- 1 Love
- 1.1 Strange Desires (November 20, 2011)
- 1.2 Identity (November 25, 2011)
- 1.3 Fear of Change (December 6, 2011)
- 1.4 The Problem of Pride (December 27, 2011)
- 1.5 Accepting Change (January 1, 2012)
- 1.6 Impossible Goals (January 11, 2012)
- 1.7 Perfection vs. Action (January 14, 2012)
- 1.8 Buy a Real Book!
- 1.9 Continue Reading…
Simple faith is beautiful. Knowing and believing nothing other than Jesus is a wonderful experience. From the moment I placed my faith in what Jesus did for me instead of my own understanding, I was held secure. I had no doubt that my life was different
However, until the glimmer of hope I received in Oxford, I did not realize just how much different my life was about to become. The work had already started, but it had no defined ending point. I would always look forward in hope to a more beautiful understanding of what I knew by faith.
But hope that is delayed leads to a struggle of faith like the one in the previous chapter. I wanted so badly to rush into the future I had seen that I almost destroyed the possibility of its existence. A promise from God is not something that I must struggle for; all I have to do is follow faithfully and trust Him to work it out.
The promise that I understood in Oxford would eventually begin to show itself in three particular steps. First, I would come to know the One who had made the promise. Second, I would come to understand the way in which the promise would come true. Third, I would begin to live in the reality of the promise.
Before any of this, though, I had to reassess my priorities in light of what I was coming to know. The proof of faith is not in belief, but in action – not in action, but in love.
Strange Desires (November 20, 2011)
I am reorienting life in a way that doesn’t make sense. I have found it is all about love. Life cannot be about projects and accomplishments it’s about the people one loves in and through them.
Sometimes I wish I could live a life of passion and love. I wish to be so excited about a thing so much that I can’t sleep, to love people so much that I don’t care about anything else, to know how to relate to people in the way they need, to enjoy every minute because of love and life, and most of all, to end this aimless, self-focused wandering through this life I don’t understand toward a goal I can only reach in my imagination.
Every day is a fight to continue moving in this difficult direction. Even though I know my value comes from God, I still worry about what other people are thinking. This paralyzes my confidence and keeps me from successfully enjoying life. I am scared to be passionate, find it hard to care, and don’t know how to love someone else without selfishness.
Knowledge and principles are easy to understand; but love… that is my challenge. Love is like dancing. It takes practice, and it can’t be done alone. I need an instructor and a partner. Here I have both. So I need to pick up the courage I have left, go step on a few toes and learn this dance called life. It won’t be perfect – it never is – but I can enjoy every minute of the adventure and give my best to those I practice with.
Identity (November 25, 2011)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. And, love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). My purpose in life is to show others God’s love, but to do that, I must first know God’s love for me.
As I was thinking about this I came across the idea that when God identifies Himself as ‘I am,’ He is referring to himself in a way that I, as His creation cannot. God is the only being who does not need to submit to any other for He is Himself the standard for all things. This is why He is the only being who can say He is “I Am” (Exodus 3:14). Apart from Him, I am not. I cannot define myself independent of something other than myself (an action, belief, thought, or thing). Without my context, I am not. Thus, I cannot say that I am.
Trying to define myself in relationship to others becomes a competition where value is based on achievement. There is a constant fear that I may not measure up to the standard by which I define myself. This destroys my ability to love completely because love requires humility. Pride fights to insure my reputation and tricks my mind into thinking that I actually am. I am independent. I am individual. I live in fear because everything around me threatens my attempt to find meaning in my existence this way.
Perfect love casts out fear. But to approach perfect love, one must abandon the pride of self-definition and humbly accept what cannot be earned, only given. What is freely received can be freely given. What is earned is difficult to give away. Therefore, if I desire to love people, I must first come to define myself by the love that another (God) has toward me. When I define myself by Him, I am free to give the identity of ‘loved’ that He has given to me, to others. When my identity is a gift that I am given, I am no longer afraid of losing who I am. In humility, I know love. In love, I no longer live in fear.
To stay in this place, I must fight against pride. For pride will not let me accept what I cannot deserve. In fact, pride will lead me, in my acceptance of love, into a position of servitude: trying to earn what I have already been given.
Fear of Change (December 6, 2011)
Despite the humbling process, I once again feel my pride emerging. I want to know God better than anyone else and be more mature in my faith than all the students around me who are younger than I am. However, God is teaching me humility by all the things I have to learn from freshmen and sophomores.
Apparently, knowing God who is wisdom is much more valuable than learning about the God who is wisdom. Having Him for a teacher really advances an education. Though He is my teacher, I constantly struggle with the desire to run my own educational program. Every day is a fight to submit to what He wants me to learn.
[But pursuing God], understanding the work of the Holy Spirit, and interacting with God is still confusing to me. Because I don’t want to embrace new ideas just for being different than what I am used to, I am often scared to stretch my understanding of who God is. A good friend reminded me that I need to trust God to teach me the lessons He wants me to learn rather than try to make sure I don’t screw up. His job is to create the path; my job is to follow (Proverbs 3:6)
The Problem of Pride (December 27, 2011)
Over Christmas break, I read a book by a man who had his ‘God bubble’ shattered like mine was. He succinctly outlined the idea that faith in one’s knowledge and understanding can be the most difficult problem to identify in a person professing Christianity. Because the language is similar and the goal is the same, the difference is hard to identify. Furthermore, the pride of the individual prevents him from actually seeing the pride as a problem and is rationalized as being the same thing as genuine faith. Faith requires some absence of perfect understanding or it is not faith at all.
I used to have a ‘perfect’ understanding of what I believed and thought that it was faith. Now, I do not understand what I believe and struggle to understand something of the life-long process, or eternity-long process of learning I have begun. For one who used to know the right answer, it is difficult to be content with faith that the right answer is a Being so far beyond my comprehension that I will be learning to understand Him for eternity.
Accepting Change (January 1, 2012)
Change: As long as I continue to question who I am and where I am going, I can expect to become the right kind of person in the appropriate place. Once I become comfortable with who and where I am, then I am not the right person or in the right place. The process of change is not about arrival. What I am includes who I can and will be. Nothing is final until death. With that in mind, if I become good at something it will be at managing the change. My stability comes from the consistency of changing-ness.
My toast for the New Year last year was to passion. This year it was to new adventures. My passion is discovered. My passion is love. It is not a career, hobby, person, or idea, but a lifestyle that I can pursue and be driven by no matter what my circumstances are. It took a while for me to eventually recognize the value of love. It has been even harder to learn how to give and receive love. But the pain and joy I have felt have made the experience worth the trouble and given value to my life that I have never before known.
The new adventures this year will be a continuation of the last as I continue to learn what it means to love and be loved. It will be exciting to see the new environment I encounter after graduation and the effects it has on my pursuit of love.
Impossible Goals (January 11, 2012)
In chapel tonight, I found myself frustrated by the lack of emotion I and the others around me seemed to feel. It’s like we go through the motions of worship, but don’t really know what we’re doing. I am more frustrated with the amount of thinking that I do on things other than God even when I have the chance to praise Him.
Even though I had caught a vision of the direction I wanted to go, I realized that it was very difficult to get there. Considering my thoughts from a month earlier, I should have realized that it was impossible for me to reach the standard of love that I desired.
Romans 8:3 says, “The law [defining good and evil] could not set me free because it was weak in the flesh, but the Spirit of Christ that is in me now fulfills the law when I walk after him.” In other words, knowing what is right does not give me the ability to do what is right. I would discover where this ability comes from as I struggled to understand the shy nature of my religious practice.
Perfection vs. Action (January 14, 2012)
I really don’t know how to pray. In fact, I don’t know how to stay focused on God. In my attempt to love others, I succeed for a short time and then fail dramatically. It is easier for me to vainly search for my acceptance through others than to contentedly seek to love them knowing I am loved. It is interesting how the acceptance and belonging everyone wants is so available, yet so difficult to choose.
…I have seen the emptiness in the first choice and know the thrill of participating in the second. For some reason, the natural choice is one that defies what I know, desire, and feel in favor of something I can understand and control. I think it is because my faith is still so small.
…I am sick of my private Christianity that works fine in my bedroom but not anywhere else. I could blame my neediness for my fear of fully getting into worship during chapel or for making me afraid of praying or reading the Bible when other people might notice me. I am scared of letting others see my relationship with God. I don’t know why. It may be fear that my religion is nothing more than show.
There is really no reason why I shouldn’t be excited to share this love with everyone around me. Even though I am inexperienced in walking with God, that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. He has given me a vision of His Kingdom that is the one thing I am really passionate about. As long as I try to hide this passion from others, I will be frustrated.
This vision must be shared for it is one of hope and joy and love and peace that can change the world. It is not too big to begin with just one person and it will not end with me unless I choose to silently let it die.
I don’t have to see its complete fulfillment in my life in order to live by and share the hope that it offers. It is time to submit my intellect to my heart and let the Holy Spirit work through me to bring this life to others.
So here I am trying to pray for others and finding that my job is not to fantasize about what could be, but to participate in what already is. I am given to action for a reason. I am also given to dreaming for a reason. Action without a dream has little value, but a dream without action is frustrating.
Having the goal of love is not the same as passionately loving every day. Loving others and teaching them to follow God can happen only after I am completely fulfilled by my other relationship: the one with God. This is where prayer comes in. I must be close to God so that I can see the way that He sees and speak what He would say. Once again, though, this is easy to theorize about, but so difficult to practice.
It is terrible to have a dream that is just within reach, but then find it cannot be reached through one’s actions. I wanted so badly to know love, but found it impossible. I did not have love to give away. I could not generate what was not a part of my nature.
In theory, I understood what needed to happen. In practice, I found it impossible. My quest had changed from faith to love, but I found that neither one came naturally to me. It was this disconnect between normal life and faith that made both aspects of Christianity very frustrating. I trusted Jesus, but I wanted my life to be different. I still lived and acted just like everyone around me.
When would I come to experience the intersection of faith and life that I had so clearly understood for the flash of a second while I walked in prayer beside the river in England?
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