Saturday, November 23, 2013


What if night were fallen now,
What if all were broken down,
What if you denied me hope?

Would I still follow you?

What if these deep things I’ve felt,
What if these dear friends I’ve held,
Pulled the rug I’ve woven long
From underneath my feet?

Would I still follow you?

What if she, that dearest friend,
What if he, that comrade strong,
Looked into my face with scorn,
Laughed and cursed you,
Turned and ran?

Would I still follow you?

What if faith were really all,
All the eyes you left to me?
Are they still too blind to see?

Would I still follow you?

Battered, blinded, scorned and bruised,
Crying for the ripping loss,
Frantic, flailing, as my world,
Toppled, fell, and left me
To shake alone?

Would I still follow you?

What if you had not made
The promises you’ve made?
What if you told me
That when the time came,
You would not own me?

Would I still follow you?

Would I shame-faced, turn away,
Try to forget this love affair,
Try to find some happiness,
Grasp at every wind
As though that wind were life,
And try, try to forget you?

Or would I laugh and hardly know
The agony the world could throw
In my face, in my soul?
Laugh and care not what you did
To me when my life was lived,
If only I had lived for you?

Am I too in love to see
The danger I am in?
Am I too in love to be
Afraid of anything at all?
Am I too in love with you
To care if it could ruin me?

Would I be able to hold back
From leaping from this highest cliff
Into you, the deepest chasm
If I did not know that you would catch me?

Tell me I would still follow you.
Tell me I would still leap.

Make me mad.
Blind me.
Obsess me.
Till there is nothing left of me
But the thing that loves you,
Desperately, and loves all the more
Because you are so good
That you will never let me down.
That is simply who you are.
Nevermind the safety it implies.
You are that good.
Let me smile and fall too deep
To ever be found again.

The night that would hurt me
Falls down in the face of your light.
The brokennes that would break me
Breaks in the face of your purity.
The fear that would make me gasp for air
Is denied its power. You are my air.

You give me hope,
You give me light,
You give me love,
You give me breath.
But these are only unexpected gifts,
Tossed in as perks,
Mementos of their giver,
Who IS my hope,
My light and love,
My breath,
Who’s realer yet
Than all these thousand gifts
He won’t stop pelting me with,
Every moment of every day.

Am I drunk enough on truth
Not to care, if only
My God is glorified?

Am I dangerously deep,
Sunk into this obsession
With your purity?

Am I too lost in you
To be saved by the flesh,
World, and devil combined?

Is this fall into your heart

Let this kind damage be beyond repair,
Let this glorious fall be unstoppable,
And let these beautiful chains
That bind me to my God
Be unbreakable,
That I may still follow you.

Monday, November 4, 2013


Slowly, thoughts.
Don’t rush about so hard.
Gently, heart.
You need not break the world
With cries of terror
At its and your own depth.
Look up and see the Light.
Look down and see the Rock.
You are not lost.
You are not standing
On unstable ground.
Cry if you must.
Laugh if you will.
But be still.
Be small.
Be all

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I have one phobia.

I don't mind heights. I don't mind tight spaces. I hate public speaking, but I can manage it. I love thunderstorms. I don't mind snakes or spiders or scorpions... Okay, fine, so I'm abjectly terrified of cockroaches for no good reason. Two phobias, then.

But the thing that really scares me, that debilitates me with fear more than anything else, is -- myself.

(Photo credit.) Some clarification on phobias. I do not suffer from either of these. Yay. (I thought about sticking a dramatic picture of someone looking scared here, which would actually have been relevant, but how boring would THAT be? This is waaay better.)

I come up with high goals and aspirations, and within moments, I'm afraid that I won't be able to live up to them. Or else I'm apathetic and don't care what I become, and then I'm afraid that I'll stay like that forever and never really live. I'm afraid that I will fail. I'm afraid that I will fall into ruts and not have the strength to get out of them. I'm afraid that I will become something that I never wanted, or sit around and grow blind to my faults. I'm afraid of the past, because I can always find something to regret. I'm afraid of the future, because I know there will be things to regret. I'm afraid that I'm too small and too weak to live this great big life that's been given to me, and to survive in this enormous and profound world.

And the hard thing about this fear is that it's pretty darn valid in many respects. Odds are, I will ruin things. Odds are, I will make mistakes that I will bitterly regret. Odds are, I will be a total wimp and fail all these noble ambitions I have. Odds are, the ruts and the weaknesses will come exactly as I expect.

But kiddo (yes, I talk to myself in my blog posts and address myself as kiddo; it's fun; you should try it), that's no reason to be afraid.

I heard an excellent sermon a while back, part of which was about hope. Imagine, the pastor suggested, that hope is a thing, a vase or something. Imagine that you have to put it down somewhere. Where do you put it? Where will it be safe? You can put it here, or there, or on that table or that shelf... or you can put it down on God and leave it there. There alone will it be safe.

Yes, exactly. And peace. And joy. And basically everything else. You can't put it in yourself. You can't put it in another. You can't put it in the world or humanity. They are not safe there. But they are safe in God.

We are told to rejoice in the Lord. We are told of the peace of Christ. We are told to hope in God. And if we really do this, if these vases or marbles or whatever we might imagine them to be, lie safely on the Solid Rock, then the whole rest of the world can go up in flames without our joy, peace, and hope being touched. We can fail and still rejoice, still be at peace, still hope, because so long as God is being glorified, all is well. And God will always be glorified.

"Great," you say. "Now you have taken me to a philosophical place where I can be happy and apparently not care if I'm failing and the world is falling apart. Now I'm not scared of failing. Now I don't care. That's helpful."

Bear with me.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)

Not only does the hope, when it rests on God, stay safe and secure no matter what happens. It also does not put us to shame. How does it manage to rescue our sinking, failing selves? Well, there's this thing called the Holy Spirit.

Friends, this is why our own weakness is nothing to fear. Because God's power is made perfect in weakness. It doesn't matter that I can't do this. It doesn't matter that I'm too small for the life I live and the world I live in. All that means is that when God gets me through it, it should be obvious that He is the power behind any success.

How dare I fear? What kind of skewed pride is this? Do I honestly think that I, by my own smallness, can thwart the God of the universe when He has promised to make me His? That my smallness is so big that it can stop Him from having the prize for which He died?

No. I'll reach for the stars and not fear that I will fall. The past is gone. The future is in God's hands. And the present -- the present is the moment in which God is with me, and in me, and all that I need. My hope, my joy, and my peace are safe in Him. And I am too.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rival the Sun

Rival the Sun

From tender shadows there arose a girl
Whose heart would grasp the highest in the low.
Her fighting soul would serve the loveliest good
She found in sky or earth, in mind or soul.
She sought the light that cut through darkest night,
She sought the love that cut through deepest hurt,
She sought the purity that cut through filth,
She smiled to endure in agony.
From shadows she arose and found the sun
And learned to hope for what she did not know.
She smiled a challenge to the light above:
“I’ll be a light, myself,” she vowed each day,
“Faithful even if I'm not repaid.
I’ll find a way to warm all in my path
With light that’s truer than the world itself.”
Free, she’d work and race and laugh and fight
To rival the sun which gave the earth its life.
Chained, she’d sing in stories, bleed in poems,
To rival the sun by which all beauty shone.
She ran against, yet with the sun each day,
Till finally she ran into its light,
And disappeared, forgotten, in its rays.
Yet she knew not all this, for she indeed
Forgot herself and only lived for light,
Rejoicing to be part of what she loved.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Do it.

I am tired of being complacent. I am tired of thinking, "Well, I could make that person feel included. I could really make an effort to do well with this job. I could go out of my way to be kind. I could maintain my joy even when stressed-out. I could give up what I want for what they want. In theory, I could do what I know is right. But it would be hard. I really don't want to right now. I'm too weak."

As the hands and feet of Christ, called to be salt and light, made new, the beloved of the Lord, what am I talking about? Our own weakness is nothing to stop us. We cannot thwart God by being our own, weak selves. So let's not limit ourselves according to our weakness, but according to His strength. Which happens to be limitless. As Oswald Chambers put it in My Utmost for His Highest, "If you have the whine in you, kick it out ruthlessly. It is a positive crime to be weak in God's strength."

"Well, easier said than done." Yeah. I know. I know. And this is an excuse... how? Really, join me in contemplating this saying for a minute. We're admitting that whatever this thing that is "said" is true. Is right. And we aren't saying that it's impossible. We're just saying that doing it is harder than saying it. Clearly. But if it's true and right, and we know it, then why are we waiting to consider the difficulties of it?

(Photo credit.) Jason Bourne wants to know why you don't try as desperately to follow Christ as he tries to... um, not get killed. Yeah. Uh-huh. That's right. Listen to Jason Bourne.

Friends, can you give me one good reason why, completely certain that something is right, one ought to pause and take into account the difficulties of doing that thing, as if the difficulty somehow affected whether or not one was going to do it at all? Does the difficulty of a right action have any say in whether or not we give our all trying to do it? No. Of course not. So why do we act like it does? Why am I always pausing and reconsidering? Why complain about how hard it is? Jesus told us, "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

The flow-chart is simple. "Is it right? ([No.] Then don't do it.) ([Yes.] Then do it.)" (I'm not talking about the times when the difficulty lies in figuring out which way is right. Such times exist, certainly, but I'm talking about the times when it's clear. When we know.) And if I don't reference how hard the right course might be, that isn't because I don't think it will be hard. It's because I think it's irrelevant.

The thing that I get stuck on most often in trying to do things is not the actual difficulty. It's the perception of it as difficult. I stare at a task, decide that it will be hard, and promptly balk. This is stupid. You decide what's right, cautiously, thoughtfully, and then you do it, even if it kills you.

And why be stingy with our love? Why not be recklessly caring? Why not be endlessly loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, faithful, and self-controlled? In other words, why not be what we're supposed to be? Why not be like Christ? Because it's hard? True, but that's no reason at all.

Because we can't actually attain to that perfection? Also true. And that too is no reason not to give our all.

Yes, it is hard. And we are wimps. So we'll fail. All. The. Time. But our failure isn't the point any more than our success is the point. And like the football player in Facing the Giants, we'll never know how far we can go unless we stop tracking our progress and forget about how hard it is. Let's not let a fear of failure keep us from giving everything we've got, from trying as hard as possible, shall we? The only real question is whether an action is right or wrong. Once we know that, we basically know what to do. Voices will spring up and tell us that the right thing will be hard, and that we don't want to do it. Why on earth would we listen to them?

It's not about you. It's not about what you can do, and it's certainly not about what you cannot do. So forget about yourself. Forget yourself and run. Run with all you've got for what is right and good and true and beautiful. In other words, for God.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Watch me fall apart.
I scream it in your face.
I’ll run away from you.
I can dare to be
All that I should fear.
I feel the darkness press
All above, around,
And then below,
As everything drops away.
But surely, though I cringe, I’m free.
I cling to lies, all the lies,
But gravity fails me,
And things I thought so solid
Float along with me,
Foundationless, all.
Pride stands tall
And beats me to show
A strength I do not have.
Screams don’t make a sound
But they hurt my throat,
And bitter is my mind,
And bitter is my soul.
Curling up into a ball
To hide from this whole world
That I’m afraid to love,
Afraid to hate.
Dark and stifling
Is the air,
Too strange
And too familiar all.
A dark shell crushing me.
And then you grab my hand,
And all else blows away
In a shock of light,
Fresh air.
Blinded, fall on my face
On solid ground.
What solid ground?
I don’t know -- yours.
And for all the terror I expect,
All I fear just now
Is the hope I want to feel.
You touch me again.
I tremble, alive,
But I can’t breathe.
You lift up my chin.
Tears flow from my eyes.
Your gentleness terrifies me,
Because I cannot understand it,
And a love that gives so much,
That penetrates such darkness,
Has power above all.
I cannot breathe,
For I cannot fathom
That you are not a lie,
That a thousand years from now,
There’ll be little enough change.
I may abandon you,
But you will bring
Me back again.
My heart is overwhelmed
And shudders and bursts
Trying to feel too much,
Trying to feel the fear
And the safety all at once
Of such a love
That treats the one who spits on it
Like a precious child.
One last struggle,
Still holding my breath.
Then I give up on it all
With a sigh
And collapse
At rest.
For there is no safer
Place to be
Than in the keeping
Of that which is
Most to be feared
And most to be trusted.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Sometimes I stand and watch as my dreams die,
These dreams that I have nurtured since their birth,
These hopes I watched grow dim but then revive,
These dreams I’ve feared for often, watched with care.
I see them stabbed, quite suddenly. It’s odd:
It makes no noise, the knife, and I feel numb.
The stabber sometimes stabs with smiling face,
Sometimes in tears. There’s little difference.
The knife’s pulled out. I hope the dream will live.
A hard time now, but soon enough, we’ll fly.
My dream and I shall fly. No knife stops us.
Still fear lurks under all my optimism,
Still hope trusts underneath the most real fears.
My mind says it will take a miracle.
My heart takes that to mean all shall be well.
Miracles can happen. I wait to see one.
And then, just then, the knife goes in again,
And this time I can feel the pain. I scream,
But cannot even hear myself. All noise
Has faded out and I’m left there to cry,
Standing still in a vast expanse of white,
Watching my dream lie on the ground and writhe,
While stabbed, again, again, again, again.
I cannot move, I don’t know what to feel.
It hurts, it hurts! But dreams are not my life.
I’ve hope without them. Truth outshines my dreams.
I feel a fool for hoping, yet I can’t
Just yet give up the hope, cannot let go.
I’d promised in my heart, unwittingly,
That this would be, and till it dies I’ll try
To make it live. I want to run and fight,
To somehow bring it back, to stop the knife,
To heal the wound, make everything all right.
But I am helpless, so I stand and stare,
Half hope, half death, half agony, half numb.
Until it dies. Until it dies. And then,
The white expanse abruptly drops away,
At one last stab that finishes the job,
And I’m left in the world I left before,
And all’s so normal and so hurtful too.
A dull pain throbs within me, deep inside,
And smiles are quite difficult to find,
But I don’t mind. The dream is gone away.
I go about my business and cheer up.
Life’s not so bad. Life’s better than my hopes.
Of course I was a fool to hope for that.
I find it out. I always see it then.
But then another dream is born inside,
And something in me stares at it a moment:
I know that it will hurt. It too shall die.
How long, I wonder, will it take this time
Until I stand and watch it stabbed to death?
How long until it breaks my heart again?
Why must I dream? Why do I never learn?
And then, no explanation, but a voice,
Young, innocent, and hopeful, in my head,
Pipes up and says, “But this time, it will live!”
I don’t know why I listen. Heaven, why?
I turn my face up and I pray, but what?
Shall I pray life or death for this new dream?
I pray at last that all would turn out right,
Whatever that may be. Yet my heart slips.
I feel it promise me that I am right.
I hear it say that I know best this time.
And reason yields that this time it could be
That I have hit upon the perfect dream,
That this dream, this at last just might come true.
Oh, will and reason, why do you not learn?
It doesn’t matter if I’m right or not.
I’m watching the wrong standard; crooked me!
If truth outshines my dreams, then let me run
After the truth, and I’ll outrun my dreams.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

How do I love thee?... No, seriously. How?

Turns out, people are different. There is no end to the variety in people. There is no end to the variety in what people want. And each relationship is just as individual as each person.

The rules make it sound so simple. Not necessarily easy, but simple: "Love your neighbor as yourself." "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But how? For one thing, not everyone wants to be handled the way I do. If I literally did to everyone what I wanted done to me... well, most people probably wouldn't feel very loved. I like being teased. I like people to be brutally honest while smiling with a hint of amusement. I like people to talk about philosophy and abstract concepts, to wonder with me at goodness. I love to be laughed at. And I know people who would hate most of those things. And then you have more questions. Is it more loving to let people live their lives and learn from their mistakes, or to try and help them learn the easy way? How much do people just need others to have patience, and how much do they need challenges? How much do they need to be borne with, and how much do they need things to make them change.

Tron Legacy is one of my favorite movies. Which is odd, because I know lots of people who think it terrible. But honestly, if I had to give one reason for why I love that movie so much (apart from the fact that it's visually stunning and the soundtrack is amazing), I would cite one line: "Flynn is teaching me about the art of the selfless, about removing oneself from the equation."

The art of the selfless. It's an odd phrase, but it's so accurate. Selflessness isn't only a principle. It's an art. It requires skill. It must be learned. It's takes a certain amount of creativity, imagination to try to discover the best thing to do in each individual case. But yes, the main idea is to take oneself out of the equation. To be constantly willing to sacrifice yourself, your wants, your time, your plans, your hopes, your dreams, your all for the sake of any other human being, like it or not. That, I suppose, is love.

But it gets confusing, because we aren't God. We don't know their souls, we cannot know for certain what is best for people. We can but try. And even if we're right, we cannot control them. We can't fix people.

Sometimes I feel like I'm shooting in the dark. Do they want a hug, or would they prefer to be left alone? Do they need to talk something out, or do they need to just think right now? Would letting them do this on their own do good by strengthening them, or would giving them a helping hand do them even more good by encouraging them? Do they need someone to sympathize, or do they need a fresh, happier perspective to cheer them up? Or, my personal least favorite one to think about: Do they need me right now, or do they just need someone else? And my usual response is simply, Well, I have no clue, so I guess I'll just try something out and see how it goes.

And I suppose that's all we can do. Try to learn. Try to love them in the best way we know. And if we make mistakes, we can learn from them. After all, it's probably fair to say that a longing to be understood is pretty universal. It just irks me to think that there's a certain amount of trial and error involved in loving others. After all, we're dealing with souls here. Our actions can affect people, deeply, and it's rather terrifying that we could go wrong without even meaning to, could hurt someone we mean to love just because we didn't know any better.

We aren't God. But hey, God is, and he knows precisely what each of our friends needs, and He can give it to them with or without our help. He can work through our failures just as well as through our successes. We couldn't impede His plans for them if we tried. And if we seek to do others good, if we love them for His sake and pray to be a blessing, I trust that He will work through us.

And we will learn. I just have to remember that it isn't about me being the perfect helper, the perfect friend. It's about God's goodness, and He will take care of the story itself. It isn't our job to write the story. Our job is simply to be willing to help others whenever we can, to do our utmost to do others good to the best of our ability and knowledge. To pray for them, knowing that only God can truly help them. And to pray that God would teach us the art of the selfless.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Poem by an even more sleep-deprived student

This poem isn't a Spanish paper, same as the previously posted poem wasn't a history paper. And right after I wrote this, I decided that my brain had apparently preceded me to bed, so I might as well follow it. Just so you know the circumstances under which this was written. ;)

"The Selfless"

Fall to my knees,
Scream out the pain,
Aching and aching,
Trying to live.
Giving it all,
Squeezing it dry,
Finding the dregs,
Scraping them out.
Sure that until
Death is decreed
I will be filled
To empty again.
Choosing to live
Only for Him,
Choosing to drown
In what must be done.
Lay it all down,
Give it all up,
Breathe it all out,
Till nothing is left.
And if tears will fall,
Then let them fall down.
They will not stop
What I have resolved.
When my heart asks,
“Is this for me?”
I will say, “No,
But I am for this.”

Half-baked poetry of a sleep-deprived student

This is not a history paper. It ought to be, because that's what I was supposed to be writing when I wrote this instead. Ahem. And by the way, I'm not entirely sure what this poem is talking about, so if you don't either, please feel no shock.

"Dark Days"

I cry.
I find there is no light.
I fall out from this flight.
And all that’s left of me
Is what you could not see.
Can’t let the broken souls
Come rushing through your eyes.
Can’t let the brokenness
Come take away your life.
There’s pain in all that’s best.
There’s war for all that’s right.
Don’t let it slip away.
Don’t fall into the night.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Sorrow for the heart of man.

My English class this semester is chock full of tragedies. Murders, suicides, people who mess everything up and never take responsibility or understand that they're looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. The gamut of sorrowful happenings and tragic people.

In class this morning, someone said that they had felt rather detached from a certain character's death because this character had brought her trouble upon herself. It was her fault. She was to blame. And her death, which was her own doing, was so gruesome that my classmate felt distanced from her.

I almost laughed out loud at that. The night before, I had been cringing and feeling sick at that very character's death. I felt for that woman. After I finished the book, I was so cut up about it that a friend noticed and gave me a hug to comfort me. I needed it.

Different reactions much?

So I started asking around. It seems to be the general consensus that one is more to be pitied if one's pain is not one's own doing. That those who create their own suffering thereby lose the right to sympathy, in a sense.

I stared at all my friends when they explained this. I cocked my head at them. No comprendo.

Maybe there is a certain sort of sympathy, a sort of brotherly compassion that springs up from a knowledge that someone isn't to blame for what they're suffering. Maybe there is also a general grief at a world that could be so unjust. I get that. But quite frankly, I can't dig up as much sorrow for a situation like that. No matter how much pain someone is in, if they handle it nobly, I will be glad.

I focus on motives a lot. Obviously. And perhaps there are times when I go overboard. Times when I lack sympathy because, ultimately, I know someone's heart is in the right place. No matter their earthly circumstances, I know that such a person's soul is not being harmed, but rather strengthened by their pain. What's to grieve over in that? "For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps." I Peter 2:19-21.

The real sorrow hits me when someone is wrong, and when someone is hurting his/her own soul. When people are blind, and when they dig themselves into holes and then feel the consequences they should have foreseen from the start, that is when I'm sorry. That's what hits me hardest. The ones who are to blame. The ones who run and run in the wrong direction until finally they find themselves in a place they never wanted. They are the ones who merit my pity. Because after all, pity is earned not by the merit of goodness, but by the merit of being in a hard place. The ones who are wrong are in a much harder place than the ones who are right. "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28.

The noble sufferers may hit me in a different way, an admiring, "how beautiful" way, but they don't deserve any pity from me. They're doing just fine. They've earned my respect instead of my grief. The true tragedy is found in the ones who are completely lost, the broken, despicable ones who ruin their own lives. When they suffer for it, they deserve it, and the fact that they would deserve such terrible things is what makes me so sad.

If I hear that a friend has been in a car accident, I want to know if it was their fault, and if it is, I will feel far worse about it than if it were someone else's. I'm far more grieved at suicide than at murder. I'd rather hear a friend had died than that a friend had ruined his/her life. I'm understanding more and more that I'm weird in this. Perhaps this view needs a bit of tweaking. But I don't believe it's wrong. God loved us when we were yet sinners. He came to save not the righteous, but the sinners. His compassion seems to have been strongest for those who had dug themselves the deepest graves. He wept over Jerusalem, not because she didn't deserve the pain that was coming to her, but because salvation had been offered to her, and she had refused it.

So what am I saying? I'm not sure. I suppose I'm asking for opinions. I'm asking if I'm right. And if I am right, then I'm calling for a greater compassion for those who break themselves. After all, we're no better than they are. Not because of who we are, but because of who God is, we've received mercy and grace. Can we not extend the same to them? Of course they deserve what they're getting. We deserve hell, and we're mighty glad to have a God who doesn't give us what we deserve.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Confessions of an introvert.

Hi. I'm an introvert, and I'm confused. By people. By me. By life.

Please note that this post has little to do with being introverted. It's just that I'm an introvert, and I'm confessing. So it's confessions of an introvert. Cool? Okay, good. Moving on.

I don't let my feelings show. I'll tell you what I think, of course: Long talks about philosophy? Sure! Discussions of the moral values of movies? Of course! Theology? Definitely! Emotio--NO. NONONO! NEVAH!

Did you notice how violent that was? Needlessly so? Yes. Yes, so did I.

This time, the epiphany came at 3:30 a.m. in the laundry room, while I was filling my water bottle after watching two movies (Princess Bride and Jumper -- such fun on both counts). It was yet another case of "Dude, that was an awesome day! So... what's wrong? Because something's definitely wrong."

And it occurred to me, as I drank my water in the middle of the night, that people don't know me. Lots of people know who I am. Most people probably know some things about me better than I do. They know how I come across. They know my demeanor, while I don't really. But they don't know me. They don't know what things mean the most to me, or why. They don't understand how I think or how I feel. And how would they? I won't let them in. If I don't tell people things, they don't know. (Life is surprisingly logical at times.)

I am loved. I don't know why, but there are so, so many people who care about me, who reach out to me, who check up on me and help me and encourage me and bear with me and just give me superfluous love because they're awesome like that. It's not like I'm lacking there. But sometimes, I wish they understood me. I wish they saw through me. I wish they could read me even when I'm trying to be unreadable, like my friend back home who once called me up to ask what was bothering me after a rushed, ten-second conversation conducted in public during which I was trying to act as normal as possible.

What is wrong with me? I fight myself so hard. Here again, I'm wanting to not get what I want. I work hard concealing my emotions, and it saddens me when it works. I shut people out, put on an "I'm fine" exterior, and feel both triumph and pain when it proves convincing.

Maybe I lock people out of my feelings because I want to know if anyone will go to the effort of trying to get past that, trying to see through my words. But surprise, surprise! They believe me! If I say I'm fine, they take me at my word! What are they used to? Honesty or something?

There are enough barriers between people anyway. It isn't as if I need to go around setting up more by being so reserved, throwing up hurdles to see if my friends will jump them. And no, that's not what I think I'm doing. I think I'm protecting them by holding them at arm's reach. I think I'm putting myself in a position to give and give and get nothing in return. But what's really happening is that I'm laying another burden on them, making myself a harder friend rather than an easier one, because no matter how strong I want to be, I'm weak, and I get tired, and I want friends who know me. And then I'm frustrated, because there are none, and it's my fault. I can't put that burden on them, even if it never bothers them because they don't know I'm doing it. I can't expect them to put all their effort into breaking down my walls.

But that's not the only reason. I'm proud, you know, and I operate on quite the double-standard. In addition to setting up barriers to test people's willingness to break through them, I also want to be stronger than everyone else. I want to be the one who's always there for everyone else, but who never actually needs anyone. Who would be fine on her own, while everyone else would fall apart without her. The one who lives for others because she doesn't need to live for herself. I will never trust people the way I want them to trust me. I will never allow them to be for me what I want to be for them. Because I want to be needed, but I don't want to need them back.

Yep. There's something off in my thinking there.

The pride must go. All of it. Whether I decide I ought to admit it or not, I need to be willing to admit, "No, I'm not fine. Yes, I do have pain. Yes, that pain hurts. Yes, I'm human. Yes, I mess up. Yes, I'm needy. No, I'm not strong. No, I'm not chill. I'm freaking out inside. And sometimes I want to cry. I just don't. And no, I can't tell you why I'm freaking out, why I want to cry. I can't tell you because I hardly know myself."

I don't want to throw out the determination that I will be there for people who may never be there for me, that I will give and give regardless of whether I get anything in return, that I will be poured out as a drink offering, running myself dry for others... only not dry, because God's grace is sufficient. Very sufficient. This mindset I keep. But the motivation has to be for God and for others, not for pride, and I have to remember that my strength isn't coming from myself or from my friends.

And if I'm not fine, if I am freaking out inside, being reserved about it while expecting someone to notice isn't going to do anyone any good. Maybe there are times when I ought to let someone share my burdens. But in any case, I can't expect people to understand me like that. The God-shaped hole in my heart cannot be filled by people. Granted, there are beautiful times when people show off some aspect of God, times when they are the hands and feet of Christ to me. But the obvious reaction to that should be to go to the source, not to the mirror. To turn to Christ, with a thankful heart for my friends, and with a greater understanding of how He is all I need.

So it's okay. Whether anyone understands me or not, it'll be okay. Because God knows me, God understands me like I can never know or understand myself. He sees through me. He jumps every hurdle I throw up. He breaks every barrier I set. He can read me better than I can read myself. His is the love that pursues, the love that is relentless, the love that will not let me go, the most beautiful love. And that, my friends, is more than enough. It will always be more than enough. I don't need to be understood. I don't need to be known. And when I am filled with that, when I walk into a room full of people, not hoping that somehow they can fill the need I feel, but knowing that I have all I need, then I can be a vessel, a conduit for the love that never fails.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Inconvenient Things

Our culture has a lot of issues, really. A whole lot. But I think a surprising number of them might be traced to a single lie: anything inconvenient is necessarily bad and should not be tolerated.

We're Americans, and we like to get things done, and done quickly. We make millions selling and spend millions buying "conveniences" that make our lives a little quicker, a little easier (well, supposedly). And somehow in the midst of it all, we've come to see anything inconvenient as something that needs to be gotten rid of, now, by any means available.

But why? Why is inconvenience such an evil? Of course it isn't ideal. Of course we'd rather everything fit right into place and didn't bother our schedules and disrupt our lives. And I'm not saying we shouldn't try to reduce inconveniences. But friends, they are not all bad. They are not all worthy of defenestration just by merit of their inconvenience. I don't think inconveniences are evils. I think they are opportunities to exercise selflessness and be reminded that no, we aren't in control, and yes, that is okay.

Those wonderful, edifying conversations that spring up and are then interrupted? Sure, it's frustrating, but what's the point of an edifying friend-group if it turns into a clique? The task that took way longer than you thought it would? Does that make it less of a good thing, just because it didn't meet your expectations or fit your schedule?

We are a hypocritical nation. We talk about going out of one's way to help people as if it's a good thing, and then we turn right around and say that babies can be killed in the womb simply because they are inconvenient. Very, very inconvenient, perhaps, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a life you're dealing with. It's as if we don't even recognize what we're looking at, as if there are things we see as impossible simply because we don't want them right then and there; as if we think we have the right to do anything if we can just explain how much it messes up what we had planned.

And Christians. Of all people, we have the least right to fall into this lie. We believe that God made a world, and put people in it, and that everything was very good and glorifying to Him. The people praised Him, and He gave them all sorts of good things and good lives, and He only gave them one rule. Which, of course, they promptly broke. They messed up everything, and for no good reason, and then He had to deal with it. But He didn't wipe us off the face of the earth and start over. No, He saved us. And that took the incarnation, life, brutal death and punishment, and resurrection of God's own Son. And He planned it all out that way.

We, my friends, are very, very inconvenient children. But it made for the most beautiful story ever. The way He deals with us shows off His goodness like nothing else I've ever seen. Friends, let's try to show off His glory in our own lives, reflecting His sacrificial love by the way we deal with inconvenient things, big and small. Let's be ready to sacrifice our time, our money, our fun, our comfort, our reputations even, for any good cause which presents itself. We're supposed to rejoice in our sufferings. We're supposed to be ready to be poured out as a drink offering. A fear of inconvenience is not something that should stand in our way. Friends, let us learn to hold any good thing as precious, and to fight for it through thick and thin.

Friday, February 8, 2013

We are characters

Let's say that the entire world, the whole of history, is a story, and lump every little story of every person into one overarching tale that runs Genesis to Revelations. Let's call it God's story. If it's God's story, I have a hard time believing that it isn't the best possible story. Every bit of it builds up to ultimately glorify God more than anything else could have, and if you changed even the slightest detail, it wouldn't glorify Him quite as much and wouldn't be quite as good.

I'm pretty convinced that this is a good way of looking at the world. And what joy should we, as Christians, then have? If every circumstance is ultimately glorifying to God, then we should always be joyful no matter what, because God's glory is what we ought to want most.

But there is evil. There is sin. Is this the best world up with which God can come? (Apologies for sounding elitist. I succumbed to an impish desire to perform grammatical gymnastics. Haha.)

Yes, and no. Obviously this isn't the best world He can make (although this world pre-fall and un-cursed is a different argument, and I don't mean to address it here), but I still say it's the best story. Why? How? I can toss out ideas in answer to that, but I can't really say. It's one of those meaning-of-life-and-the-world questions that one does not simply answer. I think it has something to do with darkness being a foil for the light. I know from experience that it's not the easy times nearly so much as the hard ones that teach me about God. And I wonder if there is any way we could have so clearly seen the power of God's love had there been no obstacles for it to plow through, or understood his justice and mercy without any evil to face.

However it works, I believe God can take evil and use it for good. Everything brings some sort of glory to God, eventually, or else He would not have allowed it. Everything. That is a hard truth. And then I start thinking about how I fit into this equation, and how it affects me. My purpose is to glorify God, however I can, however He has written me. "Whate'er my God ordains is right." Which leads to a really bizarre question: could I accept it if God were most glorified in not saving me, in my ending up in Hell? Obviously I wouldn't recognize that if it were the case, and it obviously isn't the case.

And no, this doesn't slip into hyper-Calvinism or some sort of, "Meh, I'll just live my life, and God will be glorified without my even trying. His glory is all I care about, and that's automatic, so to speak." No. No, because God has commanded us to follow Him. He has commanded us to repent and believe, and has commanded us to seek righteousness. He calls all who will listen. If you hear the call, you're called to it. So I'm definitely not saying our salvation and sanctification don't matter. They do.

What I am saying is that God would deserve our praise just as much if He, in His perfect goodness, did not choose us. If our hearts are in the right place, we will have no ambition but to glorify Him as He should choose.

In light of that, we do what He tells us, and we take the circumstances He gives us and look for the story He's writing. We look for the beauty in the tale, and whether we can see it or not, we trust and we try to find the most epic possible reaction to what we are given. We do what's right and leave the consequences to Him. And we rejoice through trials, through pain, through disappointment, through failure, because neither you nor I nor the whole world cannot impede God's glory. Thus, the most important thing is firm, safe, and invincible.

Break me down

Break me down and tear me into pieces.
Build me up again as I should be.
Melt this twisted life and form a mirror,
Reflect your power for the dark to see.

Break me down and gather all my pieces.
Teach me that the world is not enough.
There's no rest while my hands are grasping,
There's no bounty to replace your love.

So break me down and sing to all my pieces.
Tell the night that it shall not prevail.
Tell my broken self that there is naught to fear.
You are here. All shall be well.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Why do we want to be awesome?

It hit me a couple of nights ago. The day had been crazy and busy and crammed full of good classes, and I spent the evening sitting around with dear friends, laughing and doing homework with a feeling of great accomplishment and satisfaction. Good fellowship, laughter, camaraderie, the joy of successfully helping others, managing to accomplish good things. Life was good that day, and I went to bed and lay there... completely confused and uncomfortable with life.

That was weird. I was happy. Really, I was so, so happy just then. And something was bugging me to death. It took a good while of lying in bed in the dark, arguing with my mind to try and get it to open up and tell me what was wrong. And finally, I realized that I want to not get what I want.

There are a thousand and one voices in my head. The thousand voices cry out for love, for happiness, for joy, for peace, for hope that does not disappoint, for dreams fulfilled. And they usually, but not always, drown out the one little voice, the one that wants me to be hurt and broken, wants to see my every hope cut off, my every dream crushed, my every love unrequited, my every desire trampled underfoot by the world without a second glance.

My favorite characters are always the noble, semi-tragic ones, who never give in despite all the darkness life can throw at them, the ones who love with all they've got and are never cared for in return, the Eponines who die for people who never loved them, who give up everything for something higher than themselves, whose own desires are cut off by their own nobility. And being a hopeless idealist, I want to be these most beautiful characters. I want to find the brightest star and reach for it.

(Photo credit.) Gratuitous superhero reference!

Thus the tiny disappointment with good days, the vaguely unsatisfied feeling I get from happiness. And maybe, after all, this is why I've this habit of opposing Aristotle so violently when he says that the good of man is happiness. (I know, I know, he was using the term to describe man fulfilling his purpose, but I still say that at least to some degree, he means happiness. Why else would he have used the term?) There's a noble pain that's lovelier than happiness, and I say it's better to have a lovely soul than a happy one.

Yes, there is justice, and you reap what you sow, so nobility does end in joy. Ultimately, happiness is tied to the good, sure. But what if it wasn't? Would we do the right thing even if it did us no good? Would we serve God though He slew us? Would we, if we could, agree to take Hell for someone even if we knew that we'd spend all of eternity in misery and that in that eternity, we would come to regret our decision? I know the world doesn't work that way, and I know that there's a way in which "if" is useless, because such things cannot change. But still, isn't happiness just a wonderful bonus to doing right? Happiness cannot be our aim, even if it leads us to seek virtue. We would then be making righteousness into an exercise in selfishness. Hypocrisy, that.

So my idealism tries to aim higher than happiness, tries to shoot instead for that specific sort of noble selflessness that is made more noble by the accompanying pain. And understand, Christianity and a certain, ultimate sort of idealism are actually quite compatible. God is good. God is sovereign. He loved me enough to die for me, and loves me still, and will love me forever. What's more idealistic than this worldview we Christians claim?

But at the same moment as I heard the idealism the little voice was saying, I also realized why I wanted that. Pride, people. It was all pride. I want to be awesome for pride's sake. I am disappointed in happiness because happiness doesn't satisfy my pride. I want to be noble because I want to be that beautiful. And that won't cut it. That's the funny thing about pride. It defeats its own purpose, because if you're proud, you've nothing to be proud of. Pride defiles whatever it glories in simply by its presence.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be awesome. We should rejoice in the prospect of goodness anywhere, even in ourselves, but if we want to be good so that we can have the pleasure of being good, then we defeat ourselves from the start.

What good is one who lays down their life for another just to be the noble character who gets killed? He wouldn't even be dying for his friend, then. He'd be dying for himself. In the end, it's no better than Aristotle's happiness. Virtue, goodness, nobility... If we seek them for happiness, we're just as selfish as villains. If we seek them for pride, are we any better then?

True nobility, that highest, most beautiful thing, is to forget about yourself so much that you are not concerned with whether or not you are beautiful. To be lovely because it's right, to be noble for a higher cause, and to seek all the glory not for oneself, but for God. And of course, the only way you get there is by being willing to be anything for God. Suffering? Sure. Living a quiet, unobtrusive, unglorious, happy life if that glorifies Him more? That too. To be "Content to fill a little space, if Thou be glorified," to completely forget ourselves in our effort to glorify Him. Paul said he had learned the secret to being content in all circumstances, good or bad. "I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:12-13)

Am I wrong, friends? Isn't true greatness that which concerns itself not with its own greatness? Isn't true nobility that which is only noble because it cares so much about something outside of itself? Isn't true selflessness that which gives up everything and forgets itself entirely, except only as a tool for love? Isn't that truly good which lays itself down, pours itself out on the altar of goodness to be used however is best, rather than trying to take and claim goodness for itself?

So it turns out the best idealism was there in the Bible all along (surprise, surprise!), in a verse some dear friends and I were discussing this past Sunday: "And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.'" (Matthew 22:37-38) To give it all up, not for my own glory, but for Him. This is the bright star I mean to aim for. To be willing to be invisible if only others will see Christ through me, forgotten if only they remember Him because of me, unloved if only they will love Him in me. But to want this not so much because I want to be epic, but because of a simple, innocent wish that He will be seen and remembered and loved. To praise Him for the happiness as well as for the pain. To live in pure, unadulterated selflessness, to forget myself so that I can focus all of my being on God, to hardly even care what happens to me, just so long as He is glorified -- that is right.

Because life isn't about me. It's about Him. It's all about Him.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thoughts that ought to be obvious and are nigh impossible to keep in mind in daily life.

Every person is a soul.

Every day is a good gift from God.

Every circumstance is an opportunity to be epic.

Every room is a place of ministry.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Who Am I?

If this sounds like it was written in the middle of the night... it was.

This post is not about Les Mis, despite the title referencing one of the songs from said movie. (I liked it, but that's irrelevant.) But I do think it's interesting that the main character makes such a point of his identity, that he doubts it. It's one of those classic, fundamental questions, one of those harder-than-it-looks questions. Our attitudes are based on who we think we are. What we do flows from what we are. It's important, and it's confusing.

I've been thinking about who I am, recently, at my core. What defines me? I could, like Jean Valjean, answer the question with my name and leave it at that. I am whoever I am. I am my name. But that raises so many questions. Am I the me others see, am I my reputation, or am I whatever I want to be, or am I what I feel that I am? Am I my past, my aspirations, my beliefs, my actions...?

No. No, none of that defines me. I am Christ's. The rest is purely coincidental to my identity. And really, people, it's quite the identity.

Christ's. Whatever else I am, I belong to the world's Creator. I belong to the single greatest being who exists, the One who makes language look cheap when we try to describe Him, because He is beyond us. Infinitely. And I belong to Him. (Oh. Okay. Self-worth problem automatically taken care of. There is an inherent dignity in belonging to such a One. And of course, He calls me His beloved. Need for love likewise taken care of. I need no other love.)

Christ's. I don't belong to myself. My life is not my own. My life is not about me. It's not about what I am and do, but about what Christ is and did.

Christ's. I am redeemed. I am one for whom He died. Whatever I was before, whatever I am in and of myself, I am redeemed. I am saved. I am justified. I am spotless in the judge's eyes. And in my redemption, my identity is removed from myself and set in Christ, for when God looks at me, He doesn't see me, but the Son's righteousness. He sees not me, but one who belongs to the Son.

That is my identity. Whatever else I am falls away. I can be a sinner, a failure, a nobody who never did anything right or useful, I can be effectively invisible, but none of that is who I am. None of that is my identity. No, because I am Christ's.

And really, I think that's the only way to be joyful and honest at the same time. Self-esteem is a stupid idea, friends. It is not honest at all. Why would we esteem ourselves at all? We have no clue how wrong we are, how broken. We've never actually seen what we were supposed to be, and I have this idea that we don't, even in our most self-deprecating moments, know how far we've fallen. The only thing I deserve is Hell. That is all I have earned. But if we admit that, we must lead on to the truth, "But Christ has earned Heaven for me. I am His." Otherwise we are more honest about ourselves than those who cling to self-esteem, but we've nothing to rejoice over.

(Photo credit: my brother's skills) This is another philosophy that will fall short.  Because, sadly, you aren't Wolverine.

So my identity isn't in me. I have to put it elsewhere. And that leads to putting other things elsewhere. Joy. Peace. Hope. If you put them in yourself or other things or other people, you will be disappointed. You will break. The whole world, you with it, is up in the air, free-floating through space, and if you touch things, they move away. There's nothing to brace against, nothing to hold onto, no fixed point of reference, no fixed point of anything. Except God. Nothing moves Him. He's the constant. So you hand your heart over, you cling to Him with all you've got, you put your joy and peace and identity itself in Christ, and there alone it is perfectly safe, untouchable by both the mildest and the harshest of harms.

But of course, my joy and peace and identity aren't the point. He is. Those are naught but symptoms of knowing that all you really are is Christ's. You have to not care about those things before you can find them. You have to lose your life, lose it in Him, to find it. You have to be willing to give up everything, not temporarily, but to give up your grip on them eternally, and you will find them in your hand. Such things do not take to gripping.

I'm not saying that you should put your identity in Christ so that you can be happy. I'm saying that if your identity isn't in Christ, you shouldn't be happy until it is, and if it is, then for heaven's sake rejoice! Be at peace, be content, be glad, be hopeful, for your identity is invincible. Even if all of that didn't result from giving oneself to Christ, one still ought to do it, just as much, simply because it is right, and simply because He is glorious and beautiful. But idealism meshes surprisingly well with realism, and God is not only just, but merciful. (That's the fun of Christianity. You get to be an optimist, a pessimist, an idealist, and a realist all at the same time. Then you confuse everyone to death, which is also tremendously fun.)

Yet again, I'm deciding that truth is unexpectedly simple. It's all the lies that are so complicated. Granted, the truth is often incomprehensible, but it's the simplest things that are the most beyond us. It's the most concise that are the most grand. So God is good, and I am Christ's. Simple, yes, but I don't understand it. It doesn't make any sense to me. But I love it, and it's true.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Truth is deceptively simple. It's also happy.

In which I ramble rather disjointedly. A lot.

It's funny to me that deep down, we all know that words don't inherently mean anything. They only mean what we mean by them. So we forget, sometimes, what the real meanings are behind the little words we say. Sometimes they sound so small, and they sound so insufficient and flat, and especially when the idea we are trying to express is inexpressible, our phrases become trite, both in our minds and in our conversations.

We say that God is good, but I wonder if we know what we mean by it. I wonder, too, whether or not we would find that we were right if we did know what we meant.

Granted, I don't think anyone really knows what is meant by God. We can spend our lives discussing just Who He is, and certain things we know, but we can never grasp it. It is too wonderful for us. It will take all of eternity to even begin comprehending this, and already, I feel in over my head in what I do know.

And what of "good"? An enigmatic little word, that. It is, I suppose, the broadest positive expression we have. Things can smell good, look good, be good morally... There is no end to the uses. Which, of course, is why one is sometimes told not to use it when writing specific description. It's too broad for that. You can't possibly mean all the uses of good when you are talking about a bowl of soup. Soup is good in its own way, but it is not good in the way of a butterfly or of the sky or of a just judge. You probably also don't mean that it is the best soup you have ever tasted. All you mean is that it isn't bad. You have positive feelings toward the soup. (I know, I know, bear with me. Analogies always sound weird.) If you wanted to say more than that, you would embellish and say something more exciting, something more convincing, to pin down just how good the soup really is.

This makes it a bit surprising when you come to the Bible's statement that "God is good." Unqualified. Unspecified. Unembellished. Just good.

When we say that God is good, we aren't just saying that He isn't bad, and we aren't even saying that He excels in a particular point. He is good. The phrase needs no qualification, because unlike your situation with the bowl of soup, you do mean every single use of good in this context. He is beautiful, just, satisfying, strong, gentle... Everything you can rightly call good is found in its deepest sense in Him. And why embellish it? Once you try to say just how good He is, you're setting a limit. But there isn't any limit, and I suppose that is why the phrase is so simple. It leaves the door open for God's goodness to reach as high and as deep and as wide as it really does, beyond the comprehension of our minds.

He is good. In the deepest, truest, broadest, most terrifyingly brilliant way imaginable. And of course, more than that, because our imaginations cannot do it justice. He is the sort of good you recognize at the happiest moments of your life, at the times when you see beauty so stunning that you cannot speak, at the times when music makes your skin tingle, at the times when someone treats you so kindly and gently that you start to cry, and you cannot understand it. And those are just shadows of how good He is. Tastes. Whiffs. Touches. Glimpses.

If I had to boil down everything, everything, to a single statement of truth, if the whole universe could somehow be compacted, sucked into a tiny pinpoint of reality, and then named, I would say, "God is good." I am alive because He is good, and somehow His goodness motivated Him to make me. Same for every other person. Same for every creature, every thing, every material, every atom that exists. He is sovereign (I suppose that's some of what we mean by "God" -- a being that is in control of it all), and He is good, and therefore everything is as it is because in some way or other, He in His goodness wanted it so. Every question in the world, if you trace it back long enough, is answered by those three words.

The world in which we live is the story that this God, the God Who is good, has written. I think it is safe to say that the story will be good as well. Deeply, broadly, breath-takingly good. So take heart, friends. Take heart, and marvel, and rejoice always, for God is good.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Moderation? No.

This is really long. I'm sorry.

I guess it displays a certain arrogance, a certain indecorous gutsyness and impertinence, to call into question the ancient philosophers on a point on which almost everyone agrees with them. I don't mean to be indecorous and arrogant. I just think they're wrong. The odds are against me here. I admit that. And maybe I am wrong, but please, hear me out, and then tell me how absurd I am.

We in Western Civilization have this idea of moderation. We've had it for a long, long time. We all know it, and it's deeply embedded in us, deeply accepted. There's a ditch on both sides, we say. Take the middle road. Don't be extreme. Not too much, not too little.

(Photo credit.)
Please understand, I'm not saying this is entirely wrong. I'm not saying we should all go jump in the ditches and do too much or too little. I just think the paradigm we use gives the wrong idea. It gives the idea that we should not be extreme about anything, that we should live moderate lives. I honestly think that's a terrible way to see it. It is, in any case, for anyone who thinks like me. (If you don't think even a little bit like me, then you probably have no clue what any of my posts are talking about, so you've probably already left, and my only remaining audience is somewhat sympathetic to my bizarre brain. Thus, I will continue boldly.)

We were made in God's image, right? As believers we are being conformed to the image of His Son. Well, people, God is not moderate. God is the most extreme thing I can think of. He is more good than Hitler was evil, more bright than the darkest pit. He created a world, a magnificent but earthy world, and He weaved a story for it. All the most extreme things in that tale, all the things that shock us, are far less extreme than their Maker. Whenever we try to describe Him, we end up with a long list of words that all start with "omni" - "all." All-knowing, all-powerful, all-present. Etc, etc, etc. But this is not a problem, because all of His extremeness, so to speak, is directed at His goodness. And then, like I said, we are made in His image, and we are to try and emulate His character, so we should be extreme too. Extremely good.

And now you say, "Well, of course, but you've changed tracks, haven't you?" I know. I have indeed, and that's sort of my point. The moderation paradigm doesn't work with those things which are greatest, those things which we are told to "think on" in Philippians 4:8. ("Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Not exactly a moderate-sounding list, by the way.)

We were talking about avoiding being extreme in vices at first. Now, when we switch to God and goodness, we are talking about being extreme in virtues. These are obviously not contradictory ideas. Avoiding the bad, embracing the good. But guys, by the moderation paradigm, goodness is defined as moderation. As walking the narrow road between the vices. How is it possible, therefore, to be extremely good within this paradigm? Extremely moderate? What does that even mean? This is where I think our philosophy is messed up.

(Photo credit.) Completely irrelevant. BUT ISN'T IT GREAT?
I'm all for avoiding vices. But I would suggest that the way to do so is not to be moderate, but to be as extreme as one possibly can in the right direction.

Maybe I'm the only one who has this problem, but whenever I try to think about life through the moderation paradigm, I end up with this image of myself simply bouncing back and forth from one side of the road to the other, never really getting anywhere because I'm so focused on the ditches. Maybe, too, I'm making a mountain out of a mole-hill, but at least for me it's a big deal. I mean, granted, it's just a matter of syntax, a matter of preferred expression. But I think it's important, because as our words go, so often go our minds and hearts.

You see, I know that moderate doesn't mean mediocre, but does your brain know that after you've drilled into it that one should always avoid the extremes? If we talk like the only thing to be concerned with is avoiding the ditches, and if goodness is only ever expressed in the negative (being good is not being bad), then I think we will begin to believe that all there is and all that is required is the not-bad. In other words, the mediocre. The staying out of trouble. And even that will be hard to accomplish, because when you look at the ditches, you have a tendency to fall into them.

Likewise, you never can shoot straight if you're afraid of shooting the wrong thing. You must simply be single-mindedly aiming at the target. Really, why should we even refer to ditches at all? It's all the same problem: not focusing on what we ought to be focused on.

Tullian Tchividjian's book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything (I recommend it; as in, go get it right now, or if you know me, borrow it from me asap, because I intentionally got an extra copy for lending since it is so awesome) gives a good example of this. He's talking about legalism and license in the Christian life, and explaining that people typically think that you get legalism from focusing too much on the law and license from focusing too much on grace. No, you don't. You get them both from focusing too much on your own performance and too little on grace. Grace is what saves you from both. Your performance, whether breaking or keeping the law, simply isn't the point.

Life's not a balance. It's a high-dive into God's grace. You can't focus too much on that. You can't focus too much on Christ. You can't focus too much on goodness. That's the funny thing about truly, deeply good things: you can't get too much of them, and when you throw yourself into them without holding back, the moderation that you're looking for falls into place. Of course you don't eat too much chocolate. You don't need more chocolate. Chocolate is not what you're looking for. But you don't shun chocolate. You enjoy it like never before, because it's a lovely part of the world your Father has given you.

Moderation is a by-product, people. There are a lot of those, a lot of by-products of pursuing God with everything you've got and more. A pet-peeve of mine is when people see the by-products and think that this is the goal. Aristotle does this with happiness. It drives me nuts. Happiness and moderation are just things you happen to get when you're lost in God. They're symptoms, to put it another way. But if you try for happiness, and if you try for moderation, without first trying for godliness... you get nothing.

So friends, if you still like the moderation paradigm, fine. If it doesn't confuse your brain or impede you, and if you can still keep in your mind that when it comes to goodness, extremism is an admirable thing, then go for it. But I'm ditching the paradigm. (Pun totally intended. You're welcome.) It ties me up into thinking that mediocrity is somehow the safe option, and therefore the best. I don't want to be mediocre. I want to be radically good and extremely godly. I want to fix my eyes, to fix my whole being on the unspeakable awesomeness of God. I want to be emptied of myself, and to be nothing but a vessel for His glory. I want to forget myself and run the race before me for Him. I have no greater ambition.


I will be overwhelmed by what I see, 
By what I hear and smell and touch and taste,
By everything I understand and know, 
For in it all I'm overwhelmed by thee.

In darkness I'll be overwhelmed by grief,
But darkness sets a foil for your light,
And thou art proved anew by gaping holes,
For you can overflow them, only you.

I will be overwhelmed by this, the time,
By every hour, minute, every day,
I will be overwhelmed that every moment
Is its own perfect, precious gift from thee.

I will be overwhelmed by who and what
And when and where I am, for I am yours,
And I live in your world beneath your will,
And you will win this battle -- You have won!

I will be overwhelmed, for all my life,
The more I look, the less I'll see but thee,
Until I find there's nothing else to say
But "Goodness reigns," -- by this I'm overwhelmed.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mental architecture, whatever that is.

Warning: this post really doesn't have a point. I suppose I'm writing it because I'm trying to work out this idea in my head, so I thought I'd try putting it down on paper -- er, blogger. Also, it might help you, dear reader, to understand any future posts and why they do not make any sense. Haha.

I can't think in a straight line. My thought process could not pass a sobriety test, ever.

It's pitiful, really. Pathetic. But true. Most people who are thinkers, the sort of people who will intentionally reason things out, who like to sit around and contemplate life, think in a straight line. At least, I suppose they do. I wouldn't really know. But it certainly seems like they do, judging from the way they talk and write and debate. I'm guessing that they think from point A to point B, and the entire point of the thought process is to see if the two points are really connected, and how. They don't want to get lost on the way, they don't want to make an error, so they walk carefully, step by logical step, and find out whether the logical process between these two points is valid and sound.

How logical. How practical. How useful for those friendly arguments where you're trying to convince someone of your opinion, or at the very least explain why you hold certain opinions. How useful for finding out the truth.

I admire this process. I admire people who are good at it. I love to listen to them explain exactly what I think. And sometimes I try to think in a straight line. It is a skill I have yet to acquire.

I don't think from point A to point B. I play connect-the-dots in my head, partly because I want to understand the universe, but partly just for the fun of it. So when one person says, "Ah, here is point A. Let us cautiously set out and logically walk a straight line and see if the path from here to point B, over yonder, is really valid, is really sound," I say, "Hey, look, two points! Wouldn't it be cool if they connected, and maybe they do! If they did, where would they fit in with all the other dots? What other connections can I make here? What if point A connected to point B, which connected to point C and also to point K (which would be extra cool because those two letters make the same sound) [no, really, my brain actually is spastic enough to think things like that]. And how does this affect my picture as a whole?"

So apparently I'm a big picture person, to the max. The details bore me. While normal, more logical people are trying to establish the truth, I'm making theories and getting more and more off-topic every moment. If I try to focus in and figure the connection out, even if I succeed in staying detailed and not mentally leaping and bounding and praising God for the forest and not for the trees, I lose sight of where I'm going. I get lost in the woods, and I wander around aimlessly getting myself all confused. Again, I can't think in a straight line.

Then I get frustrated, give up on that, and zoom back out to play connect-the-dots again.

Friends, it's inconvenient.

Someone asks me my opinion on predestination. I try to answer. Before I notice what I'm doing, they ask, "Wait, are we talking about the perseverance of the saints?"... Nooo... Of course we aren't. We are talking about predestination. Only I somehow decided that the two were interconnected, so I randomly switched without telling you why or even hinting at how I thought they were connected. So I try to get back to predestination, but within two sentences, I notice that I'm talking about Aristotle's concept of "the good," and why I disagree with him. My friend does not see the relevance. Frankly, I'm not sure what it is either. I'm pretty sure there's a line between those two dots. I glanced over and thought I saw one. But I never took the time to walk it out and figure out exactly how they were connected, if in fact they were at all. I was too busy skipping from thought to thought like a stone on the water. And as far as explaining the connections... well, even if I could, that would take too long. I want to cover as many dots as possible in as little time as possible.

So I'm bad at explaining things. And honestly, sometimes I don't know what I think, because my head is so full of theories, and proving them isn't as interesting to me as making them in the first place.

Once, I took a personality test and looked up my result to see a description of my "type." One website called me a "mental architect." I thought that was interesting. Also, disturbingly accurate. I'm too busy building a big picture, a structure for my way of looking at the world, at the universe, at life, tracing from point to point to point, to focus on each individual line.

(Photo credit) Oh look, it's the architect from one of my favorite movies ever, and her name happens to be Ariadne... What a coincidence, right? ;)

It's fun. It's glorious fun. And you know, somehow, it must be a good thing. It must be useful. God would not have given me a spastic brain unless it was going to turn out to be some sort of good. So even though it's as inconvenient as all get-out, I'm hoping it's a talent of some sort. But I still want to try and develop the discipline of slowing down and cautiously taking the mental sobriety test of walking  point A to point B, without skipping off to other concepts as soon as I decide there might be a reasonable connection. It takes me years, usually, to figure out exactly how the connections work, and even then, it's usually because I just finally gathered enough dots that they filled in the line better, and I found I could explain it. It took me years to figure out what I'm telling you here, and it's still a struggle for me to stay on-topic and not go enthusiastically making random connections without ever explaining how they work. Writing is useful here. Especially when you're writing to an audience that expects you to make sense. (Gosh. Talk about pressure.)

So I'm trying to learn. I'm trying to figure out how to slow down in my brain and pass a mental sobriety test. But if I post things and you find that I'm not making sense, just laugh and shake your head and imagine me gleefully playing a game of connect-the-dots in my head, or imagine me looking up, all awed and fascinated like Ariadne in the picture above.