Reflection

A common theme in movies, TV shows, and fiction stories today is the concept of being true to oneself, or of being whoever or whatever one desires to be. Everywhere one looks, one can see it–from kids’ movies (Brave and Tangled, anyone?) to popular series (Divergent, e.g.) to blogs and self-help books all over the country. This idea has become so universal that it has even infiltrated the Church on occasion–the so-called “prosperity gospel” being one example. It pervades our culture and impels people toward political activism, due to their desires to legalize and normalize whatever minority they might lie in.

It also distracts from the true form of community.

So deeply has this concept become embedded in society that it has begun to cripple the Church and, consequently, society in general. When one’s focus is on being “unique” and “genuine,” it is easy to lose sight of what one is called to be: a servant.

Not a powerful leader. Not an impressive pioneer. Not a trend-setting visionary.

A humble servant. That is the call of the Christian. It is the act of being not the conquering king everyone expects, but the lowly foot-washer that everyone needs. It is the act of not asking how high in the Kingdom one may rise, but of instinctively climbing down to the deepest bottom in order to help raise others up out of the darkness. It is the act not of preserving oneself to “prepare for later,” but of giving one’s all in the pursuit of the good of the Kingdom.

Sometimes life doesn’t go the way we dream it will go. Sometimes our desires and dreams must die one by one, sacrificed on the altar of sanctifying faith. Sometimes our views of who we are and what we could be must be denied in submission to our God-given identity and path. Sometimes that which we would choose for ourselves and that which God has chosen for us are the complete opposites . . . and every time, it is God’s will that must come first.

Lately, I have been having to very deeply question my personal views of what I see as my identity. To ask myself whether I see myself in the way the world desires to see me and the way I desire to see myself, or whether I instead see myself as who I am in God. If I choose the first way, then I can be many things, whoever I desire to be . . . but at the price of living a life with any sincerity and true meaning. If I choose the latter way, then I may also be many things, but they will be dictated by God’s will . . . and provide me a life well worth the living. It may be a hard life; it may be a life of pain; it may be a life in which I am constantly being called to sacrifice a significant aspect of myself in order to continue pursuing God’s will. But it is the path I have chosen to walk, and a life I am choosing to lead.

Being a servant isn’t easy. But then again . . . easy isn’t for Christians. The true Gospel doesn’t promise a life of prosperity and ease. It doesn’t promise that we will be allowed to openly embrace parts of ourselves that the world might encourage us to embrace. It doesn’t promise that we will be given any of our hearts’ desires. What it does promise us, though, is the mercy and love of God poured out liberally upon us. What it does promise us is lives that, even if we didn’t live them the ways we wanted to, we lived them in the ways we needed to. And in the long run, we will have lived and served the Kingdom in greater ways than we could ever imagine if we were to blindly pursue our dreams.

Remember

team avatarThis is a poem I wrote back in October 2013 about the nature of a well-developed friendship. Although we often speak of friendship as “having each other’s backs,” in a lot of ways a true friendship involves “having each other’s fronts”: taking and softening the blows that life deals to each of us, and sharing the pain and the joy so that no one has to bear on his or her own the weight of the darkness and the weight of the light.

Remember

Remember those days, those days of yore,
Those days of triumph and of trial?
Faced we the enemy; we fell and rose,
Conquering all with a unified mind.

Oh, those days and those years, so full of memories!
We stand upright, now, tho’ covered in scars.
Our weapons they rest in the coveted places,
Memorials grim of the darkness we’ve faced.

But, friend, where’s your shield? I see here your sword,
Your horn, and your arrows–but nowhere your armor.
Look at these scars on my hands and my heart.
It was I who then shielded you, I who protected.

Forget not those bygone days, dangers, and toils,
Lest these my love-rich wounds be all in vain.
Keep to the path, and I will yet support you.
All I ask, my dear friend, is us two together again.

1 Corinthians 13

burning roseEveryone has a deep, indwelling need for something. For some, it might be finding companionship. For some, it might be seeking purpose. For some, it might be desiring calling. For some, it might be wanting healing. Whatever it is, each and every person on this earth has a need that they may or may not know about.

Sometimes we feel like we can easily help fulfill that need, by simply being a friend who helps out and checks on someone every now and then. But sometimes it’s harder–sometimes seemingly impossible–to do anything that seems to come anywhere close to helping.

In those times, it’s often easy to simply say, “God is all you need.” “Let go and let God.” “Just make God your everything.” “God will take care of it.” Words that, while ultimately the true solutions to every problem we might face, are sometimes little more than a quick cop-out way to avoid having to join in the crusade to fight the exhausting fight. I’ve had those words said to me at times when what I really needed at that moment was someone to come alongside me and be there to constantly push me forward and strengthen me. God has worked all of those situations out according to His will, of course, but I can’t help thinking that those words, however well meant they may have been, were not the best solution to my problems. To be honest, I never want to hear someone say those words to me again, though I’m sure they will be spoken to me many a time in the future.

If those statements about God being all we need are ultimately true, why do I complain? I complain because I believe God calls us to be a body for a reason. If God were truly everything we needed, and if it were that easy to depend on Him for everything, then there would be no reason for God to require corporate worship and fellowship from us. If God were the only thing we ever needed, then John Donne’s quote of “No man is an island” would be utterly false. For me, the reason God placed us together and calls us to cooperate and act together is that He made us so we need each other as well as Him. Genesis 2, I think, points towards this, for if God was all Adam needed, then there was no reason for Eve to have been created. As humans, we are supposed to interact with each other and be there for each other, however little we may feel like it at the time. Because God made us that way.

The obvious counter to this claim of mine is that God did all of this because it’s “for His glory.” Yes, that’s partly true. But I think it’s only a small part of the truth–an infinite truth definitely, but proportionately a small part of that infinity. Telling those who are struggling “God is all you need” doesn’t help if they desperately need someone to be there physically for them. It is easy enough to cry out to God, but it is sometimes hard to hear His response, and sometimes He chooses not to respond directly at all, instead leaving it up to time or to people to give us His answer. God didn’t have to make mankind into two (Adam and Eve) to multiply and occupy the whole earth. He didn’t have to let us choose the Fall and start a process of redemption that would lead to the death (and resurrection) of God Himself. God never has to do any of the complex guiding and interventions that He does in our lives. He would be infinitely glorified just from the creation of perfect Adam into perfect Earth unbared to evil and destruction. Saying that “God’s doing it for His glory” when people are undergoing trials isn’t glorifying God if we don’t follow the example He set and step in to aid each other.

So next time you feel like saying, “Just let go and let God,” or “God is all you need,” to someone who is struggling inside, stop and think. Is it really what he or she needs to hear right now? Or is what needs to be said the words “Let me fight this alongside you–let me help you deal with this”? Don’t just offer a Christian-flavored platitude and walk away. Be willing to offer yourself wholly for the crusade that God is calling each and every one of us to fight in–and be ready to leap into someone’s struggles and to get your spiritual hands bloodied fighting Satan in the name of Almighty God.