Oh Jake.....

Easier said than done

by on December 26, 2007

The pursuit of happiness leaves one with scars and muscle. Wrong moves and other such mistakes leave us bearing the cicatrices that remind us of times when we didn’t know what we were doing or perhaps where we were going. Muscle results from digging ourselves out of the messes that we find ourselves in or working so frustratingly hard to accomplish something. Both carry with them incredible significance worth considering. Often it is said, “I just want to be happy”. I know that I’ve heard it a million times from the high school guys that I mentor. They say this, but then I don’t see them do anything to give rise to different circumstances in which they can own that sometimes elusive state we call happiness. I find myself thinking about this subject occasionally as well and I wonder what it takes to be happy.

Some people find joy in their work, others when they’re far away from their job, with their family, friends, drunk, recreating somewhere, when they get lost in their hobbies, and the list goes on. I happen to be a workaholic and so live with this ridiculous feeling that I can’t be happy without the right job. Since I’m still in college, and therefore have a crappy schedule to work with, this means that I currently don’t have this amazing vocation to serve as the impetus to me having an amazing life. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I have to ask people if they want fries with that so I have valid ground to hate my life and everything involved in it, yes? Of course not, I’m not that dramatic! Close though. Tonight, my stomach was churning at the thought of having to go back to this wretched place from which I draw pay in exchange for precious life moments that could be spent or wasted anywhere else. Believe me, I’d rather waste time than be at this hole. Funny thing about it though is that “God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are” (1Cor 1:27-28).

Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey (John 12:14). He came to earth as an infant, not born in some great palace with fireworks and all that jazz, he snuck in. I’m sure there are other examples of how God chooses simple things to teach, to bless and to correct those who belong to Him. This job, although I show up and want nothing more than to have something large fall on me, just in case it might hurt me enough that I might be able to not be there, this job might just be God’s way of taking care of me right now. Ouch. Bad words. WHY?

As usual, I’ve been daydreaming on what my perfect life will look like someday, and I consider also how it might be if certain elements never make their way in. Maybe that’s a faith issue, but I can’t imagine myself being happy if I don’t like my work; I can’t imagine serving food the rest of my life. So I live with this derisible fear that I’m not going to get a good job doing what I want or feel called to, and that consequently, I’ll despise my life and forever be depressed. I know that such will not be the case, but c’mon! That said, I have ruminated on what it would be like, having some crappy job, trying not to flip out at age forty-five and have a midlife crisis. I need God. Every last bit that I can get to make sure that I’m not a middle-aged therapy case who suddenly decides that a change in lifestyle and career is the remedy to unhappiness. I understand that good old-fashioned Christian maturity would more than likely offer a large amount of restraint against such foolhardy acts as going out and buying a convertable and finding myself a young hottie to ride around with, but does that same maturity bring peace and joy with it?

I’ve had people tell me that joy can be learned, and to a degree I can believe that. I feel like part of it is understanding all of the good elements to life and reflecting on them, while continuing to work toward some goal, at least for me, someone else might be different. But this thought feels so plastic; like a facade that has to go because underneath it there’s going to be trouble if people don’t snap into action soon and make me smile! I was thinking about this on my way home tonight and realized that I had been looking at my future like this: I could get that dream job and be happy, still serving God, or I could not get that dream job and live in what would feel like eternal misery, still serving God. I didn’t ask myself until tonight, “Can you not get what you want and still be happy, only serving God?”
Can God be my source of joy? Honestly, I should be asking myself, “Why isn’t he ALREADY the reason for any happiness?”
Oh man, I suck sometimes! Psalms goes through and gives the example of looking to God for joy and happiness, proverbs has this theme occasionally as well, not to mention other random places where God tells us that not only does He love us, but that He wants to make us happy, too! So I have to suck it up once again, and realize that there are going to be a lot of opportunities for pain in my life; there will be just as many possibilities to be happy too. The rain falls on the just and the unjust, and we don’t always get what we want. It sucks, but what else can we say or do? God wants us to focus on Him and all too often we allow these petty things like jobs to get between Him and us and not only do they manage to rob us of our relationship with Him, but they also succeed in ripping us off from our joy and peace as well!

Oh Jake.....

It doesn’t matter…

by on December 15, 2007

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Please forgive me if I come across as nihilistic when I claim that it is not important what I do, where I live, or even who I marry. It feels almost meaningless! Not that I don’t care about any of these little life elements, but I’m just worrying about them less lately. Here’s why; I’ve discovered something about God’s will that I didn’t know before. He might have a perfect vocation for me, or there may be a few. After all, God does have his good, pleasing and perfect will according to Romans 12:2, so doesn’t that mean that there are options? Where I’m headed with this is that perhaps we worry too much about what we do with our lives… or MAYBE we overspiritualize everything. Please, understand that I feel that prayer and seeking God’s voice is significant in many aspects of our life, and I feel that the Holy Spirit wants to be a part of everything that we do, and so we should include Him in everything, but really…should I pray about what shirt to wear in the morning? OK. That IS dramatic I know, but what happens when I have two options that seem to be great, we’ll say two different schools, one which would allow me to stay where I live now, and one that would require me to move to Seattle or something. I pray and pray and pray about what to do, and I don’t hear God speak. What do I do? I’m not sure, but I feel like inaction might be as much of a sin as something like murder or adultery, so I need to make a choice. This is where life gets interesting.

Have we ever stopped to consider that perhaps God’s perfect will for our lives has little or maybe even nothing to do with our vocation, wife, house, car, kids, family, and the list goes on? That perhaps God’s perfect will for our lives has something do to with our relationship with Him? Here’s the funny thing about this, many people look at the whole “God’s purpose for my life” thing to justify their desires for big careers or for certain lifestyles. When we look at this whole concept of divine purpose having its foundation in the midst of interrelation contrary to profession or occupation, that opens the door for suffering, at least to a larger degree. What’s more, is that even if we do associate providence with a career or a certain goal, perhaps it is only so to get us to a certain point in our relationship with our Father in Heaven. Once again, that opens the door do failure! We don’t like to hear that at all!

If we open the Word to Hebrews chapter 11 we see what some refer to as the Bible’s “hall of fame”, where Paul speaks of many of the Old Testament patriarchs. In verse eight, Paul begins speaking of Abraham and the promise made to him about having descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. The promise made to his son and grandson were the same, they were living as part of the promise made to Abraham, and being of his inheritance, had the potential for that same promise that God made to Abraham apply to them! Verse thirteen says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth
Oh snap! They did not receive the promise! How does that even work with God? He can’t lie, right? The quick and simple answer is No, that God can’t lie, and when we pay attention to the word, we see that God did exactly what He said He would, but the people didn’t live to experience all of it. What we see here might be prototypical to our own lives; that God tells us things or even gives us dreams that are bigger than we are, that we might not ever get close to, but in the pursuit of both those dreams and relationship with God, we’ll enter into that perfect will with Him, which happens to be the right relationship with him.

I love this in my spirit, but my soul cringes at the thought because there is so much potential to pain and failure within this idea that it makes me wonder if I’ll just see my dreams at a distance, never attaining them. I feel like that would be incredibly unfulfilling and I’d probably be a contentious expletive in the process, but the element that makes this whole business of pursuing God’s will valuable is that He, our Creator, the One who loves us, who won’t leave us nor forsake us either, goes with us along the way. It’s all about relationship and so we get to know Him through this whole life thing that can be so much fun and such an ordeal within the same five minutes. He reveals himself to us and provides our joy, strength, and gives aid and comfort the entire time.

Oh Jake.....

Confirmation

by on November 30, 2007

I’m not sure about everyone else, but I only feel like I’m getting closer to a goal when I take steps toward it. Can it be any simpler than that? It’s amazing how the events that seems to push us away from our perceived purpose might actually bring us closer. What’s even more amazing is how God speaks to us about what to do. Let me put this in context: I want to pastor people for a living (That’s the overly simplified version), I got hired at a church a year ago, which is a step in that direction. I loved working there, and had a lot of fond memories doing that. I got laid off from that church a couple of weeks ago, and that comes across to me as a step in the opposite direction. I don’t feel any closer to attaining that goal, and it’s mildly depressing.
Not only do I not have a paycheck coming at the end of any week, but I don’t have my amazing job anymore. That is horribly unfortunate! So these past few weeks, when my alarm goes off at seven in the morning, I’ve been asking myself, “Why do I need to get out of bed now?”
I don’t have school until later in the day, and am mostly caught up with my homework, so why do I need to get out of bed, what purpose does my life have right now? Add one part emo, two parts nihilism, shake well and top with a pinch of acrimony, and you’ve got me. Of course I know better than to sit around like that, because apathy grows exponentially under the correct circumstances, and that is not what I need right now, so I’ve been praying about what to do. I’ve got plenty of time to do more than only maintain my devotional life, I’m bulking it up with the most sincere and dramatic pleas of my life! “GOD, if you love me, You’ll get me a job that I don’t hate and that pays really well, and only make me stay in that situation for a little while….” Like I said, drama.

Well, as apathy grows, it strangles out hope like a weed in a flowerbed; it just takes too much room and annoys the stuff out of everything around it. Picture my mind as this flowerbed, where God has planted hope, peace, love and all that other warm fuzzy stuff that we strive for. Now picture a big, nasty dandelion-looking beast of a weed, something like a brier on ‘roids that just pops out of nowhere, and literally attacks all the other wonderful stuff that God and I have been cultivating. Everybody scream. Anyways, my hope needed a boost, and I was having doubts about this whole pastoring thing, I could always go teach high school or something like that. So, I asked God. I don’t like making my mind up alone, anyone who knows me would quickly agree with the fact that I’m not indecisive, but rather that I like counsel, and a lot of it too. He keeps telling me to pursue my dreams, because they’re his dreams too.

Well, bless Him, I just didn’t know what to do next, so I pretty much in my most apathetic attempt yet, asked Him to throw me a bone, anything. I need opportunity!! And it came in the form of my pastor asking me to teach his class today. Maybe I’ll elaborate on what I taught another time, but here’s what’s important: I had purpose! I needed to put together a lesson, do the research, think of some funny anecdotes, and put in all in an organized format, and then I needed to teach! I’ve taught plenty of classes in the past two years, and it isn’t anything new to me, but when I woke up this morning, and was excited to get out of bed! That’s a huge step, as ridiculous as it sounds, I need meaningful activities to fill my life, I’m not down with pointless time-filling junk! I got up today, after staying up late working on my lesson, and started praying, and was getting really excited about teaching today when God said, “Look at how happy you are about this: do you think that I’d have you do anything else? Just be patient with Me.”

I about lost it! The fact that I had so much passion, and was so excited about this wasn’t enough, but God found a way to revive my hope. He’s glorious, amazing, and all those other adjectives that we ascribe to good people and situations. I once again have been reminded that the dreams I have were placed there by God, and that even when it seems as though I won’t EVER get there, He’s doing part of the work for me, and I shouldn’t lose hope.

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