Are we sure we understand the concept of "big things for Christ"?Read More
Once upon a time, I found Jesus. More accurately, He found me. After spending a really long time not knowing how much I need Him, I finally saw myself for who I was, and I called out to Him in response to His call to me. That was almost seven years ago. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that I didn't love, not truly. I knew that in order to love, I needed to accept His. I needed to really believe He loved me. So I did. My whole paradigm changed that day.
That doesn't mean anything else changed. I was already on a trajectory away from Him. I was on a road I didn't belong on. As an excellent Wavorly song says, "Turning around was never so hard til I found us far apart." At that point, I was really far away, heading further, and had no idea which way to turn. Imagine yourself lost on a dark night with a broken light and a broken compass, and nothing but two ears and a voice guiding you home. Even better: imagine yourself in the Millennium Falcon, crashing toward Starkiller Base, unable to pull up, not knowing the defector storm trooper was a janitor and new nothing about blowing the place up.
I had no idea what was in store. I really didn't. I knew things would be difficult, but I had no clue of the depth of it. I don't remember being as bombarded with temptations and heartaches as when I started following Christ. Yet I don't know that I've seen more personal growth happen in me than when I started following Christ.
I'm not going to blather on about all the things that happened between 2009 and 2013. If you've read my blog before, you know. If you want to know, read it.
In one respect, I'm glad for how far I've come, but it hasn't been without cost. That cost has been my ability to care.
I don't care.
Those are three words no one wants to hear. "I don't care" is giving up. On what? Anything.
Have you been told that before? It hurts, doesn't it? Knowing that you're not seen, not heard, invisible, inconsequential.
I hate that about me, which is great because that means all hope is not lost. But right now, that's a problem. The whole reason I decided to follow Jesus was so I could love, not so I could withhold love in apathy.
I'm not sure entirely how I figured it out, but I suddenly noticed lately how much of what has been happening in my life indicates that I don't really care.
The stagnancy of my romantic relationships?
Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.
My lack of reading scriptures or praying in a meaningful way?
Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.
My isolation from people I claim to care for?
Because I didn't care about anything but my own problems.
My inability to focus long enough to do successful studio takes?
Because I didn't care about them as much as I care about the things distracting me.
My inability to loosen up?
Because I don't care enough about living healthily enough to stop obsessing over the things I want.
Because I don't care about much else than what I want.
Why I don't try hard enough to change any of this?
Because I don't care to keep failing or hurting, which is, by default, keeping anything good from coming of anything I'm going through.
I don't want to run away from my issues, but I also don't want to run into a worse place. Another song, by Linkin Park this time, says, "Sometimes I think of letting go and never looking back, and never moving forward so there'd never be a past."
Relatable? Too much.
Good way to live? Not ever.
The irony of the whole thing is that we tend to stop caring because of the weight that caring becomes. But to stop caring means your heart has to stop working, and if your heart stops working, you really can't go anywhere. You collapse. You stay where you are. You die.
When you stop caring, you are dead. And it definitely feels the part. At least pain lets you know you're alive, even though it means you're fighting to stay that way. When joy happens, you know you're alive and free.
That's what I think is so powerful about the "joy of salvation" that people talk about. Not only are you alive, not only are you free, but you are now set on a path of becoming more like Christ until His coming, when everything corruptible in us will be replaced with something incorruptible, and we enter eternal life and eternal freedom, where all darkness ends and the light only grows, extending into every corner of creation. It's unstoppable. It's unstoppable good, unstoppable beauty, unstoppable life.
That's something that's actually worth caring about. When we lose sight of that, it's not hard to stop caring about things, especially the more we know about evil and hurt.
I guess that's what I've been missing. With something lasting to care about, whatever else is valuable to us, whatever else brings joy, although temporary, finally gains its true meaning. We finally have a reason to care about it.
A reason to care about him.
About anyone, anything.
But without context to something eternal, how can anything temporary have meaning?
"Our light affliction, which only lasts for a moment, is working toward an eternal glory that far outweighs anything else. That's why we look not on the things that can be seen, but the things that cannot be seen. Why? Because the things we can see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal." --Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 paraphrase mine)
Preparedness is a difficult thing for me. I'm distractible, which leads to the disorganization of things that need to have been organized prior to a given moment. At the same time, because I don't rigidly organize my world, I have much freedom to move with the current of life. That having been said, am I a fish in the current, or am I the riverbed finding itself daily eroded?
I've always wanted to be on top of things when it comes to this blog. I want to be free to move with the current, but then I also want to know that the current I'm surrendering to is taking me somewhere good. I don't want to be at the mercy of my environment, which can be merciless, interestingly enough. I don't like to half-do things, but because of my tendency toward minimal rigidity, I find myself doing exactly what I don't want to do. (This must be how Paul felt while writing Romans 7.) Unfortunately, that affects my blogging by making my posting frequency inconsistent despite a mile-high stack of drafts.
I recently discovered this magical little feature called "scheduled posting." Now that I know about this, I don't really have an excuse. I can keep writing drafts, but when I finish them, I can schedule them to publish as far in advance as I decide. I don't have to worry about setting deadlines for myself if I just set things up ahead of schedule, then stick to that schedule. I can take writing breaks when I need to take them without worrying about falling too far behind the flow. What that means for you, reader, is that I'm going to be working behind the scenes, planning ahead, and though you might not see much out of this blog for the next few weeks, when you finally start seeing me post again, expect much.
It's not just the blog that frustrates me, though. Unfortunately, this chaos tends to invade many area of my life--yes, my bedroom is a total mess--but by knowing ahead of time what should be happening, maybe this chaos will be brought into check. This cannot happen without God's help, though. Ultimately, the fact that I don't plan ahead, which leads to unpreparedness, tells me that I don't trust God to help me if those plans fail. After all, how can I be disappointed by failed plans if I don't make them? But then how can I truly say I trust God unless I step out on that limb? I don't know the future. For all I know, I could lose everything and it not even be because of anything I've done... but why should I do nothing? Why not take risks? Why not make investments? Why not build relationships? Why not ask for God to build His kingdom in me?
If I don't make myself ready for things to come, when they come, they will either pass me by or knock me down. It's time to brace myself. It's a big future in a big world with a big God.
The story about Jesus calling Peter out to walk with Him on the water is commonly used to tell people to trust God. That's kind of the point, right? But how quickly do we gloss over what's really going on there?
What Peter experienced made absolutely no sense by human standards. We are heavier than water, so we sink. Storms are huge, so how could we be expected to hold our ground within them?
The problem is not that walking on water makes no sense. Jesus is the Lord, right? All things are possible through Him! The problem is that it makes perfect sense, but we believed something else. What doesn't make sense is sin. It doesn't matter if it's the perceivably "little" white lies or the thefts or the abuses or the addictions or the perversions or the violence or the murders or the genocides. It's not just what we do, and it's not just others have done to us and each other.
The adversity for we who now live is that society tells us to question everything, and the fact is that, yes, there really is merit to skepticism, but the amount of that merit is much smaller than we think. Bear this in mind as I speak to you, though: I'm not condoning naively putting oneself in absurdly dangerous situations without a worthy cause.
As followers of Jesus, we believe that everything that we were meant to be is now working in reverse, meaning that we do not live by reason or sanity but rather by lust and psychosis. Our worldview flipped nearly instantaneously in Eden from being sustained by an omnibenevolent God to questioning whether or not His word was true and what He was holding back from us. (Now, whether or not our initial motives were pure cannot be determined, but it can be reasonably assumed that we were as guilty as lucifer of arrogance and lust for power upon temptation.) Now, we live in a world inhabited by three kinds of people: those who prey on others, those who merely try to survive, and those who think that there must be a better option than either.
Jesus is the better option. His death in our place for our sins and His resurrection overcoming the punishment for the same sin is the single most revolutionary act anyone has ever done. Had we never exposed ourselves to sin, this fact would make sense to us all. We wouldn't view the world through the murky lense of fear. The idea that there is a perfect Lord of all would not seem so idiotic, because it isn't! In fact, it makes the more sense than anything in this world! Our problem is that we base our perceptions on what we've seen and heard, and what we've seen and heard is nothing but the evil proceedings from man's heart!
So when Peter was called to walk with Jesus on the water, his lense was already murky. He already had doubts, but they didn't surface until he refocused on how many ways walking on water could possibly go wrong. In a world where man had not chosen corruption, he would have understood and not doubted that this call from Christ were absolutely possible and that it was going to happen.
The real kicker here is that Jesus didn't just call Peter out on the water; Peter asked Him to do it! He already doubted that it was Jesus on the water, but he had learned so far that Jesus had a habit of doing things that were, by human judgments, completely insane! So if Jesus called him out with Him, shouldn't he have understood that it was going to be a little crazy? Yet he doubted Him anyway! I'd bet he didn't mean to do it, but he did. How could you not when there's a hurricane raging around you, right? But Jesus is Lord of the hurricane and the water!
I dare you, reader, to ask God to do something absolutely insane with you, and even more, I dare you to trust Him to lead you in the correct way. It's our disbelief that is insane, not His sovereignty over all things, because the reality is that He is the most sane thing alive.
I'm no Josh Groban. Most of my life, I would never have dreamt of singing, playing music, or really doing anything with the liberal arts at all. I hated it. I hated all of it. I was always awkward. Sometimes I speak with a stutter, forget what I'm saying, forget what I'm thinking, forget what I'm doing. My mind can be a very foggy place sometimes. What isn't foggy to me? Formulas. Charts. Numbers. Stats. Scripts. Codes. Systems. I get that. I understand that. I can remember that. I can do that. I can express that. I've always struggled, though, to express me. I never understood why this has been the case, but it has been. When I was younger, it wasn't so much, but fewer things were fighting me at the time. When I entered elementary school, I was bullied. I can't say I haven't seen worse, but it happened nonetheless, and no degree of bullying is okay for anyone to experience. Then bad things started happening at home. I think it was an odd cocktail of the two, combined with my moderately soft-spoken by nature, that laid the foundation for a fortress I built to hide myself for fear of punishment which I didn't then understand I didn't fully deserve, though no one is really good in the end, but loved by a good God. Over time, I built numerous walls facing numerous battlefronts. By the time I reached high school, I had built the perfect defense for my heart (which I didn't understand was really a prison).
Then came my vocal coach. I have been quiet for most of my life, and I still am sometimes, but not all the time anymore, largely due to her. I've had teachers at school try to coerce me into singing solos and doing such things, but it never took until she came. In my tenth grade of high school -- that was 2006-2007 for me -- I was put on a list to audition for one of two male vocal soloist spots in the state competition that was hosted by the association of schools that mine happened to belong. I tried to fight it. I didn't want to do it. I was so freaking scared of getting up in front of people and screwing it all up. I tried to get out of it, but she, who was only the pianist to me at the time but now is my vocal coach and somewhat of a mentor, wouldn't have it. If I remember it right, she had more faith in me than I did, and said at least that it'd be over quickly. Little did I know that despite my quaking voice and choice of the over-sung song "Amazing Grace" by John Newton, I would get the spot. I didn't win at the competition, but that's not the point. The point is that it changed my life. No formula could have helped me to predict these events, nor the change to come.
I was so blindsided by the prospect of public performance that I didn't know what to do with myself. Sure, I'd dabbled with poetry and maybe a little composition, and I could fumble on keys, but to sing in front of an audience who had eyes, ears, and brains and opinions -- well, I felt like I was a hypocrite by donning the stage, picking up a microphone, and screaming my lungs out. I was the quietest soul you'd ever met at that point in my life, but putting myself in that uncomfortable, vulnerable position made me realize something: I LOVE THIS. :) It was a sweet release from all the pain I'd held inside. It had been brewing for fifteen years like a bitter tea, and I wasn't about to continue drinking it, so I gave myself over to music. I was called to it by a force within it, which I believe was the still, small voice of Jesus Christ. In coming to grip with that reality, I realized something -- I wasn't a hypocrite for donning the stage: I was a heretic, a heretic to my despair, ready to spread the heresy of hope.
From then and onward, I was a different person. I had been uprooted from where I was sewn: thorny, rocky soil, where crows came to feast, and planted in good earth by a river (see the parable of the sower; also see Psalm 1). I'm still growing though. I still struggle with sin like even the apostles did, but that's not really what I'm getting at. I changed -- a lot. I didn't know how, but I'm starting to see what's really happening. I let what other people think, what other people do, what other people say, have too much of an influence upon what I think, do, and say. I shouldn't do that. Why should I do that? What benefit is that to me or anyone else? Sure, I could appease the masses, keep quiet, and do nothing, but I have good things to offer. Good has been done to me, and good things have been given to me, which is the only means by which I have to do good to others, for others, and to give good things to them. Sure, I want other people to have as accurate perception of me as possible, but if they don't, and if I can't convince them after doing all I can, why should I let it change me and how I behave? Why should I live any differently toward myself, my Lord, or to them? Why should my level of love fluctuate to any degree? Why should I give up things that give me life and fire to satisfy the itching ears of the masses?
I'm no Josh Groban. I could list people who I know beyond the shadow of a doubt believe I shouldn't be involved in music. I also know a lot of people who support me in my pursuit of music. I'm thankful for both crowds for having opinions, and thankful that I know to which to listen, thankful that I know which one has the power to stop me (neither), and thankful that my acceptance has nothing to do with either of them, but this is not the point. My approval in all things comes through grace from the Son of God. May nothing else in my heart prosper.
I'm wasting an entire post to say this one thing in summation: not one single person in the whole of reality should be given the authority to stop the purest, truest love of another, and no person should be convinced to love himself so little (or so much) as to give that authority to anyone but the Lord Jesus Christ, because if all the history and prophecy about Him is true (the eternal origin, the miraculous birth, the loving life, the sacrificial death, the inevitable resurrection, the given forgiveness, the impending return, and the eternal peace), then He is the one person in the whole of reality that we can trust with that authority because He is the only one who will never abuse that authority, and the only one who truly will ever accept us, and if He asks for us to step out of our comfort zone, step out on a limb, walk on water, let me inform you: He will not let you drown.