Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Until the time when I realized it was all a shaky false front. Well, I am good at figuring things out, but that didn't seem to matter very much in the long-haul appreciation of life. My question now is, "What replaces the false front?" How do I get through the day, if not by assuming I can make a place for myself?
Paul says to boast in Christ Jesus, if we have to boast. I'm not really talking about boasting here, not bragging but just a sort of self-confident attitude that convinces me that no matter what happens I can figure out a way around or through it. The idea comes under the rubric of pride, or honor, or self-confidence, or perhaps self-love. Maybe it's better explained as feeling that I'm OK.
It's still, in my case, a false front I walk in tall as trees, but behind the forested mural is a very small, very scared child.
Does confidence, the real article, come from God? He's certainly not going to be overwhelmed, and he has proven that he'll do anything to bring me back to himself. How does this affect my self-image? A superficial view might indicate that I'm absolutely incompetent: God has to do everything. How can I be proud of myself?
Should I even be proud of myself? I've always thought this was an essential part of life. There is something that separates successful people from unsuccessful, something that won't let some people quit while others try once and then give up. One man caves in to alcoholism, another goes to AA and gets himself straightened out.
My friend Rocket was a cocaine addict, but got himself sorted out and is now the owner of a very successful business. Why didn't he give up? What made him turn around instead of just continuing to drive himself downward until the end?
All I have to experiment with is myself, and my experiment ultimately failed. I'm still coming to grips with my need for God. This is very embarrassing. I'm truly incapable of keeping myself going. It also seems that the longer I live with God, following Jesus, the less competent I become at running my own life. Is there anything left for me to be proud of? Does pride matter?
Maybe I just live on the glory reflected from God Himself. Maybe that's all any of us have, God's image written into us, and we just think it's ours. My ability to figure things out, my ability to think straight, all gifts from God.
As I worked on the sand sculpture last Saturday, a woman said to me "This is a gift from God. You must believe that." The statement brought back memories of last year, when a man asked me where I thought creativity came from. I didn't know. He suggested that it came from God. I said I didn't believe in God.
A few months later God showed himself to me. What's left of me? I don't know. Self-respect? I don't know. Is there even a need for this any more? There seems to be; we're to be wise as serpents. We're not to let others pull the wool over our eyes. I've seen many Christians get buffaloed by con artists.
There is a need to think. Even more there is a need to know God. I already know how to think. God is an ongoing surprise; it seems He shows me something new every day, and this usually has to do with some other part of my life I've patched together that He wants to rebuild.
I wonder what I'm turning into. I seem to be no less competent for all of my dependence upon God Himself to hold me.
HE is proud of you. Of YOU. If He is proud of you, then for you not to be proud of yourself is to either call Him an idiot, or an ignorant. He either doesn't know better, or He's incapable of knowing better.
You wade into such deep waters here.... and you say you aren't an adventurer! :) I'm so sleepy, but I so want to wade in here with you, because their depths give them such irresistible indigo hues. I just have to swim in them.
Recently I heard a talk Erwin gave over a year ago... it must have been to Promise Keepers. It was one of the cds my old roommate, Joyce, sent to me in Cyprus, but that arrived just days after I left for South Carolina after my dad's heart attack. So I'm just now getting to listen to it....
Anyway, Erwin talked about how if we are to be totally sold out to Christ and really live, we must understand that it's not only everything that we give up, but also nothing.
That everything, the best of everything we have, is really nothing in comparison to knowing God and sharing a fellowship with Him in His passions (Phil 3:10). So we not only have to give up everything, we have to give up nothing... come to that place where we realize that even the most amazing, fantastical thing we could ever have is garbage, worthless in comparison to Jesus.
I can think of some amazingly fantastical things! I've got quite a vivid imagination and it works overtime in that department. :) To think, knowing God and sharing in His passions is such a grand thing as to make all that I can think of worthless in comparison... like the man who found a treasure buried in a field, buried it again, sold all he had, sold it ALL in order to buy the field with the buried treasure:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it." -- Matt 13:44-46
These two men counted everything they had as nothing and gave up everything-nothing to have the treasure they'd found.
Everyone else must've thought them crazy. But they had confidence. They knew what they'd found and that what they were doing was worth the price of the every-nothing they had.
What's so amazing about "the kingdom of heaven" is that the story doesn't end there. In our Hollywood-Happy-Ending world, that would be the end of the movie.... "and they lived happily ever after." Thank you Mr. Disney. But God says, "hey. That's just the beginning. Now for the good stuff. That treasure... it's full of all my passions (the word Paul used in Phil 3:10 is used inter-changeably with suffering, i.e. "the passion of the Christ")."
As we unwrap that treasure, discover all its facets, try it on, and wear it regularly, we "become". We become more like Jesus -- His attributes rub off on us. And that makes God proud. Very proud. Like a dad who posts his daughter's "pictures" up on the company bulletin board for all to enjoy, and who regularly "treats" his colleagues to video replays of his son's Little League games... the grandmother who shows off her grandkids pictures for the umpteenth time at the drop of a hat... God's pride in you is the same.
He is proud of you, Larry. So very proud. And you ought to be proud of yourself. You have every reason to be: God.
He sees you much as you see an in-process sand sculpture. The potential is giving way to real beauty, but the sculpture isn't quite finished. There is still much work to be done. But each time He sits back and looks at you, He likes what He sees. You excite Him, and compel Him to continue working so eventually He'll be able to show off His finished creation, YOU, to the world.
Not that you're not already on display. Just like your sculptures, He does His work out in public, where everyone can marvel at the process and see the amazing transformation of sand to art. Dirt to beauty. Common-place to extraordinary.
The difference, however, is that unlike your sand sculptures, you have a choice. And this is what just adds icing onto God's cake of pride over you. See, every time you choose not to fill in a hole God just made. Every time you choose to allow him to continue cutting away sections. Every time you allow Him to sweep away the loose bits, carve new designs, even add water to keep you malleable yet firm enough to keep your shape. Every time you do these things... you make Him even prouder. He knows the price you pay. The pain you suffer (passions), the agony, the soreness, the rawness of being molded into something you've never been before. He knows. And He is puffed up with pride for His son who bears up so amazingly in the face of such an ordeal as Becoming.
So be proud. Not the puffed up arrogant mask of pride, that says, "I'm good because I do....:" But the godly pride that says, "I'm Becoming! What a joy I am to my Father, my Sculptor, because I'm Becoming was He dreamed I'd be. I'm using my talents and strengths and inhabiting His passions, and those two in combination create the kingdom of heaven here on earth, a treasure worth selling everything in order to possess. I'm better than I was yesterday. And even though I'm not as good as I'm going to be tomorrow, still, I'm valuable treasure today."
Wow, that was quite a little sermon I just preached.... got a little fired up. :) Passion. Pride. Call it what you like. I think you're worth it.
And I'm not alone. :)
I'll step off my soap box now.... and heading off to bed.