Making Up My Mind

Okay, so I haven’t posted in like a week. I’m a slacker. My semester has just started, and life has been a little hectic lately.

So I’m hanging out with some friends at Chipotle Friday night, and we were talking about how some of the most interesting people we know are like 40 years old and have no idea what they want to do with their lives. We laughed about it, but seriously, I’m scared that I’m gonna be that guy. I was the one who went through like 4 majors in college, and has pursued at least as many careers in the past 8 or 9 years. Then I did what you do when you can’t decide on anything…you go back to school. Seems logical, right?

Well, that wasn’t totally the reason I went back to school, but…

So I’m looking at some information about another school last semester, and I suddenly get this wild idea that I’d kind of like to do another master’s degree after this one. It either seems like a really cool idea or totally insane, depending on the day. I seriously don’t want to be a professional student. Seriously. I’m kind of tired of going to school, if you want the truth. And as classes really kicked in last week, I found myself looking very forward to next December when I’m finished with this one. So I have to wonder…is the reason I want to go back just because I still can’t decide what I’m going to do with my life?

Friday night, talking to the same friends, we were joking about how it was kind of cool to be a student again. I’ve done the professional career thing, and it was okay. But it’s also fun to focus on learning, work on the side, and sleep til 10 every morning again.

Maybe I’m trying to hold onto a part of the past that I should have let go already. Or, maybe I’m trying to solidify my future. Or, maybe I’m just caught in some twighlight zone netherworld of indecision that’s somewhere in between. Honestly, it’s probably the latter. But, oh well. I’m having fun!

You Got The Wrong Kid

I’ve been thinking over the past couple of days about people who truly struggle with God’s forgiveness, with the fact that He loves us. My pastor spoke two Sundays ago about how, when we have fallen, that we almost want to avoid God with guilt, but how in fact the safest place in the world to be when we’ve messed up is in God’s presence. I’ve encountered this over and over and over again in ministry, and, honestly, I’ve never really gotten it. I’ve really searched when people approach me with this problem, because I truly don’t get it. And I’ve often wondered why.

So I began to correlate that, often, people who struggle believing that God loves them are people who had maybe abusive family backgrounds, or broken or neglectful families. I’m not saying that’s always the case…I’d be naive to make that generalization. I think, though, that there is validity to the correlation.

I guess that’s what caused the proverbial lightbulb to come on with me this weekend. See, I’ve been blessed with an incredible family. My parents are still together, and they have always been completely loving and supportive of me in every way. I know unconditional love…it’s been patterened for me here on earth. I can see how, if that were lacking in my life, that I would have difficulty wrapping my brain around the concept. Great intellectual conclusion, right?

Well, here’s the lightbulb.

I’ve gone to the opposite extreme. I’m a spoiled only child. My parents love me unconditionally, yes. Thank God for that. And because of that, I got anything I wanted. And I never doubted that, however I screwed up, I would be forgiven by them. They would, ultimately, still love me and accept me. Even bailed me out of a few jams in my less mature days. And because I know that they will always love me and shower me with that love over and over again, it’s been on my heart since just before Christmas that I’ve become snobbish about it. Kind of like the kid in the movies who has rich parents that will hire high-priced lawyers to get him out of whatever trouble he manages to get into. Except I’m the emotional version of that kid with my parents. I’ve been trying so hard no to be that guy the past few months.

The lightbulb, though, is that I’m also the spiritual version of that kid.

I screw up, I screw up, and I screw up, and just flippantly expect Him to forgive me. He said He always would, right? So I take advantage of that. I walk on His blood, I spit in His face. How dare I? How dare I forget what He went through?

I said in my last post that I’m truly in awe of Him, for perhaps the first time in my life. Well, I just got more in awe of Him. I’m in awe that He hasn’t just taken me out and been done with it. I’m in awe that He hasn’t put me on an express train to hell for my attitude. I’m in awe that He not only forgives me of my consistent betrayals, but that He then blesses me in addition to that forgivenes.

Jesus, I’m so sorry. I am so in awe of You.

A Child in Awe of You

I’m reading this book called “Searching for God Knows What,” by Donald Miller. I love that Miller makes some really in-your-face points, and he made one early in the book that really made an impact on me last night.

In the early part of the book, Miller spends a few chapters talking about Adam and Eve, and the Fall. I wouldn’t even begin to do his thoughts justice, but I will just say that he talks at length about how hurt God must have been after Adam and Eve dropped the ball and ate what they shouldn’t have and sinned. There had never been sin in the world before, and it took us how long to screw that up? I guess what really made me think was how betrayed God must have felt. He likened it to the emotional injury that one would feel after discovering that their husband or wife had been cheating on them. How angry that person would feel. How that person would feel that they spent so much of their love on someone, asking so little in return, and then pulling the knife out of their back. Ouch.

I’ve never been married, but I have been cheated on. I remember how I felt that weekend when the girl I was seeing very seriously told me that she had had a few too many a couple of days earlier, and gotten to know one of my friends a little too well. That hurt. I don’t mean it stung a little, like when you use an alcohol pad on a cut. I mean it hurt, a deep, gnawing hurt that hangs on for a really long time. I felt angry. I was so ticked off at her, I couldn’t even talk to her for days. I couldn’t believe that had happened. I ended up cutting the whole thing off. I tried, but we honestly never recovered after that. As sorry as she was that it had ever happened, we never recovered. She was honestly mortified that she had done that, and to my knowledge she never did it again. But the damage was done, and we truly never recovered.

So I was thinking about this pain in regard to God last night, and it occurred to me that I must have hurt Him so terribly in the past. Just as much as Adam and Eve did. And I’ve done it over, and over, and over again. And what’s worse, I’ll do it again in the future. And even though I know that I will, I can’t stop it from happening. No matter what I do, I can’t not sin. No matter how hard I try, I’ll screw something up, and hurt Him. I’ll cheat on Him.

Miller isn’t the first person to use that metaphor…James preceded him by quite a bit. James called those who would dabble in the ungodly “adulteresses” (James 4:4, NASB). It’s like knowing that you’re going to cheat, trying to your hardest not to do it, and then doing it anyway. It’s doing something stupid that you didn’t even see coming, that you didn’t even realize was something bad, and then looking back dumbfounded when you realize how screwed up it was. It’s like hurting the one you love, the One who loves you, over and over and over again.

He knew we would, He knew we couldn’t stop doing it, He knew that His Son would have to die to make it right. Miller makes the point that, as soon as God found what had happened, He knew what sacrifice would have to be made to reconcile us to Him. Jesus knew the pain He would have to suffer, and He knew that we would, even if unintentionally, spit in His face again and again. And He did it anyway. He and loves us anyway. And He doesn’t stop loving us anyway.

So I was at this worship service last night, and we were singing this worship song that I’ve sang a hundred times, but the words really sunk in last night in light of what I had been thinking about:

“And I’ll live to love You,
I’ll live to give You praise,
Yes I’ll live a child in awe of You…”

I can truly say, for perhaps the first time, that with this realization, I am truly in awe of Him tonight.

Facts and Figures

I heard a quote tonight. I guess writers always pick up quotes faster than others. I don’t know. But this one rang my bell:

“We tend to become what we think about most.”

That brought to mind another quote with which you might be familiar:

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, NIV).

So, where is it? Where’s my treasure? Well, following the breadcrumbs of my heart, I find that my spiritual portfolio might be a bit mis-allocated. I put time into God. Quality time. But you know what occurs to me, is that it tends to be an add-on to my day a lot of the time. Like, He’s not what I’m really working toward, He’s just a hobby.

I heard that quote tonight while discussing finances. That got me. I spend a lot of money of my expensive little electronic toys. I don’t spend that much on God. Well, unless you count Seminary, in which case I spend a whole lot of money on God. But, take it the other way for a second. What about the rest of life?

Every year, my investment rep. gives me a graph of where my retirement funds are allocated. There are several categories: Growth, Growth and Income, Aggressive Growth, etc. There are two lines on each category. One is the percentage of your total investment that the firm recommends you have in the category, and the other is what you actually have in that category. That’s how you know if you need to re-allocate. Tip it a little, and you can lose a lot of money pretty easily.

I guess I’m wondering if God has a chart like that. Maybe He only has two categories, though, like “My stuff” and “other stuff.” You know, I really think that God loves us enough to want us to enjoy life. So there is a recommended amount for “other stuff.” But “My stuff” I’m sure outweighs it quite a bit. As it should.

So if God and I were to schedule a meeting, and review that chart every year, I bet I’d be amazed at how mis-allocated my time and efforts are. That’s a shame, because it’s tipped. I could mess things up pretty easily.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to schedule that appointment with God every now and then?

Out of Focus

I just finished reading “The Slumber of Christianity” by Ted Dekker. It’s his first non-fiction title. All about renewing and refreshing our perspective off of what’s material and right in front of us, and onto the one thing that really matters…our future with Christ. It’s more than a little thought-provoking, and I highly recommend it. I also recommend that, should you decide to read it, you actually take a little time to meditate upon and implement changes in your life because of it.

I didn’t. And tonight I seriously screwed up. Not anything that has shattered or shaken my temporal comfort or security, but I know I’m gonna hear about it in Heaven at some point.

I was asked at work tonight to pray with one the patients on my unit, and, honestly, I kind of blew it off. There were two other counselors with me at the time, both of whom are Believers, who I think took my lead to some degree on that decision. I ran scared, because I am, of course professionally bound not to impose my faith on someone under my care. I could certainly receive a reprimand should I ever pray with a patient, whether or not it is at their reques, despite the fact that, educationally and experientially speaking, I am over-qualified to do so. I chose to make other things a priority, and never got around to it. That way I didn’t just blow the patient off. I wasn’t guilty of that in my mind.

Until I got home, and God started gently reminding me that I am.

So, here I am at 2 a.m. attempting to focus my thoughts, and I’m realizing that I really should have listened to Dekker’s advice a bit more closely. I started remembering things tonight. I was remembering when I moved here, to start Seminary. I had a different concept of where I was going with life at that time, a different idea of what I was trying to accomplish, but I had come here on a wing and a prayer. I had left a position with an agency that I had worked with for several years. With that position, I left a beautiful and comfortable salary. To go to school full time. For a degree that, professionally, wasn’t going to do me any good. For a dream that made no sense to most, but made sense to God, because He was the one Who had given it to me. So I landed, relocated my life, and off I went.

And now, two years later, I’ve been pulled away. My focus has shifted onto the societal definition of success that I had left behind, and I’ve began to hunger for it. I’ve began to desire that again. I’ve began to want my writing to meet with men’s applause again. I want money. Badly. I want the things that it buys. Badly. I want a nice place and sweet vacations instead of living paycheck to paycheck. I want a lot.

I’ve kind of forgotten what He’s wanting. And because I did, I made a lousy decision tonight, because I wasn’t toally caught up with Him as I should have been. I let an amazing opportunity pass me by, and someone’s soul quite literally hung in the balance.

It’s not an issue of forgiveness…not at all. I know that I am. It’s an issue of not making the mistake again. It’s an issue of returning my focus to the primary motivation: what happens after this life.

Everything else becomes extremely insignificant when compared to that. Don’t you think?