It's hard not to be self-centered when you're focused on being productive.
That is unfortunately one more challenge to worry about when you're working hard.
I found a 'Busy Week Prayer' in my journal, that I had scrawled after an extended hectic schedule left me realizing that I had drawn more and more into myself, had gradually shrunk my world to my to-do list, and was increasingly feeling like I didn't have the time--energy--emotional stamina--to focus on relationships, to listen when someone needed to talk, to think over things, and to meet needs.
You are so wrapped up in being disciplined, in using your time well, even in getting your devotions done every morning and being able to go to prayer meeting, for example, that those become your priorities every day, priorities which are legitimate because after all they are about you--but which, for the very same reason, shouldn't be the only ones in your life.
Help me with what I have to do today,
give me the strength which I so often assume I have,
but when it fails me, realize I don't and can't control it.
as I focus on working hard and I worry about not wasting time,
to keep my perspective on what is truly important.
People You have put in my life.
Help me even as I get things done, to value these accomplishments only as much as they are worth, and as much as I should.
Help me to think of You even at my busiest.
Help me to be patient and trust Your providence when something interrupts my plans and when I don't manage to do what I wanted to do.
Help me, above all, to not become self-centered in the midst of all this activity. In the midst of all these to-do lists, help me not to get wrapped up in self-sufficiency and self-reliance, in the pursuit and achievement of what I want and what I have planned, in the exploration of my ability.
Help me to remember who I am, and why I am here, and why I am doing this at all.
To be young in this world is a big thing.
For those of us who are young, we're being told what to do, what it means to be this particular age, what being grown up is. We're shown examples of what we should be or at least aspire to be in the media, what defines a certain age, what we should compare ourselves to.
For those of us who are older, we feel keenly what we've lost, feel keenly the relentless onward pull of time, feel regret as we look back and anxiety as we look forward.
Hence the insecurity, sometimes even panic, that often characterizes the passing of time to us.
I had always had huge plans for myself and my life, with a vague idea that they would be magically kickstarted when I reached 18 and started becoming an adult, started becoming important enough for things to happen to me. (I partially blame it on movies and books which endlessly portrayed 18 as the threshold age from which adventures began, princesses met their princes, ugly ducklings became swans, hidden young talents were discovered and shot to fame. *cough*) It was rather traumatic to hit 18 and realize that in fact nothing had changed. Trying to live up to the expectations I'd had of this specific period in life, of being this old. Constantly blaming and disappointing myself when I saw glimpses of my ideal in other people or the media. Why can't I have that too? Why don't I? There's something I didn't do, have to do, should have done. Did I waste those years? Am I wasting my time now? Brief moments of pride over achievements, tantalizing if destructive comparisons.
My prayers were endless variations on Psalm 37: 3-4--struggling to trust, clinging desperately to my dreams. So many journal entries, sometimes verging on tears, trying to understand, pleading with God to grant me the desires of my heart.
Basically, I went through both extremes outlined in the opening paragraphs of this post (all before I was 21--I suppose I should be better prepared for mid-life crisis now.) The insecurity and anxiety associated with youth, trying to handle getting older with the baggage of expectations and ideals; and the insecurity and anxiety associated with losing youth, trying to handle getting older with the baggage of unfulfilled expectations and disillusions.
This was not the way I wanted to live and this was certainly not the life Christ had died to give me.
I would like to challenge the way you see growing older.
What is age to you? Developing your own fashion sense--earning your own income, maybe a specific number of digits--being seen as an adult by others--finding likeminded and supportive friends--starting your own family--establishing a career--having certain privileges?
Or on the flip side, having to face responsibilities. Having to make your own decisions, and be responsible for the consequences. Dealing with grief, Disillusionment with people and relationships, Losing hair, losing health, feeling like a failure.
I would like to challenge you instead to see growing older--whichever way you see it now--as growing in grace.
For the Christian, growing older loses the all-consuming finality (and therefore significance) that it has from a secular perspective. In a secular perspective, growing older is--understandably so--an increasingly ominous reminder that life is short and life will come to an end, and what have you done with it, as it slips relentlessly through your fingers like a bar of soap? But in our perspective, a perspective of eternity, growing older is a phenomenon that is limited to our life on earth where time exists. The time we have here is the first stage of a journey towards sanctification, a journey defined by grace. Age, whether that to you means approaching the golden zenith of life or having to leave it behind, is merely our reminder that we won't get to stay in this level forever.
And if that's the case, then even unfulfilled expectations, even disillusionment, lose their sting. How we handle them as such become more important, while they in themselves become less important. The challenges of knowing God, of obeying Him and reflecting Him, become the consistent underlying theme. I want to be able to stop worrying so much about my past and my future, to stop trying to control my life with five-year plans and self-improvement programs, to stop being obsessed with whether I've fulfilled the expectations of myself and others for this age.
I am older now.
And instead of examining how many ticks we can make on our plans, how many items we've crossed out on our bucket list, how that changes the way others see us and how we behave around them, ask yourself--
Am I humbler?
Am I kinder?
Do I trust more?
Do I reflect God better, with less of myself?
This attitude towards getting older is humbling because it's such a high calling. It is a much simpler goal to retire before 30 in comparison to manifesting the glory of the Creator of the Universe.
Yet on the other hand, since we know that our complete sanctification will not take place here, and that we can expect to keep making mistakes until we finish this stage and level up--it is also empowering. No need to feel insecure or anxious, knowing that each mistake we make is covered by grace and is in fact a means for us to grow. No need to feel we're failing expectations, because in fact, Christ's death for us marks God's recognition of how we have failed and He has made up for our failure.
As we get older, surely what should matter most to us is whether we have grown--in humility, in trust, in selflessness, in compassion, in a better understanding of and love for God, in grace...
Getting older, for the Christian, should be experiencing more grace, and growing in grace.
this article was published on The Rebelution with minor changes here
We are a reactive generation.
In a world where worldviews have become more diverse than ever--
--where most people live without thinking too much until something happens which jolts them irrevocably out from their comfort zones--in a world where power belongs to the instant and currently trending--
--where the scope of impact means more than the depth of impact--
--where 25 million shares make an article important--
--this is an inevitable consequence of our culture. We've become people of extremes.
We are a generation of people who have been encouraged to react rather than think--hence the tendency towards extremes and blowing things out of proportions.
If only we had principles that guided us. Even when there was no controversial article on Facebook that we felt we had to make a stand on.
If only we thought about things more before they became a trending issue that too quickly polarizes people with the violence of nuclear fusion--and consequently demands a response from us in the first ten seconds after we find out about it.
If only, we were able to consider the big picture before unthinkingly following our dominant emotion (which usually has already been manipulated by the writer of the article, or the photographer, or the person telling it to us.)
If only we took time to think, and realize that things sometimes aren't as simple as taking sides--or writing a long comment--or sharing the post on our page.
We are the generation of people who are outstandingly passive around others, coming home to wage astonishingly intense Youtube comment wars behind the safety of our computer screens.
If only we were less reactive, and more active.
Society calls Christians bigots and extremists and narrow-minded and they often have a point. The fact that this doesn't exclude non-Christians is, of course, not mentioned--but it does highlight how great the damage is when anyone, subscribing or identifying with a cause, unthinkingly reacts.
If we thought more--
and reacted less.
In his book The Peacemaker, Ken Sande included an interesting insight on the difference between a reaction and a response. A reaction is usually highly emotional and volatile, something you can't (or don't bother to) control. In contrast, a response indicates a more thoughtful and purposeful attempt to address the issue at hand and bring it to a conclusion or solution. (Facebook's new 'react' option, after all, is just that--click a stylized emoticon from the list given to you, it takes just one second. I would have liked to use the simile of the 'reacting' versus commenting on Facebook, except that even Facebook comments have an infamous reputation for being hyper reactive!)
Reactions are unstable, unreliable, uncontrollable, because of the speed with which they take place. So instead of waiting for the next chemical to drip into our stagnant beakers, perhaps we should spend some times stabilizing our solution--even if there's nothing to disturb it at present--so we don't erupt at the next catalyst. Maybe we needn't erupt at all. Or maybe we don't have to join the ranks of everyone around us whose reactions are limited to blue or red smoke.
Respond--don't just react.
...but of course, no one has the time...
My God is an intensely personal God.
He is deeply interested in me, not just in my soul, but in my life, my joys, sorrows, delights, loves, tears, failures. Because they are the story He has written for me, His protagonist.
He is interested in what I am interested in, delights in what I delight in, because He created both me and the thing which delights me, with the intention that I should find the same pleasure in it which He experiences ....
C.S Lewis had written a metaphor on how Christ's incarnation was like a playwright writing Himself as a character in his play, in order to interact with His characters--a perspective which charmed me. Here was Someone who knew me perfectly and took a keen, even personal interest in everything that happened to me as my Creator--so much so that He wrote Himself into my story to make Himself known to me.
This thought particularly appealed to me, as a writer who naturally feels a deep affinity with characters I've created. (I remember once mourning for a particularly endearing character over a week after deciding he had to die tragically.) To think that every detail about me was personal to Him, in the same way the crooked smile or penchant for caviar I'd given to a character was to me.
I love to think of Him this way. As my Writer.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are