then finding out I would be no longer able to watch it as it had switched to Sunday nights. I was devastated.
I remember trying to memorize the books of the bible better than the other kids to show off. I remember singing along to old hymns that I didn’t always understand. I remember wearing stuffy shirts that my mom thought I looked good in.
What I didn’t remember, was the time I was baptized. I have a faint memory if being downstairs of the church with my father, changing into the baptismal clothes. I’m really glad that I have that. With him passing fairly early on in my life, I’m thankful for anything I can connect back to that his love was on display. I don’t remember how old I was either. While I’m sure I was eager to have that day come, I was too young to have that choice be one that held any weight to me.
I wanted to step forward in my faith in a way that showed my personal decision. I wanted to do it for me. To make an intentional decision to put preferences aside. I didn’t want that nagging voice to keep up, questioning whether my original action was really volitional. My personal growth in the past year and a half has been leading here. I needed this. But I hope that as I share my story of God’s redeeming grace in my life, this day ends up being not just for me. That others can see a man who’s willing to tell Jesus yes. A man stuck after years of religion. A man who found himself deeply rooted in sin. A man extremely grateful to be loved.
I like a good looking house. One that will grab people’s attention. But when I look at a place, I’m always more interested in whether or not it’s structurally sound. I want to know that this building isn’t about to fall down around me. No one cares about the wraparound porch when the floors give out underneath your feet. In life, we can get wrapped up in those good looking additions and features, never focusing on the integrity of the structure. I know there have been many times that I stared down a goal that seemed both to be something attractive and worth pursuing without really placing that idea into prayer first. When I get to where I wanted to be be, I find out that it’s not really the best idea. I really just have to face how often I’m a poor judge of what’s good for me. I believe God wants a lot for us. But sometimes we give our own take on his will for our lives.
In Matthew, Jesus talks about building a foundation on His words before anything else, “24 Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
What I think is the main trouble is how often the house built on the sand looks like a beach house. When something looks good, it’s easy to think it’s God’s direction for our lives. We can idolize our own dreams and desires as something that should be attained above all else. Because God’s word doesn’t speak directly against where we’re at, we go without taking the time to listen to His voice in our own life. But storms will always arise. When I find myself in trouble, I pray that I’m able to be humble enough to learn the life lesson and not start over the same process again.
Tonight, I felt the weight of a realization. It was heavy enough to crush me. Yet, it carried me to a place of freedom. Over the past year, I’ve been torn down to a place of emotional exhaustion. Days where I felt emotionally, spiritually, and often even physically well seemed to be so few that I wasn’t sure which way was up. In the past several months, I’ve experienced a great deal of healing over the loss of my marriage and the only romantic love I’d ever known. Still, finding times where I would awaken, waiting for things to be like I once knew them to be, I felt the loss sharply often. The wandering of my gaze while surrounded by good company so as to not meet their friendly eyes with my pain became a burden I adapted to. Still, I am well. I am seeing myself in a new light, but also seeing a new me. The loss is something will always carry, but I turn my focus on where I need to be now. As I left church tonight, my mind was flooded with the thought that I wouldn’t be there if not for this loss. I wouldn’t have come to Christ without this loss. I was entirely too sure of my direction. Or at least sure that I could navigate on my own. I would be missing out on this great opportunity to serve with people I love in a growing body of Christ. I drove off with that thought and a lighter heart. I am where I need to be.
It’s said that the only constant in life is change. Being caught up in the middle of our day to day grind, it’s easy to see life as something more static. I sometimes go a while, feeling like I’m in a rut. Then, in a moment of clarity, the rush of newness takes my breath. Things are in motion around us all the time, we just don’t always take the time to see them. I notice in my own life, I depend heavily on these moments as barometers of change. I sometimes claim to be further along a path or assume that past hurts no longer press upon me. But it’s when presented with a proper opportunity to gauge my heart’s condition that I’m able to see where I really am. Sometimes the results are surprising. I recently have had a couple opportunities to view things in a new light. Neither of these times were of especially significant but used properly I was able to gain insight. Continue reading “A chance to see change.”
I have a lot of things in my life that I consider important. Most of them are truly things of worth. I still leave room in my life for a little too much disc golf and Pacers basketball. But most of where I placed my attention was in places that were worthy of it like family and friends. It’s not that my priorities were skewed to the point of losing grip on reality, I just rarely took the time to straighten them. Too often, I lived from my own passions, letting them drive fully. I walked with an attitude of doing what felt right at the time.
The problem with placing your full trust in something or someone imperfect is that you will be failed. Athletes can place their self worth in their own physical abilities and be lost after age or injury sets in. Placing your faith in the law, you will eventually see points where human interests backfire and injustice is done. Sports teams will lose, friends will make mistakes, things will break. Lots of hobbies can be great but when investing so much time into something that isn’t life giving, you can feel empty. I poured countless hours of my past into video games. I consistently found ways to weave talk about them into conversations. I chose them over relationships at times. They’re not inherently wrong, but the way I played them was.
Still, most often in life we don’t get caught up in things that matter little but ones that should be important. But even that can be dangerous. Placing things above God in our lives leaves us with a wrong set of priorities. This boils down to idolizing. This can simply be defined as loving something excessively. I have been there with what should’ve been the second most important relationship I held, only behind God. I saw greatness in my relationship with my wife. I heard people talk about how they wished for a relationship like ours as we dated. I silently gloated as others complimented the way I treated my wife. I never looked into my own heart to assess how I loved her because everyone already said I was so good at it. Why would I need to change, I was already great. Minor complaints weren’t even noticed because I was so sure of my own capacity to love. By placing our relationship above everything else, I left myself open to ruin when she would fail me or I her. None of this was her fault. We’ll all falter from time to time. I happen to be an expert at it. But having my perspective wrong and excessively loving something, even something incredibly important, only sets up heartbreak. I choose now to take steps forward with my eyes on Jesus, one who won’t fail me.