Idols

I bent over my journal, pen in hand, trying to deal with good things that have turned into supreme things in my life.

“Just take this idol from my hands. I want to be done with it!” I cried inside my head, a lump in my throat. As soon as I glimpsed the reason behind that plea, the lump in my throat turned into tears in my eyes. I wanted the idol stripped from my hands — that’s all well and good — but my motive was sobering to me.

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I realized that I only wanted the idol gone now that it had turned on me. Now that it was causing me pain. Now that it was controlling me, not the other way around.

Big tears fell over the realization that in that moment, my desire to smash my idol came out of a need to self-protect in the midst of pain, not out of grief over hurting my Savior and replacing him with a poor substitute.

I want my desire to dethrone idols to stem from a deep realization that they’re offensive to the God I love, that they’re taking his rightful place in my heart. I want to work daily to dethrone them, asking the Lord to do what I can’t do in myself, prying open my hands and changing my heart.

CS Lewis talks about how our love for God is deeply based in our need for Him and goes on to say “… our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knitted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.”

What a comfort to know I belong to a God who can untie the knots in my life and my heart and tie up the loose ends that my hands are grasping at.

The idols to which I turn do a shabby job of filling the spaces in my heart that ache with emptiness. That is true. And they are an act of unfaithfulness to the one who loves me again and again.

May the good things in my life that I have given a supreme place be ousted to the proper position in my life as I am overcome with the beauty of Jesus and grieved by my sin that throws His faithfulness in his face.

Esta bien no estar bien

Llorar en el aeropuerto. Me ha pasado varias veces y no lo recomiendo. Nadie quiere ser esa persona llorando por el terminal, pero si te pasa a ti, hay que aceptarlo.
Hace un par de años, estaba llorando en el aeropuerto justo antes de subir al avión – gotas grandes y no pararon. El chico escaneó mi tarjeta de embarque, me miró y me dijo, “Esta bien no estar bien.”

Empecé a llorar más porque en ese momento no estuve bien y no tenía la energía para ponerme una sonrisa y decir, “Estoy bien.” Respiré y cabeceé con una sonrisa de agradecimiento. No había necesidad de presentarme como una persona perfecta con la vida arreglada para subir al avión. Está bien llorar por el terminal. Está bien no estar bien.

Da algo de libertad cuando alguien te da permiso no estar bien. Un día una conocida me pidió disculpas por ser un Eeyore y no un Tigger ese día. Dijo que estaba desanimada por varios motivos. Le dije, “No me pidas disculpas. Está bien no estar bien.” Me miró y lo reiteró, como si nunca hubiera estado segura de la idea: “Si que esta bien no estar bien, verdad?”

Después me preguntó si la podía usar la frase en su próxima obra de arte. Quizás me haga famosa. O debería ser famoso ese chico que trabaja con la aerolínea, que no me conoció, pero no se encogió al ver mis lágrimas.

¿Por qué te abates, oh alma mía, y te turbas dentro de mí? Espera en Dios; porque aún he de alabarle, Salvación mía y Dios mío.” (Salmos 42:5) Dios puede con mis tristezas y quiere que esté con él, esté como esté. No tengo que arreglarme antes de acercarme a él. Pero tampoco me quedo así, compadeciéndome. Hablo con mi propia alma, dando importancia a lo difícil que estoy viviendo, pero también diciéndome que hay que esperar, hay que cantar, hay que alegrarme en Dios.

“Oye, Rebecca, escúchame, que te tengo que hablar. Te voy a recordar de algunas cosas, alma mía.” Allí está la diferencia. Se puede tener dolor, y reconocerlo, pero aun así tener una paz profundo que solo Dios me da y una alegría que no cambia con las circunstancias de la vida.

Estés donde estés hoy, pases lo que pases, acuérdate que está bien no estar bien. No hay que fingir. Déjate pasar por el duelo. Rodéate con la gente que te va a abrazar sin palabras y después, en el debido tiempo, va a ayudarte a sanar, a aprender del duelo, y a seguir adelante. Y después da a alguien en tu vida el permiso no estar bien contigo si realmente no está bien. Compartamos las alegría de la vida juntos y también las cargas y tristezas.

Wasting Years or Wasting Moments

We sat at dinner. The sun had already gone and the day was almost over. We sat in silence and we also talked and I replied: “Thinking about the future only overwhelms me because it makes me want to be sure I’m living well right now. Down the road, I don’t want to regret how I’m living now, or what I did or didn’t do.”

I don’t want to waste the years. And that is good, but my guess is that we get caught up in not wasting the years and forget to make sure we don’t waste the minutes.

In the end, I wonder if its that the years can’t really be wasted, only the minutes can be wasted.

La imagen puede contener: flor, planta, naturaleza y exterior

The years are part of our story, so they’re never really worth throwing out. Because when we look back at the fabric of our lives — the years woven together, the string that runs through them, God’s hand through it all — we see how it all works together. The years, they weren’t wasted even if at the moment they felt like it. Even if they were filled with suffering or plans that didn’t work out or experiences that others would label a “mistake” or “failure.”

Of course we should try to live our years well, with the people we need to be with, doing what we should be doing, where we should be doing it. But instead of fretting so much about whether or not we have wasted years, maybe it’s better to focus on living the moments well, no matter where (or how) we find ourselves in any given year.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:24

Quick to do good

Recently I set out on a secret helping mission — the kind where you surprise someone with something they need or secretly do something to help. Secret helping missions are fun.

But this time I was on the bus home, frustrated because my mission had failed. I had a great idea, set out to do it, and it just didn’t pan out. I texted another friend, expressing my frustration and she replied, “So what do you think about the adage ‘It’s the thought that counts’?”

I replied: “Not sure. I think it’s dumb I guess.”

person using smartphone(photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

Because it’s not really the thought that counts, is it? That day on the bus home it wasn’t my thought that counted because the idea in my head meant nothing to the friend I was trying to help.

I’ve said it plenty myself. “Oh well, it’s the thought that counts,” I say when I have a great idea, try to do it, and it just doesn’t work out. It’s the thought that counts.

Or is is the trying that counts?

Good thoughts that don’t turn into action don’t count for much. In the end all the good ideas in the world do nothing to bring comfort, to relieve pain, to encourage, to help, to build up.

Thoughts turned into actions are what count, even if the effort isn’t a perfect, raging success. The trying is what counts. The obedience to do the good thing is what counts. My heart is changed and filled and, if all goes well, the people around me are changed as well.

“Every day you can do one thing you you wish you could do for everyone. We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.” – Ann Voskamp

person washing fork(photo by Catt Liu)

It’s about the trying, the showing up, the being there, the doing, the putting thoughts into actions, even if those attempts don’t have a 100% success rate. Sometimes helping is awkward. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. It’s okay. The showing up is what matters.

A few months ago I was thinking and praying a lot about what it would mean for me to be quick to do good. Quick to help. Quick to love. Quick to serve. So that if an idea pops into my head, I won’t spend time thinking about it, coming up with why it’s inconvenient, why I don’t have time, or why it would be awkward (and my selfish heart is very good at that!).

Instead, I want to learn how to jump into action, to get right to the good that God put in my mind to do. I want to learn how to let the love of Jesus quickly compel me into action. I want to be quick to be selfless. Quick to go on lots of fun, secret helping missions.

That’s what counts, isn’t it? Being ready to do good, quick to act, efficient at turning thoughts into actions. Quick to serve and make it fun, even if it’s a little messy.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

 

 

Names have power

“Names have power, like magic spells. And all of a sudden it seemed to her that her stepmother and stepsisters had indeed transformed her into merely a creature of ash and toil.” – Cinderella

His tiny hand was raised in the air, waiting, itching to answer the question. I called him by name.

Considering I cross paths with over 600 students in any given month, learning names is basically an impossibility. Why then, I asked myself, did I know his name? His hand went down when he heard his name and another student whispered, “That’s so cool that Rebecca knows his name!”

I realized that I only knew his name because he’s one of the rowdy ones. One of the talkative, can’t-sit-still, doesn’t-do-his-work sort of children. And his name is frequently called because of that.

He answered my question perfectly, beaming from ear to ear, while I thought about NAMES.

I wondered what other names he had been given other than the one on his birth certificate. Annoying? Trouble? Lazy? And I thought how sad it would be if he thought those names were the truth about him.

We love to call things by a name. We give children names that they’ll keep for a lifetime, we give dogs names when we decide we want them to be ours. We give ourselves additional names that we think fit, like athlete or lazy or driven-student. And other people give us names that they think we need, like mom or worthless or friendly or weird or smart.

We undoubtedly end up living into those names, whether or not they are connected to our real identity.

We live into the expectations that come to us in the form of names.

Names mean something. It means something when someone calls out our name. It means something when someone gives us a name or when we take a name upon ourselves. We take on the nature of our names, because they have power.

It’s confusing when people are calling you all sorts of things, assuming you are something, expecting you to be something, making you into something you are not. Before you know it, if you’re not careful, all those expectations and names have worked their way into your identity.

We could assimilate those names people give us, and continue to give bad names away to other humans as if people are unbreakable. Or we could speak truth into our own souls and into the souls of others.

I can call out and remind myself and others of the true names – the true identity that I have in Christ.

But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” (Isaiah 43:1)

belief

In John 20 it’s a race to the tomb but the disciple who won the race couldn’t bring himself to peek inside. I imagine him paralyzed outside the tomb, examining but not touching the strips of linen that still smelled of death. Filled with fear of what he would find inside the tomb and fear of what it would mean for him; deep grief over the loss of his friend; anger at everything that had happened in the previous days. Finally he follows the other disciple in then “he saw and believed” (John 20:8). Believed what? The resurrection of Jesus? Was it a moment of clicking? A dizzying second where all of Jesus’ words came rushing into his head and they all finally made sense? He saw the empty death cloths that Jesus had been wrapped in and it all clicked and he believed.

Later, Thomas, after adamantly claiming he wouldn’t believe unless he physically touched the wounds, sees Jesus in person. Jesus feels no awkwardness nor does he turn Thomas away because of his doubts. Instead, Jesus walks right up to Thomas, gives him what he needed, and calls him out: “Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27).  And Thomas did. He believed and he proclaimed Jesus Christ as his Lord and God.

And as I finish reading the chapter, am called to believe: “these (words) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). I am urged to believe in the identity of Christ, his words to us, his resurrection, and what his life means for my life right here and now.

Seems easy, but it’s hard. Jesus says “do not be unbelieving, but believing” (verse 27) but it isn’t as simple as it sounds. I can want to believe him, trust him and desire him, but can still find myself unbelieving, untrusting, and apathetic. So what’s a human like me to do? Ask for help, because it’s never been about my strength to grab hold of him anyway. “I cling to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8). I cling desperately to him, as I should, but he is the one who does the upholding and the sustaining. So I ask along with the dad who wanted healing for his son: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) and Jesus welcomes that prayer. He cares that we come to him even if the first step is with hearts that still harbor some unbelief.

In “As One Devil to Another,” (a brilliant book similar to Screwtape Letters) Richard Platt says that God simply wants us to come to him and it matters little the way by which we come: “If they are brought up in a household where thoughts of Him are ever present and His existence is never questioned, where He is mindlessly obeyed out of simple inertia, He welcomes them. If they are totally devoid of the joy of going back to Him and make their pilgrimage purely on intellectual pathways, through reason, He welcomes them. If they return to Him purely through Grace, engulfed in the joyful knowledge of His presence but without two real thoughts to rub together, He welcomes them. And if they come to Him resisting to the last, only because every other attempt they have made at happiness and fulfillment has failed them, as surely in the long run it must, He welcomes them.” We have the audacity to doubt, we have silly hearts that are full of unbelief, and we take our time in trusting, yet still he wants us close. God tenderly and mercifully, yet at the same time powerfully and jealously, just wants us to go to him and then he changes and molds our hearts toward purity, love, and faith.

When we believe but have doubts or when we don’t want God but we want to want him, we can tell him that. So in the end we can come to God with any shred of belief we can find in our hearts, the tiniest desire to want him, and we ask him to help us with the rest of our unbelief. I believe, help me with my unbelief!

Authentic Authenticity

During our normal weekly time set aside to process life, hold each other accountable, share the good and the bad, and memorize scripture, my mentor-friend asked how my time with God was that week. I said it was average, didn’t get me excited, that I just kind of went through the motions with prayer and Bible-reading. And she said, “So… you were faithful.” … Excuse me? What she said is not what we’re used to hearing. Some friends would counsel me to stop if I don’t feel like doing something. Others would say to figure out how to rekindle the passion, but for-goodness-sake don’t stay in that nothing zone where all your passion is gone and you don’t feel like doing what you’re doing. We love to have passion for what we’re doing. And we hate doing things we don’t feel like doing. But frequently, that’s the definition of faithfulness – doing what we have committed to do, doing what’s right, and doing what’s good, even when we don’t feel like it. Sometimes “going through the motions” is actually faithfulness and is the best, and only, thing you can do when emotions are running low. Buuut we love doing what we feel like, and we’ve started calling it authenticity.

Somewhere along the line we have equated being authentic with following along with our emotions. We have the attitude of: “If I feel it, I do it, and that’s the authentic me. And If I’m acting differently from what I really feel inside, then that’s hypocrisy, high treason to myself.” We’ve gotten into our heads the “idea that to live out of conformity with how I feel is hypocrisy, but that’s a wrong definition of hypocrisy. To live out of conformity to what i believe is hypocrisy. To live in conformity with what i believe, in spite of what i feel, isn’t hypocrisy, it’s integrity” (Thoennes). For those of us who follow Jesus and are pursuing our true selves that are only found in who God created us to be, Brett McCracken accurately says that, “Sanctification involves living in a way that often conflicts with what feels authentic.” Really, we’ve got two natures warring inside of us every day, but our “authentic selves” are not always the desires we feel on the daily. God is bringing us (as individuals and as humanity) back to our true authentic selves. McCracken continues “Hard as it may be to believe in the midst of our sinful thoughts and fleshly struggles, we were made to be perfect. Brokenness may feel more natural, but holiness is actually the more human state.”

We are covered not only by grace, but also by a call to obedience and holiness. Jonathan Lunde says, “Though always established in grace, each biblical covenant also includes demands of righteousness from those who trust in God’s faithfulness to fulfill his covenantal promises. This means that covenantal grace never diminishes the covenant demand of righteousness – righteousness that flows out of covenantal faith. As a result, faith and works of obedience will always be found in God’s true covenantal partners.” So we are to pursue “authenticity” but not the “what you feel like is what is authentically you” brand of authenticity that our culture loves. We are to pursue an authentic-holiness and authentic-obedience and as we do, we pursue our authentic identity in Christ. As we do, we are being faithful. Just like my mentor-friend’s point that my less-than-enthusiastic faithfulness to God during that dull week was just that – faithfulness to God, and exactly what I needed to be doing.