In recent months, I have suggested to several of my friends that they should write “letters,” to relieve themselves of worries and fears. These letters are set into imaginary bottles, and set adrift into the sea which finds itself closest. In light of this, I have come to the realization that my own soul needs to write such a letter. I need to see some of this float away in the ocean. This “letter” does not need to be read by others, but there is something therapeutic about pinning it in the open for any and all eyes to see…
…There is something completely humbling about being out of control.
Allow me to clarify from the beginning: when I say “being out of control,” I do not mean that there is something humbling about the fact that one cannot practice the art of self restraint. No, what I am referring to when I say “being out of control” has to do with the circumstances of life.
Oh yes, circumstances. Those troublesome, arduous nuisances that never seem to behave the way that we think they ought. We set our course, we chart every star in the sky, and make our heading based on those shifting paradigms, and then we are surprised to find that, indeed, the circumstances of life have shifted. Our course must be altered. The charted starts must be charted once more.
And there is nothing we can do to change it.
Certainly, I am not preaching utter doom and despair here. Yes, we do have some power to make some changes in the brief span of our existence (with the help of God, naturally). However, upon close analysis of that which is within our power to change versus that which is outside of our power to change, it becomes painfully evident that those things outside of our power to change are innumerably greater in number than those things which we might be able to change.
So, what then are we to do with this knowledge?
Standing idly by is not an option. Jesus did not leave us with such a choice, regardless of our circumstances.
But what else is there to do?
This is the struggle that I am fighting deep within myself at this moment. Every day, my head is filled with thoughts of circumstance. Yes, I had every plan made. My course was firmly set. The stars were charted in all of their majesty. And then, like a rug swept out from underneath of an unsuspecting child, my circumstances irrevocably changed. As it seemed to me at the time, the stars did not simply shift in position.
The stars went out.
I felt alone. Cold. Like a poor, lost child, groping in the dark and crying out for mother to come take him home.
But feelings can be deceiving. I serve a God who has promised to never leave me or forsake me. But, to my great disappointment, this time of potentially enormous display of trust in God has turned, at times more often than I wished, to a simply nonchalant response. C’est la vie, I say to myself again and again, the taste of hidden disdain still bitter in my mouth.
But God knows of my hidden disdains. He knows every hidden part of my heart. In fact, hidden is an impossible word to use with God, unless we are talking of how we are now hidden in Christ as part of our salvation. No, there is nothing that I can coyly hide away from him. He knows.
So why is it so difficult for me to confess these moments, and from there to simply trust him? He has proven himself to me over and over and over again. I know that he has been faithful even when I have been faithless. So why is it so hard to stand upon the Rock of Ages?
Oh God, forgive us.
Allow me to make a confession to the blogosphere that may never be read: there are days I am utterly paralyzed with fear when I face the reality of being a pastor. How can I be “taught” to be an effective, God-loving pastor? What about the people that I might cause to stumble? What do I make of being held to a stricter standard at the judgment because I will be a “teacher?” What about the days when I question what God is doing and why? Do I love God enough? Do I love people enough? These are only a very, very few of the questions that plague my mind throughout the course of the day.
Yes, my friends, I have great fear on some days.
There is no doubt of this, either: I am utterly, totally, completely incapable of doing this task apart from God.
And what sweetness that is.
When I feel the fear creeping upon me again, the weight of the burden crushing down on me, I pray. And I remember.
He will see me through until the end and will not let anyone pluck me from His hand.
Before the foundation of the world he predestined through Jesus that I would be called His son.
He will equip me for every good work.
He has given me justification through his work on the cross.
If I suffer, I am becoming more like Jesus, who Himself was made perfect through suffering.
God will finish the good work that He began in me.
Make no mistake. Apart from Him, this is impossible. But with Him, yes, even this is possible.
So, Satan, when you try to trick me and con me with your cheap tricks and your pitiful excuse for pleasure you call sin, or when you try to remind me of the crippling fear and the fact that this task is impossible, I say this to you:
Go to hell. In the name of Jesus, the perfect author of our faith, who you can’t even begin to compare to in glory and splendor and love and grace and power.
And praise be to God, for the truly wonderful gift of knowing His Son.
These days, life seems surreal.
In a little over a month, I will finally (if nothing drastic changes) be back at Liberty University. I’ve been waiting to get back there ever since I left a year and a half ago. From as young as I can remember, I knew that LU was where I wanted to go to college. I fell in love with the campus when I took my first visit with my dad in October of 2008, and I fell in love with EVERYTHING about it when I finally started taking courses there in August of 2011.
You catch faith there, if that makes sense. You know that at the very least your professors love Christ and want to equip you to make Him known in ANYTHING you do. It’s hard to not believe that God has a great plan to use you for His glory and your good while you’re there. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why I wouldn’t even consider going to another school for pastoral training.
It’s been a long road to get back here, which is part of why I think life has felt so surreal of late. I keep asking myself if this is really happening… did I really do all of the stuff I’ve done in the past year in order to get here? Did all of that really happen? Am I really going back to Liberty in just over a month?
Yes. By the grace of God, I have done what I have done. This isn’t a dream. Soon, I’ll be back in those halls. Soon, I will see my old friends. Soon, I’ll be watching the sun set over the Blue Ridge Mountains in the West.
By the grace of God, this is all just the beginning.
Life feels surreal.
"Lastly, for the young guys who spend most of their time watching television, eating chips, and playing video games - we need you to undergo a cranial-rectal extraction immediately. As you sit around with your buddies trying to battle an enemy, liberate a people, and usher in a kingdom in yet another video game, I need you to know that you are wasting your lives. Those deep desires you have to be part of a tribe on mission to defeat evil and set captives free for the glory of a great king and kingdom are there for the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we need you on the front lines. The faithful grandmas and homeschooling moms are getting tired of holding the line."
- Pastor Mark Driscoll, A Call to Resurgence, p. 148-149
Oh, the dark and vast unknown,
Why has not the light so shone
To make your paths and questions known?
Do mortal men of flesh and bone
Always tread your path alone?
Learned men will talk and sound
As if they truly knew your ground,
But words are cheap within the mound
Of all the vast and wondrous bounds -
They say they seek, but have not found.
They can talk, but I will go -
‘Tis the only way the path is known!
To search through all the highs and lows
And help the people down below
Where darkness and injustice grows.
Give me strength to do a work
In the midst of all the mired mirk.
Give me peace to give the hurt
And drink to satisfy their rabid thirst.
Give me You to give them first!