Friday, July 29, 2005

where is God?

You asked me tonight what to do - what to do about your pain. And I struggle, because I don’t know what to tell you when God is not in the picture. The only way that I have survived the pain in my life, and walked through it, is because I turned to God. And that’s an understatement… if you want to know the truth, it was more like I was in a dry and craggy wilderness, with boulders, a great empty sky, and tiny, gravelly rocks pressing into my skin– and I just threw myself to the ground, and cried out to God from the depths of my being. Sometimes, I didn’t believe that he was even there. Sometimes, I was angry at him. Sometimes, there was so much pain I could not even speak a word.

And it seemed like an eternity that I lay there – my pain overwhelming me. I could not move. I could not speak - my soul simply crying out to the God who created me. But God – he met me there. Not a physical presence, but he was there. He is here.

And that’s all I have to offer you. That’s all that I can tell you. God is real. God is love. God is longing to have a relationship with you.

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.

From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.

But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good.

Salvation comes from the Lord.”

Jonah 2:1-9.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Skin Deep Part II

Another part of the problem that I have with outward attraction as the sole determinating factor of beauty is that I believe that it's wrong to objectify people. Period.

There are a lot of ways to objectify people. One is to view them only looking at their body, and thinking only of what kind of pleasure it can provide for you. This is obviously very common. A less common way, I believe, is to have imagined relationships with people. You know, where you're thinking through a conversation in your mind - how you would want it to go, and you're there supplying all the things that you would want the other person to say, making them do in your mind what you wish they would do in person. I believe this is just as harmful as every other way you could objectify a person.

Simply stated, I believe that people are made in the image of God, and as such, they deserve a certain level of respect and dignity. Furthermore, when you objectify someone, you dehumanize them. It's no longer possible to have a relationship with them, not really.

Think about your property, something you own - the relationship that you have with that object is one of dominance or ownership. You can do whatever you want with it. You can keep it, throw it away, give it to someone else, destroy it - whatever. It's yours, and you alone control it.

I think the same mentality enters into my relationships when I objectify another person. I somehow begin to think that I am in control, that I get to choose how this relationship will go. Maybe I start to think that the relationship is all about me - so when that object is meeting my needs, then I'll be happy with it, maybe even treat it nicely, take good care of it. But when that object no longer fulfills whatever need it was meeting, then I can simply throw it away. I can walk away, or trade it in for a new model.

But this is not the way to have true relationships with people. Objectifying another person truly becomes a barrier to knowing the other person, and having any kind of intimacy with that person. I don't believe that that's how God intended for us to live. I believe that in order to have the kind of intimacy and unity that God desires for us, his children, his church, we must learn to interact with one another as persons made in the image of God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Skin Deep

From a really young age I did not understand the fascination that our culture has with outward beauty. To me, the thought of building a whole relationship on what another person looks like seemed incomprehensible. For marriage in particular, that is supposed to last forever, how can a relationship based on physical attraction last? Everyone gets older, starts looking more worn, aged. What will make that relationship last when the beauty fades?

When I was a teenager, I made a conscious choice to develop my inner person rather than my outward beauty. When I had extra time and energy, I didn't put it into what I look like on the outside, rather I strove to become a beautiful person on the inside. I did this somewhat to spite the cultural mores that I found. I intentionally chose to go my own direction. If I was ever going to be loved, I would be loved for who I am, and not what I look like.

At the same time, I did experiments with attraction. I remember intentionally directing my emotions toward a certain person - asking, "could I control my attraction, if I tried?" And I found that I could. My feelings toward another person are directly related to what I think about them, how much I think about them, and what attributes I give them in my own mind. If I think positive things about them, then I have positive feelings for them. If I dwell on the negitive aspects of their personality, then my attraction toward them wanes. This was another death knell for the place of physical attraction on my list of important things. I can control it. Attraction does not dictate for me the people with whom I spend time.

But the whole situation makes me sad for two reasons. First, I am sad because there are a lot of great people out there who are not being given the chance to be known and loved, to know and love. These people are being excluded, criticized, and looked down upon because of how they look. Maybe they are unkempt, maybe they're too fat, maybe their teeth are yellow - whatever the reason, they are not up to par with where they should be, and are not even to the point where they could be. And they are judged. And the truth is, everyone misses out. But there is hope. In heaven, things will be turned upside down. Those who are beautiful on the inside, who have worked to submit to Jesus and to become more like him - they will be called the beautiful. In the eternal economy, they will be the ones who are praised.

I am also sad because when I come into contact with those who measure everything by outward appearance, I lose all respect for them. Their value system has become a barrier to my ability to have a relationship with thim. I wish that I could say that I am a better person than that, but I am not. I don't even want to take the time to get to know someone who measures value in this way. That makes me sad.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Rules & Law

Today I had an interesting conversation with another student about technology & keeping people from doing illegal things - how technology can be used to restrain people from doing bad things. And during the whole conversation I was thinking about rules, and law and how they apply to the Christian life.

I used to think that following rules was morally required by God. But I no longer think that you can equate following rules with spirituality, or even with following God. A lot of people, even Christians, think that following God means following a list of rules – dos & don’ts, making sure that you stay in line. And to some extent, even if I didn’t believe that was the substance of my Christian faith, I did see following rules as the evidence of my Christian faith.

But, as I got older, and my faith continued to develop, I began to see following God as much more of a relationship. For me this was a really big shift, because in many ways I’m a performance-oriented person. I lived much of my teen life trying to perform, in order to make God happy, my parents happy, and to satisfy my own perfectionistic tendencies. That was all a part of what I thought it meant to be a Christian.

I can’t even tell you what triggered the change, exactly, except that I realized that I was sort of entrapped in an artificial world of rules & regulations, rather than relationship & life. And though my following the rules was motivated out of the best of intentions, it really was a hindrance to me. The Bible says that it’s for freedom that we have been set free – we weren’t set free to be stuck following rules – because rules and law is an artificial system of keeping ourselves in check.

The truth is, rules and law do not restrain evil. They help to identify what is evil, they might even help society deal with the bad stuff, but they can do nothing to keep evil from happening, or men from making bad choices. The only thing that can do that is a change of heart that comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And you know what? In letting go of the rules, I have found freedom. I’m free from the bondage of the evil that lived within my heart, because God has freed me from that… but I’m also free from living in a world defined by rules & regulations. I’m free to love God, to love others, and to do what I believe God is showing me that I should do, without making following the rules/the law my main concern.

That’s not to say that I don’t follow the law – because I do, to the best of my ability. I believe that for the most part, the law in our country is set up to keep us safe & to prevent problems, and b/c the govt has authority over me, I will respect those laws. And even when I break them, knowingly or unintentionally, I always do it with the understanding that if I were to get caught breaking the law, I would pay the penalty just like anyone else – if I were speeding I would pay the ticket, etc. I don’t consider myself above the law… I guess I just don’t see the law as being the absolute point – it’s a means to an end, and there are times when the law not only needs to be flexible – it IS flexible.

It would be a lot easier if the law were not flexible, not movable. In life & society, it would be nice because we would always know what to expect. In the Christian life, it would be nice because then we would always know what we were expected to do. And I think that a part of every person longs for that kind of certainty. But as a Christian, even as a human, I think we are called to freedom, and that freedom comes with a lot of responsibility. It's not just about not breaking the law - now it's about looking for the good that we can do, the things that we can do and be that will best benefit the kingdom of God. That is a much higher calling. It's also much more difficult.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I don't understand

I grew up believing that God was in control of every circumstance, and he had a reason for allowing everything that happened to you. I was taught to believe that God didn’t send everything to us, necessarily, but he was certainly in control enough to allow it, and if he did allow it, then he had a reason for it. It was pretty much your basic Calvinistic theology.

But somewhere along the way I began to believe that God chooses to use people to meet our needs, that he rarely acts completely supernaturally, and that he wants his church – his people, to be his hands & feet on earth. And when you allow for people to be the chosen instrument of God here on earth, you set yourself up for a lot of disappointment. Because people don’t always do what they are supposed to do. People aren’t always sensitive to what God wants to do. So on one side, this has given me a sense of responsibility – of wanting to be sensitive to God’s leading so that I don’t miss out on something that he wants me to do, or some need that he wants me to meet. But on the other side, I don’t know what to do with this belief system.

You see, Calvinism is somewhat comforting. You always have the “God is bigger than me, sees more than I do, and there must be some great purpose for what’s going on here”. At least in this situation you have hope that something good is going to come out of it, and that life is actually supposed to be that way. But when you allow for people to be the instruments, and for mistakes to be made, you sometimes end up where your needs are not being met, for seemingly no reason. And that’s not to say that God can’t use those situations, just that you know that that’s not what he intends, and so it kind of makes it harder to bear.

And sad to say, for much of my life, I have been in that position. I have had huge, gaping wounds, open emotional sores, and nothing I can do about it. If I were still a Calvinist, I could say that God has a reason, and that he’s trying to teach me something about life. But without that belief system, I don’t know how to respond.

Because naturally, I think we all have a tendency when our needs aren’t being met, to meet them ourselves. Sometimes we choose destructive ways. Sometimes we choose ways that aren’t bad, but they also aren’t the best.

I think that I’m afraid right now that I’m going to choose the less-than-the-best ways of meeting needs – like I’m going to stop waiting on God & try to do it my own way. And even if I continue to submit to God, and seek for him to meet my needs, will I really know if the options that come into my life are from him? Do I see every person that meets my needs as being from him, or only certain ones?

Always when I get to this point, I throw up my hands, and say to God – God, this is the path that I’m walking right now. I so desperately want to be on the right path, doing the right thing. But I have limited knowledge & understanding. I don’t know what I’m doing, or if I’m missing out on something important. Please know that if I’m doing something wrong - it’s not because I mean to. I really just want to follow you, and bring glory to you, and help others to know you. So if there’s something else you want me to do, some other direction you want me to go… please show me clearly, in a way that I won’t miss it. I want to do it your way, not my own.

Friday, July 08, 2005

turning the kaleidoscope

I’m one of those people who has a million different personalities. Put me in a situation, any situation, and as long as I have a role that I can define, I can be whatever I need to be. I got really good at it being a kid whose parents are in ministry. Everywhere you go, people have expectations of you – to be a certain way, to do certain things, to say certain things – and I’m a master at it.

But as I grew up, I began to be dissatisfied with it. What I discovered was that no one really knew me – the real me. And after a while it wasn’t enough for me that people were comfortable with me, or that I did something for them so they liked to have me around – I wanted to be known.

But by that time, I was trapped. I was trapped by other peoples’ expectations, and my own. The process of breaking down those boxes that I was living inside has been a long and hard one.

A few years ago, I finally had to let go of the boxes that others put me in. It was just too constraining. I couldn’t do it anymore, my spirit could not take the constraints of another person’s expectations anymore. But the difficulty of that was nothing to the pain of giving up my own expectations of myself. And I think that I’m finally ready to take the next step.

I’m very much like my dad. He’s intelligent – brilliant, actually, strong, opinionated… he knows where he’s going, and he knows how he wants to get there. He’s not really proud – he’s actually very humble. And he has a very sincere and compassionate heart. I grew up a very sensitive child. So though I always knew my Father’s heart, and was rarely hurt by how he interacted with me, I always worried that other people would be hurt by his sometimes gruff exterior. As a result, I never wanted to be that way.

You see, I love people – really deeply. My greatest desire is to be a part of people finding hope & healing in Jesus Christ. And so I never wanted to be the kind of person that runs over people. So I became extra-sensitive.

As a result, as I was forming friendships & relationships in all of life, my true personality was hindered, held back by my fear of hurting people. I always did my best to pay attention to where people were at, what they needed, and then tried to figure out if I could give that to them. So I communicate to people that I’m people oriented, phlegmatic, and very laid back. And that’s true, but it’s only a very small part of who I am. I survived this by compartmentalizing my life – having people-time, and then the rest of my time. My roommates have always known how multi-faceted I am, but very few other people were around me in enough situations to see who I really am.

But finally, I am ready to set my choleric self free. You see, I’m a driver – I have things I want to do, things I want to accomplish. And I’m opinionated about how to get them done. And I don’t want to do small things (though it’s fine with me if that’s all I ever do) – I want to do big things. I want to rock the world. I want to be a mover & shaker in the kingdom of God.

And yet, I have this tiny bit of hesitation… I’m still afraid to hurt people – to run over them to get where I’m going. I don’t want to do that, because above the tasks & the projects, I really do value people more.

So that’s my challenge. I am going to set myself free to be a choleric – to make things happen. But I hope to have that tempered by my passion for people. And just maybe, maybe I’ll turn out to be a leader.


So... i'm a conservative law student who is follower of Christ, looking for a place to think out loud and dialogue about life and the reality of the kingdom of God in our world. So, I'm looking forward to it. Thanks for joining me.