Disclaimer: this is really long, but it’s really important. It’s what I’ve been wrestling with all Semester, and I’m now kind of maybe starting to get it…
(read the referenced blog first...for some reason, I don't think it posted last week, sorry)
So the “personal blog” I wrote last week was written Saturday night (10-17), and it was kind of coming from some of the frustration (and resignation) I’d been wrestling with for the past couple of weeks. Various things, those outside my control and those inspired by some of the Semester experience, have left me feeling less secure about my future plans than I was before coming here. (Perhaps, as Bauman asserts, I’ve been confused all along, and it just takes the right questions to make me realize it.) Seriously though, I felt to some degree that the rug had been pulled out from under me again, as far as my plans for the future.
And I really struggled with this. I struggled with not knowing. I struggled because I felt like I wasn’t trusting God like I should. I struggled because I felt I had, in some way, walked this path before (post-Implosion and college decision) and yet I was struggling with trusting God just as much now as then, though I have already seen Him work things out better than I could have planned or dreamed in a million years. It was frustrating because it felt like I had made no progress, that I was currently in an unstable spiritual state of not trusting God fully, and that I still really wanted to know what’s coming and I still have no idea.
I talked with Naomi, my mentor and small group leader, and she had some really helpful stuff to say. In a sense, she’s been in a place of not knowing any long term plans for the past six years, so she definitely understood what I was wrestling with. She said that sometimes the Christian life doesn’t seem so much like hills and valleys as it does this spiraling motion – often it seems we keep coming back to the same issue/problem/question time and time again, each time coming with a little more knowledge than we had before, which can inspire both hope (God got me through this once, we can do it again) and frustration (God why can’ t I learn this and move on?). There are times it just seems like I haven’t grown at all since the last time God tried to teach me this, and yet I know I have. Talking with her really gave me a better perspective, and I definitely had more peace after that, but it was still simmering at the back of my conscious for another week or two. Which led to Saturday’s blog of frustration.
And then came (last) Sunday morning, when God gave me exactly what I needed in church. It was amazing. The pastor is preaching through Philippians, and he was at the last part of Philippians 2, which is about Timothy and Epaphroditus…not exactly a passage obviously conducive to application. He talked about their example, how they didn’t look out for their own interests, but those of Jesus Christ, and how they were willing to and almost died for the Gospel. He talked about how far this is from our understanding of the Christian life today. We understand that if you join the Marines, you give up all rights – they own you and you do exactly what they tell you, even if you don’t like or understand it or consider it abusive. You signed up, and they own you. Yet we don’t carry this understanding over to our understanding of the God of the Universe, who created us and owns us more than the United States ever could.
He talked about how there’s no middle ground – we have “full devotion” or “no devotion.” There’s a straight narrow path, and an easy wide path – we’re not given the option of middle ground. We’re called to live holistically, and following Jesus costs me everything. We can’t have everything on our “middle road” and have Jesus. It just doesn’t work that way.
Going back to a theme of Bauman’s, I have no biblical rights, only responsibilities. I have no rights, only the obligation to remember and the responsibility to obey.
I have no rights. I have no right to assume college or the pursuit of Master’s degree or a missions career or marriage. I have no right to know God’s plan or where I’ll be next year or five years down the road. I have no right to my next breath. Jesus is EVERYTHING, and nothing can be better than Him. To paraphrase CS Lewis, he who has _________ + God has nothing more than he who has God alone.
I forget so quickly. And God knows this.
In the Pentateuch, God commands us to “remember” 18 times. In the same space, God “remembers” 6 times. Based on the rest of Scripture and my personal experience, we don’t remember well often at all. That’s why it’s commanded so frequently.
This idea of remembrance isn’t new to me. Pastor Syvelle talked about it when I was 10 at the Garden Tomb. It came up again when I was 16, in India. Later that year I wrote a paper about the connection between those – see here. That year in chapel, Mr. Gregory went with the theme of the Hebrew word “zakar” – meaning to remember and therefore live - for chapel as we worked through the 10 Commandments. I then put that term on a leather bracelet I made that summer and have worn since. I’ve been journaling consistently for the past four or five years. It’s something I’m aware of, but that I fail to practice.
And when I forget what God has done, and how glorious He is, how perfect and faithful, I get in trouble really fast.
God commands us to remember, because we’re stupid humans and we forget the important things really, really fast.
So when I forget what God has done, and live in light of my forgetfulness – walking in worry or doubt or fear – I am sinning. I’m pretty good at this.
There’s a quote I stumbled across on a blog one time, and I love it, because I think it sums up what I’ve been wrestling with really well.
“I find I fall the hardest when I try the hardest to do in myself what God wants to do in me.”
I’m called to live. To die. To surrender. To jump. To trust. To love. To work out my salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in me to will in to act according to His good purpose.
His purpose is good. It is good, because He is good. It is safe to trust God.
I’m called to remember – remember what God has done in history and in my life, and to remember those who have gone before me, those who have given everything to follow Jesus. How can I not do the same, for Him who is always faithful even as I forget time and time again?
The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me; Your love, O LORD, endures forever – do not abandon the works of Your hands!