Journal entry, 2-3-2015
To be honest I really don't have time to be journalling right now--my first mock exam is today and there's a stack of folders looking at me, waiting to be revised! I wish I could take my time to write my thoughts out, and pray about them, today.
As Search the Scriptures for Philippians 1:12-26 indicated, Paul's reaction to life and assessment of it was how it would enable or detract from loving, knowing, and serving Christ.
I need that.
Too easily I see life in terms of how it affects me physically and emotionally. When my peace is disturbed, when I'm stressed, dissatisfied, unhappy with someone, discouraged, helpless, the last thing I'm thinking about is how what I'm experiencing now will affect my relationship with Christ.
I just want it to stop hurting.
I wish I could see life in this way--its challenges, its uncertainties, its joys.
I wish I could see Christ in this way. Intimately connected to every detail and emotion and experience of my life.
This thought was echoed, though slightly modified, in a passage from Ken Sande's The Peacemaker (don't sigh. It's a pretty thick book, and I'm only about halfway through. It's probably boring for you seeing him tirelessly quoted here but really, it's far from boring reading for me. I believe that when you find yourself struggling with forgiveness and guilt it will be just as meaningful and significant to you. Thank God for book friends; who are always there, who transcend time and culture, who speak truth from the objective perspective of their pages, yet with a startlingly personal intimacy as direct as a wound.)
He says, '...I realized I could not consistently weave the gospel into my conversations with others until the gospel was woven deeply into my own heart. God showed me that I am a natural 'law speaker;' I bring judgment much more easily than I bring grace. When I saw this, I began praying for God to give me a major heart change, to make the gospel central to everything I think, say, and do...'
For Paul, someone who had indeed made the gospel 'central to everything I think, say, and do,' jail and rivalry didn't have any personal sting. He was even able to give thanks for them. This attitude kept him not only from discouragement and bitterness, but from self-pity, and even from pride; whether in himself or his hardship (yes, we're messed up that way.)
I want to be able to value Christ so much that He naturally comes first to my mind and heart whenever something happens, instead of being the after-thought--which sometimes only hits me years later in retrospect.
To see Him first in every shade and shaft of sun.
Draw near to God.
What exactly does that phrase mean, anyway? Besides being a popular line for countless worship songs, of course?
The problem about beautiful but vague and abstract phrases is that they're good for thinking on but not always for acting on. As I explain symbols and parables to my Sunday School children (why are we the light of the earth? why is Jesus the Lamb of God? why not goat?) I am reminded that they lose their significance if we merely treat them as nice set phrases or ideas, failing to discern the concrete application of truth behind them. As adults we too often take these symbols, metaphors, or expressions for granted, and in doing so we strip them of their power and purpose.
Perhaps it helps to think of the opposite--feeling distant from God, feeling disconnected and cold towards Him. The sort of feeling we have towards the real world after binge watching several seasons of our favourite show, for example...touché!
What do we do when that happens--how do we 'draw near to God?'
Believe me, I've been there so many times. I know I will continue to find myself there. When I'm busy. When I've got something on my mind, and heart; when I'm overwhelmed; but far more often, when everything is going smoothly and I'm all engrossed in everyday's self-centered quota of achievement and pleasure.
And I want to suggest two things which have helped me whenever I've fallen into that stagnant, lukewarm zone, found myself trapped in what felt like a spiritual syrup of diffidence.
Humility. We need to pray for His perspective with which to see ourselves. Pride is what keeps us from the truth about ourselves and the truth about God--and the fact that we need Him, desperately. Without humility, we don't know who we are, and we don't know who He is; we're only working on a false god we've created. A false or perverted perception of God is an idol we've made, whether we realize it or not.
Without humility, we fail to see why we even need to 'draw near to God' in the first place.
Worship. Whether alone, or with others. Just as we can't rescue a failing relationship without actually talking and spending time together; even if conversation lags, even if it feels awkward, even if you don't know what to say, or feel horribly insincere and pretentious. When was the last time praying felt like that to you?
Group worship, even if you feel disconnected from everyone, even if you feel no one cares if you're there; even if you don't particularly like the preacher or the style of preaching, is important. All those reasons highlight the other secondary things we go to church for; to have friends; to feel wanted; to agree; to be impressed. Good things, definitely. But also definitely not the main reason for going to church in themselves. Gosh, just get a dog or a ticket to a magic show for that.
The purpose of preaching and teaching is to discover truth about the person of God. And that starts with ourselves, with our heart. We could be served the world's best seafood but if we don't particularly like seafood in the first place we're obviously not going to appreciate it as much as we ought. If only for the simple reason that God has promised to bless our participation in group worship, that it is a means of grace, we should be there. Expecting and waiting to benefit, not because someone is in the pulpit, or someone remembered to greet us at the door, but simply because we trust God will bless, that our weak effort of coming despite the struggle we're in, is precious to Him.
And that, in essence, is perhaps what is most important of all. Knowing what we are, and knowing what He is like. Knowing that He will not leave us on our own, that He will draw us back.
The idea that the church reflects and witnesses for God to the world is something you probably hear in church at least eight times a year.
However, focusing too much on this may not--actually--be the best way to bring people to Christ.
Insert standard disclaimer--please don't automatically jump to the conclusion that I'm advocating the other extreme; that we ought to dissolve our churches and focus only on our own spiritual lives, reject the idea that the communal group identity of a church is at all important to being a Christian.
Of course it is.
Of course it is.
(I say that twice in case you blinked.)
Perhaps for some of you this isn't the case. Maybe in your churches now you're struggling with the opposite challenge, where people are too self-centred and unwilling to reach out, unwilling to love. If so that definitely is a bad witness, leading people to form a wrong idea of the God we profess to worship and live by (unfortunately don't we all misrepresent Him at one time or another?) and in that case you may not need to read this post at all in case you get the wrong idea, and take my thought out of context.
But the basic fact is that faith is a personal thing. It's not something that we can grow in someone, or that can spillover from others, nice as that would be; if that were the case there would be no heartbreak for Christian parents whose children have grown up to reject their parents' beliefs. Faith is something essentially personal, and essentially between God and the soul through Christ. There are no other interceders or parties concerned. If someone's professing faith depends on how kind you are to that person, if you think that you being able to remember everyone's birthdays means they will keep coming to church, if how bonded the youth group is is a direct correlation to how close they are to salvation, stop and think. When did salvation become so heavily dependent on our social interactions? As if the Holy Spirit took a backseat in His all-important work, and we somehow became His substitutes, trying to use niceness to convict and move hearts.
The witness which the love of God shining through a Christian can be to someone who does not believe is surely, in a world like this, truly beautiful, truly a glimpse that there is an ideal we've fallen short of, but an ideal that mercifully still exists in heaven. I have seen that in other lives. I have experienced it myself, and know how it helped me before and after becoming a Christian. And I believe that it is the very high, but inexpressibly beautiful calling of all Christians, to love. All the more beautiful for the contrast that it makes to the headlines we wake up to everyday, to the evil and hatred and incredible selfishness and cruelty we see in ourselves and others.
But when this becomes out focus, when we unconsciously equate 'being nice to people = bringing them closer to professing faith' then we've messed ourselves up. We set traps for ourselves. Thinking we are giving and caring unconditionally as Christ would have us, but actually building up expectations or a sense of entitlement (very naturally! aren't all other human relationships wired like this after all?) which cause us to recoil in hurt and anger when things don't turn out as we thought. When they are never able to believe, to see their need, to repent. When they hurt us. When they leave. When they backslide.
And we get angry. Struggle with resentment and bitterness, confused and bewildered where all those black emotions came from when we thought we'd been busying ourselves doing what was right. It becomes so easy to fling the blame on them, to accuse them of ungratefulness or--worse--hard-heartedness. I tried so hard, I did so much...it must be your fault.
And there it goes. Our nice image of a unified loving church, 'so close' to the vision of the body working in perfect harmony and beauty under its glorious Head in 1 Corinthians. Disillusion and cynicism follow the hurt and bitterness, maybe. Or long festering grudges we know we shouldn't have, but have grown so close to our hearts and egos that we can't bear to cut them out, knowing we have to radically rebuild ourselves if we do.
I heard once of someone who lamented, exactly with this attitude, about longtime visitors who had had 'years of meals with us but they still haven't believed in Christ!' I find this attitude in myself as well when I let myself get consumed by the enslaving assumptions that Christianity=niceness and being nice to people=part of the process of them becoming Christian. If this kind of attitude is present in how you look at or think of someone today, perhaps we need to stop being so unthinkingly 'nice and kind', and instead reconsider why we think it's so important to be 'nice and kind' in the first place.
In 2014 I wrote on this idea, if from a different angle, the idea that Christians = nice people.
It's worth taking a look at again, if I may say so, because it gives additional perspective to the same idea. (Looking back at that article I'm actually rather amazed I wrote it at all, and how I was bold--or thoughtless--enough to think I could discuss such a sensitive and tricky topic without being misunderstood and lashed out at! After all, I very nearly didn't post this, wondering if I really could explain and express myself clearly enough to avoid stumbling anyone.)
I hope I'm expressing my thoughts accurately because again, I recognize it may seem disturbing; yet, if you look back at the Bible, should be based on truth.
Likewise, we don't judge other Christians for not caring in the same way we do, or judge ourselves for not caring the way someone else does. All these petty details matter--if we're talking about people and how they respond. They don't if we're talking about God and His eyes which look not as men see, but at the heart--whether our heart, or the hearts of others.
Salvation by faith, not works.
The just shall live by faith.
Not by being nice.
The focus always ought to be Him--the why always ought to be Him. If our focus becomes 'so that they will believe', then we are no longer loving selflessly. Even though, and I stress this, it is and should doubtless be our desire that they do believe. But it should not be the underlying reason why. If it is, our actions become manipulations, like it or not. If it is, that explains why we don't actually love disinterestedly, unconditionally, but feel personally hurt and betrayed or offended when things don't work out as we assume they should ('after everything I've done.') If it is, then that explains why we're so shocked and dismayed when it becomes obvious that our church isn't perfect after all, that Christians aren't actually all nice, always nice, to each other or unbelievers.
If it is, then that's why we're so paranoid about preserving the appearance of a perfect church, why we feel a (unnecessary) personal pressure and pain when people don't come to faith or behave a certain way.
If it is, then we've subscribed to a cult of niceness that is most definitely not Christianity, even though Christianity is supposed to revolve around love. Because, though we may have gotten confused, the two are not the same thing.
We love because He first loved us. Not--even--because it can make others love Him.
'We love because He first loved us.'
Loving Christ can be vague. Sometimes a rush of nice warm fuzzy feelings convinces you that you're aglow with love, like the tangible flush of emotion when you emerge from a hug. Sometimes you feel so impossibly distant, as if you're staring at a static name on a piece of paper, trying to remember why it was once so important to you, trying to remember how it made you feel so much, wondering why nothing within you flickers when you read it anymore.
And we think confusedly, I need to love God more--but how? And we try confusedly to cultivate that warm fuzzy feeling. And we feel guilty when we fail, and we get discouraged, and we get disillusioned.
I am learning to see my love for Christ, not in the terms of how much I feel I love Him--which is how we tend to think about loving people--but how much I love other, lesser things more than Him.
I don't love Him more than I love my anger and bitterness, my sense of self-righteousness, my pride. I don't love Him more than my desire to hold grudges, to hurt those who hurt me. I don't love Him more than my desires for emotional fulfilment, for pleasure, for self-gratification, for security, for affirmation.
This sobers me and shows me, from a different angle, the major idols or obstacles in my spiritual growth, with a startling clarity that doesn't miss out or blur anything. Those things are more significant than I think they are. Some of them are truly good, yet keeping me from the Best; some of them shouldn't be there at all, as they are in direct opposition to Him. And yet I cling to them with a fierceness that surprises me, now that I compare it to the weakness with which I love You.
Do I really love You so little, when You have loved me so much?
We had been studying Margery Garbar's essays on Shakespeare's comedies, and one phrase in particular struck me from her analysis of Portia and Antonio from The Merchant of Venice. (Some background, for anyone who's not familiar--Portia is a witty, intelligent, beautiful and fabulously wealthy heiress beset by suitors; Antonio is a respected merchant prone to depression with few friends he really cares for--like basically, one. Who happens to be the lucky guy that wins Portia, by the way. There is also a gorgeous adaptation of the play starring Jeremy Irons and Al Pacino, but here I'm clearly getting sidetracked.) Garbar analyzed both characters as 'trapped in a death-like ennui of self-sufficient self', needing to commit to the risks of relationships.
I memorized this quote for writing essays, and thought it was interesting. I didn't expect it would resurface in my mind months after finals (and happily forgetting most of what I'd so painfully memorized) when I looked at my own life. Certainly not expecting it would come together, for me, with that quote of Elisabeth Eliot's about 'a life of unmitigated selfishness' (from Shadow of the Almighty) a quote which once meant so much to me; and even C.S Lewis in The Four Loves.
Now, I understand the cynical--I used to think, overly cynical--view of relationships as potential hurt. Caring for someone essentially means making yourself vulnerable. As C.S Lewis so poignantly and beautifully said, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
And that is what I am currently learning to accept, not to become embittered, not to withdraw. Like everyone, I am afraid of heartbreak, of loss, of suffering. I am afraid of getting hurt. Of people I love getting hurt. At the first breath of conflict my instinctive response is to retreat, to withdraw into myself, to pull my circle of relationships closer and tighter once more around myself. The bubble of self-sufficient self is attractive; it seems to promise us escape from the pain and conflict that come with human relationships. Something whispers to me that I cannot afford to love people--so much, or so many--because it will end up hurting me.
Yet something also whispers that Another loved, at the cost of ultimate hurt. Knowingly.
He embraced, not a few, but so many; embraced vulnerability in the giving of so much love, love which was still unrequited as yet.
"...and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me..."
As the familiar words hang in the air, I close my eyes, the better to concentrate in the stillness.
Stop. Put it all from your mind--the Sunday School lesson you have to teach later; the dreaded week lying beyond today; the air conditioning which doesn't seem to be working; the annoying tag scratching the back of your neck.
1 Corinthians 11:27 echoes in my mind as it wanders and I hastily, guiltily pull my thoughts together, scandalized to find myself worrying about something left undone even as I try to focus.
This is the Lord's Supper. A time to be still. A time to reflect. A time to repent, to receive, to renew.
I remember my failures, and am sobered.
How badly I have shown my love for You. How little I have thought of Yours.
I feel humbled for the grace shown to me, and grateful.
I resolve to try.
I've failed, and I know I will still fail, but I never want to stop trying; I never want to give up on myself, to give up Your love for me, to keep trying to be worthy of it.
As I do this--as I take that small white square of chewy tasteless bread, swallow the red liquid, actions which happen and are over in a moment, which are effortless, yet mean so much more--I promise to try. I promise You, Whom I love. I promise myself. I reaffirm my desire--to love You--to be worthy of Your love for me--to please You--to know You, in my life.
I want this.
No matter how many times I fall short.
Or how far I fall short.
This little ritual reminds me that to You, it doesn't matter. That I can try, I can keep trying, reassured by hope.
I want You and I want to live worthy of You.
Opening my eyes, I look up, and the last taste of sweetness fades away in my mouth.
When I ask God for something, I ask much the way the stereotypical teenager asks the stereotypical parent in Hollywood movies for a favour--tentatively, warily. Oh please, I want this so much! I gasp helplessly, while acknowledging mentally, But I know you don't want to give it to me, or you don't think you should give it to me!
My attitude towards God's answering prayer tends to be dubious and almost apologetic. I'm not sure that He will actually give it to me, or I'm very conscious that maybe He disapproves of what I'm asking for.
Hands behind my back, eyes fixed on my feet. Tentatively. "...please?"
As if God is embarrassed to have to listen to and answer my requests, since I know how small and possibly foolish they are to Him. With this attitude, naturally it tends to feel like a very private affair. I feel as if His answer--whether yes or no--was something strictly between the two of us.
Examining David's prayer in Psalm 40:11-17 and the motivations behind it made me see that I needed to change my attitude towards asking, and my motivations for asking. David's request was motivated by his trust in the person of God. This, by the way, is becoming a recurrent theme recently in my thoughts, writing, and reading. I apologize if it seems repetitive-I probably ought to write it out nicely in one cohesive post instead of letting it seep through messily in different ones; but truth can't be compartmentalized. More on that later (ironical as that sounds!)
Also, by his own humility and his blamelessness, two qualities which so easily become either-or. Humility, at least for me in my own experience, often only comes when I've messed up, when I'm not blameless. Likewise, with the same irony, blamelessness is rare but also always threatened by pride. You can't know you're blameless without feeling good about it, can you? Just as it's hard to be truly humble without the help of guilt and repentance. How to reconcile both of these seemingly oppositional virtues?
It is always meaningful to see how the truth of the Old Testament constantly ties in with the New Testament, and this was one of those instances, when I frowned over this paradox and suddenly realized that the only answer to this was the unique status we receive through Christ. The unique status of being simultaneously forgiven and perfect, simultaneously sinner and saint.
This was another reminder to me just how significant a role Christ has in our prayers. Just this morning I said grace in my halting Chinese with my grandma, congratulating myself when I made it through to the Amen. For those who struggle with praying publicly, it is nothing compared to praying in a language you're not competent with! If that gives you any comfort. I opened my eyes only to see her bright round eyes fixed reproachfully on me. I'd neglected to close with the Chinese equivalent of 'In Jesus' name,' for the simple reason that I forgot how to say it, and she reminded me sternly that without Christ we 'couldn't pray properly.' She is absolutely right, and I am glad my Chinese failed me then, for that reminder.
Prayer should remind us of Christ and His importance to us, whether in our requests to God, or simply in enabling us to pray at all.
But perhaps most strikingly, David's request was fueled by his confidence in how God saw his request--in his knowledge that answering his prayer was not a personal favour from God to him, but something which actually glorified God, something which made not only him, but the rest of God's people rejoice, and be encouraged by.
Think of it. God's answering your prayer actually glorifies Him. It blesses not just you alone, but others.
How's that for courage to ask?
And courage to talk more about your prayer life?
(which is what I need)
I grew up writing sermon notes every Sunday.
My parents guided us along from sleeping throughout the service, to sitting quietly with some toys, to drawing, and then drawing something related to the sermon--however vaguely--to copying their sermon notes, and finally writing our own. This all happened so gradually and naturally that it is still a habit with me today--one I am profoundly thankful for, as it helps me to focus (and stay awake, during those tough caffeine-immune days!)
Of course, it's also a transferrable skill and an invaluable advantage when you're in the classroom. My appreciation for this reached a whole new level when I entered university--but I digress.
I am grateful for this habit, though I used to chafe at the amount of space all those years' worth of sermon note books took up in my limited shelf space. It's true that I seldom flip back on those notes, and have forgotten most of those sermons. But like I once read somewhere, just because you've forgotten a sermon doesn't necessarily mean you didn't benefit from it. Just like how you are alive today because of all the meals your mother cooked for you, even though you can't remember them, even though you perhaps didn't like all of them.
Notes help you to remember. And sometimes as you reread them you catch something in the gleanings that you missed before.
Here is one thought that I found when gleaning through my sermon notebooks, from a sermon my father preached a while back. I loved this thought--it opened my eyes to the significance of these two words, which we so often use almost interchangeably, almost unthinkingly, when we talk about God.
Mercy and grace--two separate things that together symbolize the completeness of God's love and goodness towards us.
They are similar, aren't they, and yet they have such beautifully different meanings:
Mercy is not getting what you deserve;
whereas grace is getting what you don't deserve.
To have a God who shows us both is indeed something to be awed by.
Mercy was Christ dying on the cross to take away the condemnation hanging over our heads.
Grace was Christ giving us hope, the Spirit to change and guide us, and most of all His love to empower us.
Without one, divine love would be different, would be less than perfect, would not fulfill how devastatingly needy we are. Why they are so easily blended into each other is because when we give thanks for one, very naturally (and rightly) we give thanks for the other, we recognize how intrinsically linked they are. We need both.
And He is both.
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
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