October 2, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XV: Letting Go of Things We Embrace Too Tightly

Handling Loss and Weaknesses

For a long time I could not handle failure, suffering, loss and weakness. Failure to achieve things I set out to do just made me turn around and try even harder to get something done. Many times this “can do” attitude served me well but as I grew older, married and had kids I realized pushing harder didn’t always get things done. Sometimes it got things messed up faster. Kids required me to back off and go at their pace and this changed my attitude towards others then too. I realized that people are not machines and need to learn and sometimes force or forcing issues does not improve outcomes but actually diminishes and destroys them. Last year I encounter loss head on in the death of my father. It is in these times that you truly understand that the world and things of it are actually in God’s hands. I could do nothing for my father except watch him suffer a slow seemingly merciless fall into death. In the end I realized death was the mercy as his suffering was too great and I prayed in the end that the Lord take him home. It is quite humbling and either changes you or wrecks you.

What This Tells Us About Ourselves

The world still holds some sway over my life and as long as I am in the flesh this will never change. I will say that I fight it at the very core of my being when confronted with an unwillingness to allow myself to accept failure and weakness. I used to consider these effeminate traits and to me they were unmanly and intolerable. Then I read of Jesus who was the quintessential and ideal man and this stupid stereotype died the death it deserved. If I do not do this the stress of constantly fighting the world will ultimately take its toll on me and kill me young. Even Jesus needed time away from the crowds and was subject to failure such as preaching in His own hometown of Nazareth. There is a lot to learn in that example.

What Amounted to Failure Was Actually Success

My failure to keep a job in engineering eventually led to me pursuing the ministry fulltime. I worked hard and long to climb corporate ladders and get prestige in internationally renowned companies like Mack Trucks and Knoll Furniture only to find myself on the outside looking in when my services were no longer necessary in down economies. I went from being a valued “human resource” to an “expendable commodity”. I know ministry will be extremely difficult but at least I know I am working for Somebody that will never release me when things get bad. As long as I am faithful, I will be loved, important and utilizable to my new Boss. I gained handsomely in these losses. I have a better job that I love now and a better boss.

What About Us Do We Appreciate The Most?

Hmmm….how do I state this without sounding like and self-centered egotistical and pretentious freak? I guess I will just spit it out. I will focus on what I believe is a gift that was bestowed on me and is nothing in and of myself personally. I believe the thing I am most attached to about myself is the ability God gave me to write and expound upon thoughts in words. It comes out in my blog, papers for school, research for others and preparation for sermons. I cannot attribute the end product of my writing to myself. Often times what I end up with is not what I intended when I sat down to write. I do know who intended it though. So...if I lost it, it wasn't like it was mine anyway.

Materialistically, I would have to say my books are dangerously close to being idols and I purposely stopped myself from buying them recently unless I absolutely needed them for school. If there is one form of materialism or idolatry that I see pervasively throughout the pastorates, homes of ministers and church leadership ---it is books. We claim it is for research to get to know God better or prepare for teaching or preaching better…but doesn’t prayer work also? Hasn’t any pastor, elder or deacon heard of a LIBRARY? Are wall-to-wall bookshelves a mandatory requirement of pastors…eh…I don’t think so. We would be well advised to honestly take stock of our book inventories folks.

If They Made A Movie of Your Life...

What would I want people to say about me if I went to a dinner in my honor? If someone made a movie of my life what would be said and how would I be portrayed? As a horror flick? Inspirational? Slapstick comedy?

Well first I would tell them not to have a dinner, talk about me or make a movie about me...unless of course it was a Pixar cartoon and I looked like Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) from The Incredibles :)

I am, as Paul put it “δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ“ or “a slave of Christ Jesus”. Other than this I have little or no value and certainly no honor. In the truest sense I am nothing more than a clay vessel and I need to continue to view myself this way or I have already gone astray. I have chosen or have been chosen to walk this course I am now on. I have taken Jesus’ yoke for it is indeed easy. I’ve denied myself and decided to take up my cross daily. I no longer want to gain the whole world or anything of the world for that matter since it will all be considered loss on my dying day anyway. If it is not of Christ or in Christ I am not interested.

At the end of our lives we begin to divest ourselves of the things we acquired in life as we know none of them go with us. It pays to understand this young so the your journey here on earth is not burdened down with superfluous nonsense that means little to anyone. Traveling light allows your soul to be bouyant like a child's heart that leaps for joy at the sight of their Father when they finally come home to see Him.

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