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.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with a couple of the guys at church and going over how it can feel difficult to share the gospel with others. We talked about ways that we’ve used in the past and how to approach people, but I know for me I sometimes feel almost like I’m burdening the person and for whatever reason feel the need to say “not that I’m trying to preach at you.” I find it hard to be comfortable sharing the love of Jesus and I’m not okay with that. Rudy said something that I agreed with, that even bringing this up with each other was a good way to practice. I thought about this for a few days, wanting to find my voice. I prayed to discern the proper way to speak my faith to others without smacking them in the head with it. I think one of the best ways is to use our own story. Making our faith personal not only sounds more real but allows us to speak in confidence.
I’ve had things occur in my life that I feel had to be God speaking. I’ve had some rough patches in life. I grew up in church but only recently really came to know God outside of my reading. The changes in my life I feel like are evidence of something that I couldn’t have accomplished on my own. I feel by revealing my experiences to others, it can be seen as more real. I looked to my own story to speak from. When Jeremy was speaking last Wednesday, he made a point that really tied all this together for me. These personal stories are great and probably the easiest way to relate to others, but they only mean anything if they come back to Jesus. The entire concept of Christianity isn’t some set of rules to follow, but a love story. We aren’t saved by adhering to the rules, but by believing in the story. Our story only has power because of his love. Sometimes, meaning to or not, we can imply that we’ve overcome a tremendous struggle on our own power. Our efforts come off as trying to be heroic. That we are the one who brings about the change in our heart. In the Bible, we can look at many stories and relate them to ourselves at any given point. But all of these are examples of God’s power./p>
Until we’ve been through rough patches, we can can still love others, but God specializes in using broken things to show his glory. In facing opposition, we can look to avoid the trouble and seek less conflict. But sometimes we act like Jonah instead of going where he’s leading, we decide that we know better. We resist the difficulties and can miss the opportunities hidden within. We ask to have our lives be more substantial, but shy away from the trial. We seek just the rewards of serving instead of allowing God to show himself when we’re unable to work out the results. I find myself pausing during hard times when I just want to be out of the situation, remembering that God works good in all things for those that love him. I can be so sure of myself in thinking that I’ve already learned my lesson, deciding that I’m ready to move on, and not resting in God that his glory will be shown. I act like I know best for myself, even as I ask for help in prayer. So if you’re facing something now, don’t just seek an easy end, head into prayer to find where you should be heading. Winston Churchill said something I love, “if you’re going through hell, keep going.” Grit your teeth and trust in God. And encourage your fellow believers to keep the faith. Be helpful in their situation, but not just in aiming to be free of it. Often the miracle only comes with persevering long enough to see God at work. Maybe sometimes that leads you to a place you didn’t want to be. God spared the city of Nineveh. Would you be willing to go?