Take the Gospel Seriously?!?
This is a post in reply to the first half of a post on Joshua’s blog entitled “Revolutions.”
Yeah, I think that many men are like caged lions, and as Thoreau states, do indeed lead lives of “quiet desperation.” I still haven’t read Wild at Heart, but I’ve heard much about it. I can say that from my own experience, this move away from the city and all that’s familiar has taught me many things; one of them being that we don’t always have to do what’s “expected” of us. Sure, we’re all free to do as we so choose, hence the meaning of “free will,” but I think most people are tied up in living up to someone else’s expectations for their life. No one makes me choose to do that, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Think of all the ways we all tried to “fit in” in high school; always trying to be who we thought “they” wanted us or expected us to be. Afterwards, it’s no different; for example, “You should go to college…you should get a decent job…you should acquire “nice” things…you should be financially independent…you should stay thin…you should look young…etc… It’s endless. I know that this is not what the Church teaches, but it makes no difference all the same. Look at how many Christians are caught up in this trap; even whole churches! I can remember a story Eric told me about his old senior pastor; a good man who loved God, but always struggled with doing enough “outreach” to “save souls and fill the pews” so that his parish might become a “mega” spirit filled church like many of his colleagues. Again and again, I find that Solomon is so right when he says that “there is nothing new under the sun.” The sin of comparison and fear began long ago. And, although I do believe that many men are indeed looking for adventure, or a way out of the cage (to continue on with the caged lion theory) I think most of us are also too afraid of the consequences of actually going for the adventure. Once again, fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the “what if’s.” Fear of what my friends, parents, family, employers or church will think. Dare I expose this side of myself? How can I tell them what I ache for in the innner soul of my being? How can I leave a good job with a good salary, benefits, 401-K and stock options? Forget the fact that I’m miserable. (Of course, I should add that in no way am I advocating just dropping responsibility and becoming a self-seeking person. I’m simply talking about truly listening to God and not being afraid to go where the Spirit leads.)
Doing the unexpected has opened new doors for us (Janna and I); not even the doors I thought it would. More than anything, it’s taught us not to fear the raging fury of God’s love, and to accept that, although I say that I want God to use me and show me His direction for my life, I often don’t really mean it because I’m too afraid of the adventure ahead. To close out my rather lengthy and scattered point…this is what I’m driving at: I think as a whole, we’ve become a society of fearful individuals. Certainly, most of us have become fearful Christians. I know that I was truly afraid of leaving Indianapolis and all the comforts of the familiar, as I believe many others are afraid of leaving their creature-comforts. But, God gave Janna and I the strength. And I’m so thankful that He did. The less I am afraid to trust, the more Christ-like I will truly become. And I don’t mean just coining the cheap phrase “I trust Jesus” either. I mean, really taking the Gospel at face value, and REALLY trusting what Jesus said, and truly believing with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength that Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death. We no longer have to be afraid. No matter what happens, it is finished! Death has been abolished! Unfortunately though, too much of modern Christianity is a watered down version of the Gospel. I’m saddened that so many of the Christians that I share this theory with are shocked by the idea that we should ACTUALLY let go of what we have, take up our crosses, and follow Christ. In a big way, many of us have become just like the rich young ruler, unable to let go of our “stuff.” Or better yet, perhaps we are more like the man who tells Jesus, “I’ll follow you wherever you lead, but first let me go and bury my father.” And Jesus replies, “Let the dead bury the dead…” Hard verse to get, but I think it’s got to do with letting go; with leaving our fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, careers and comfort, to really do as God asks. Are any of those things bad? Heck no! But the minute I start to consider the cost of those as more than the Gospel and following Jesus, I’ve become an idolater. Sorry, but I really think that Christ meant it when he said,
“…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one hour to his life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ (For the Pagans are always concerned with these things) for your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.”
Why is that so hard for us? Why do we constantly try to get out of doing it? It’s the same problem that got us here in the first place; not trusting God. “I can’t explain why now, but don’t eat from the tree in the midst of the Garden.” “Hmmm…what if God isn’t telling the truth and the Serpent is? I could be missing out on something!” It’s amazing what happens when you decide to truly trust God, and to live by faith. The nuns here have thousands of stories about how the Lord has always provided for them. I can say the same. I’ve never been so poor and frightened in my life, but God has been teaching me to trust Him, instead of my own devices. And I can honestly say that we have never gone hungry or had any need that the Lord didn’t take care of. Letting go of control is a serious issue for me, and for many men. I’m not comfortable with not being in control of my own destiny. And God is there all the time saying, “Go ahead, do as you will. But my yoke is easy and my burden light. You can go your own way, but I’m tellin’ ya, you’re choosing the hard path. Alright. Go ahead…”
Well I for one am becoming more and more aware of the Great Lie as it is presented today…on a golden platter called COMFORT. It is so slick…”Life is about responsibilities and limited liabilities. Do well in school today so that you can achieve success tomorrow, and acquire all that your heart lusts for. That way you will never have to know pain, nor will you ever have to worry about where your food or clothing will come from, because that’s what Jesus would do.” or “Make sure that you never fully give your heart to anything, otherwise it might get broken. And that includes ever being truly vulnerable and intimate with your spouse and especially with other men…”
That’s right my friends, go on and name and claim your way out of obscurity: believe and achieve, adapt and overcome. Hold on to your dignity, your emotions, and all that is inside of you. Never show what’s really burning there inside that wild heart. Never reveal that aching hole that eats at you constantly, longing to be filled with love. You do that, and you could get hurt. Resist the God that never ceases saying, “I love you. Free yourself of all that this world holds dear, take up your cross, and follow me.” Take at face value all that we’re told to buy, like some knock off Rolex from the streets of the city…sure, it looks like the real deal and it’ll fool your friends, but you’ll always know it’s not really the genuine article. Then, you will lead a life of quiet desperation, becuase you know that your living a lie. You yourself know the pain and grief that’s eating you alive, and needs to be taken and held by Another. But who knows? Perhaps if you try real hard, and tell yourself that you’ve got the real thing long enough, you’ll finally come to believe that the lie is really the truth, and no longer have to live a life of “quiet desperation,” rather, you will have become truly beyond redemption, beyong intimacy, beyond adventure, and beyond loving. Your perfection as a slave will be complete, as will your captivity to your own mind. Of course, you could also decide to spill it all out, and jump into that great abyss of God’s love and purpose for your life, and embrace with all your being the “what if.” You never know where it might lead…you could be hurt. You could be broken. You will most likely die, but man, what a ride!
O Lord, please help us. Give us the strength to really trust you, and to have the guts to let go of the fear of death. “Great are you O God, and wonderful are all Your works…” “O Lord, you search me and you know me. You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts. You see me, whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions. Even before I speak, you already know what I will say. You are all around me on every side; you protect me with your power. Your knowledge of me is too deep; it is beyond my understanding. Where could I go to escape from you? Where could I hide from your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there; if I lay down in the depths of hell, still, there you would be. If I flew away beyond the east or lived in the farthest place in the west, you would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me. I could ask the darkness to hide me or the light around me to turn into night, but even the darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to you. You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful. I know it with all my heart. When my bones were being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there and you saw me before I was born. The days allotted to me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them ever began.” [Psalm 139:1-16]