I’ve been working on some daily exhortations to have auto-sent to myself, with the hope of reminding myself of who I am in relation to my Dad and his son, King Jesus. Here’s a rough version of what I’m thinking about right now:
You, Bill, are a beloved son of God. Your very future has been secured. But that future isn’t here yet. Until then, you’ve been called to be like Jesus—be dying to find life. You live by faith and you die by faith—your faith is so small, even smaller than a mustard seed. Why don’t you believe? Why do you forsake your first love? Why do you forget everything I’ve done for you? So, choose this day whom you will serve. Do not forget my son, your first love. Don’t be lukewarm and be spit out. Instead, turn from your sins and set your eyes on my Son, of whom Aslan reminds you. And remember that your faith looks like this:
· Love your wife as Christ loved the church and live with her in an understanding
· Don’t frustrate your kids and drive them to anger
· Don’t work for your boss—work for me instead
· I am in the Light of the World, the light that makes you shine in this dark world
· Remember who you are—and be that
“Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.” -Martyn Lloyd-Jones
“There is nothing that we are so bad at all our days as prayer.” -Alexander Whyte
“There are times in my life when I would rather die than pray.” -Thomas Shepard
“May I but speak my own Experience, and from that tell you the difficulty of Praying to God as I ought; it is enough to make you poor, blind, carnal men, to entertain strange thoughts of me. For, as for my heart, when I go to pray, I find it so reluctant to go to God, and when it is with him, so reluctant to stay with him, that many times I am forced in my Prayers; first to beg God that he would take mine heart, and set it on himself in Christ, and when it is there, that he would keep it there. In fact, many times I know not what to pray for, I am so blind, nor how to pray I am so ignorant; only (blessed be Grace) the Spirit helps our infirmities.” -John Bunyan
Not that these quotations excuse my complete suckiness at prayer. But at least I’m not the only one. And these guys are the bee’s knees.
HT: Mark Jones
One of my big struggles in life is the pull to be a lock, stock, and barrel member of my generation. Which is to say, a full-out cynical, anti-authority, anti-institution, I-think-I’m-specialer-than-everyone-else-in-the-universe card carrying member of Generation Y. Which is a topic I’ve posted on before.
I’ve recently discovered Mumford and Sons (yes, I know I’m way behind there) and their song “Hopeless Wanderer”. It’s a pull I feel all. the. time. I’m constantly marked by “a clouded mind and a heavy heart”. It’s like a plague. Because as “I’ve wrestled long with my youth” I find that the answers seem so far away and everything feels so uncertain. My wife and I were just talking about all the questions we used to have about everything–about God and life and mystery and hope. But we used to believe that every question had a findable answer, so we never stopped coming up with new questions. These days I’m so jaded that I don’t even want to ask a question because I’m pretty sure it will lead to that same dead-end “I don’t know” that becomes the answer to everything.
A “hopeless wanderer” if there ever was one.
I resonate with two particular parts beyond that, two parts that want so badly to dig out of this hopelessness. “How I long to grow old!” Maybe when I finally grow up (when does that happen anyway?) I’ll finally settle again into that conviction that most older folks I know seem to have. But more directly, “I will learn to love the skies I’m under.” Not as if I will ever be truly happy with this broken world, but I’ll love it in it’s disarray because it was made by God. And right now, I don’t. I feel hopeless far more than hopeful. But, oh God, change that in my heart!
(Note: I hesitate to post this video because they filled in four comedians for the band and it’s way funny to watch, in contradiction to the not-so-funniness of the song itself. So maybe listen the first time to just hear the song, then give it a second pass and watch to giggle at the silliness of those guys.)
But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.
In all my insecurities and pridefully mistaken notions of awesomeness–I constantly vacillate between the two extremes–my one lasting hope is that I’m never going to get what I deserve. And I’m trusting in what’s already been done to do something new and good and perfect now in me, despite the mess I’ve made.
And how did I end up in this mess, anyway?
All I was trying to do was save my own skin. But so were You–so were You.
For some, believing in Jesus and loving him with a full heart is as simple as breathing. For me, not so much. If I were to extend the breathing analogy, I suffer from my own version of spiritual asthma. Sometimes believing and loving and serving is unnatural and hard and laborious. Sometimes it’s draining. Sometimes it’s downright discouraging and hopeless. Suffocating. And like the real asthmatic who knows exactly how to breathe and simply can’t, I know how I want my heart–my soul–to be and I simply can’t.
I don’t have any solutions or answers here–I’m simply inviting you into the struggle with me. But I acknowledge it’s a hopeful struggle. I cling to the goodness and solidarity of God’s promises like an inhaler. It doesn’t necessarily make things feel any better, but it’s what holds me together at all.
On that note, here’s a song I love that I listen to (and sing along with) as one way my soul cries out to God:
My friend Scott has waded through these waters publicly as well and it’s been to the good of my soul to be invited into his struggle with him, even though it’s horribly painful for him. You can find some examples here, here, and here (though his whole blog is worth reading).
Or more accurately a GYPSY. This article (warning: contains some mildly offensive language) does a pretty bang-up job of hitting the heart of my generation’s ongoing angst and cynicism. And when I say “my generation” (talking ’bout my geeeneration!), I definitely mean straight up “my”–because this nails my own low-level discontentment.
The fact is, I think I’m the bee’s knees. And I got tripped up in the article when the author said:
Even right now, the GYPSYs reading this are thinking, “Good point…but I actually am one of the few special ones”—and this is the problem.
What I find interesting is that the article links this discontentment to careers, as if that’s the main way that we build value and worth. I suppose for many that may be true. But that’s certainly not the only way people, even GYPSYs, find value. It might be in a creative pursuit. It might be in fame. Or success. Or religion. Or family.
For me, I see these same principles at work in my faith and in my family and in my friendships. Shoot, it’s even in my blogging. Since I feel like I’m so special, I’m yearning for everyone to see that specialness and just fawn over it. Ick, but true. Deeper down, there’s a yearning to see and find specialness everywhere–and a rejection of the mundane and ordinary. Yet mundane and ordinary are by definition the way things are most of the time. So why are they not good enough for me?
Deep down, I know there must be something better. And there is–it’s just not here yet. The glorious day when perfect and ordinary meet is the day Jesus comes back. That’s what we’re all waiting for, whether we realize it or not. It’s just that we channel that desire into our work or play or family or self-image or whatever. We try to make perfection instead of finding perfection in the Perfect Lamb. Not that I think that’s easy (that’s why faith is a fight), but it’s still right. And good.