I’m spending time these days learning the singular truth conveyed in the Proverbs: “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end of the ways thereof is death.” This could be a death literal, or metaphoric. It comes in many guises, many forms. And when trust dies it is particularly difficult to resurrect.
It cannot be reignited overnight, but is a process, and is re-earned slowly. In fact, there is a strong temptation to mistrust the process, and shortcut myself to the climax of this story. But this will not work; it too is a death. I do not want to be spending nights alone in a room not my own away from the life I know.
But it is what I need now.
I need the time to unlearn all the unhealthy habits, and ways, I have lied to me. And to God. Because it is really all about Him–not me. About how He is not controlling, but I have been. About how, instead of humility, I have lived with pride, arrogance, and an extreme sense of entitlement.
He–you, the world–owes me nothing.
It is time to get down to brass tacks. Time for me to die to me, and do the hard work of doing that everyday. Time to love my wife with courage and humility–instead of pride and control. Time to love my children, and not treat them like they are inconveniences.
Time to, as it says in Lamentations 3:16, grind my teeth in the gravel. Time to get low, so that God may lift me up–in His time, and His way. Time to remember that, in the words of Stephen King, “life is not a support system for art. It’s the other way around.” Meaning that life does not exist to feed art, but rather that art exists to enhance life–to help us understand, explain, and enjoy it.
It means that life comes first. It means that I live first–then write.
And living right now means embracing some uncomfortable circumstances, dealing with the consequences of my actions, and confronting the ugliness that lives inside of me. I could go blaming, but this solves nothing, helps no one. Instead I take responsibility, and own the junk in me.
I declare that I am the problem. The singular corollary to this astonishing reality is that if I am the problem, I am also the solution. And the solution begins by getting real. I do not need to tell you that this has come at me like a curveball. For too long, I have ducked. But God is teaching me that when He throws one (a curveball), it is best not to duck.
It is best to let that sucker crash into, and through, me. Because He desires truth in the inward parts, and the only way to achieve that is to be made new–to do the hard work of working out my own salvation with fear and trembling. Meaning that God gives me (us) His Spirit, and His Word, but does not make me apply it–that is up to me. The simple fact is that while He gives me the means to meet my needs, He does not directly meet them all Himself. God does not become water when I am thirsty, or food when I am hungry. Likewise, He gives His Word, but it is up to me to read, study, meditate upon, and apply it.
Please do not misunderstand: salvation is His free gift, but the abundant life is something I (we) must partner with Him to achieve. This is known as shared agency. Or in the late Professor Tolkien’s words, we are sub-creators. Because He does not desire slaves, but friends. It has been this way since the beginning. Arguably, Adam had the most intimate relationship with God anyone could ever hope to have. Yet he was alone. Here was a man, pinnacle of God’s creation, living in edenic bliss, communing directly with God.
Yet he had an unmet need. “It is not good for man to be alone.” So, zap! God made Eve right away. No, actually He did not. First, He put Adam to work naming all the animals, where he ostensibly watched them couple, fellowship, be together.
Before He put Adam to sleep, He first accentuated Adam’s need, his loneliness. Like any good parent, He did not just give Adam what he longed for, but rather made him work for it. So he would appreciate the gift of Eve when she appeared. Likewise, He does not zap me with the abundant life, or hide His Word within me without my at least reading it. This is not salvation by works, but rather a partnering with Him, aligning with Him. As it says in Romans 12: “be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
It is living with intention. Choosing to discard my reality, and aligning instead with His.
In other words, life has thrown me a curveball, and I am choosing not to duck.
How about you?
Note: I need to credit Donald Miller, Mark Batterson, and Douglas Weiss whose work influenced the content of this post.